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Online review management: Why it matters for e-commerce brands

illustration of four stars filled in yellow and a hand pointing to a fifth star that is not filled

Have you ever been hesitant to order an article of clothing or a product online, unsure of whether you’ll enjoy it once it’s in your hands? Will the color be right? Will it fit properly? Will it last more than a month?

When you’ve experienced this hesitation, what do you do? If you’re among 89% of consumers, you likely read online reviews to gather some more information.

In today’s digital-driven age, 93% of consumers read reviews when researching a product online, making it one of the most common actions that customers are taking before committing to a purchase.

One might say that online reviews are an e-commerce brand’s best sales tool. Why? They can quickly and easily make (or break) a sale.

It’s clear that customer reviews have a huge influence on your customers’ decisions and impressions. By developing a comprehensive online review management strategy, your business can boost sales, enhance customer loyalty, and improve your brand’s reputation.

What is online review management?

Online review management is the process of not only monitoring customer reviews and review sites, but also analysing, responding to, and resolving issues based on reviews to ensure customer satisfaction.

Review management also means utilizing the negative reviews to identify and understand an underlying problem, while simultaneously using positive reviews to market your products.

The goal of managing reviews at such a granular level? To enhance brand perception, develop trust among your audience, and drive a positive online reputation. Long story short, taking the time and energy to manage reviews will support your overall marketing strategy and directly affects sales.

Why your review management strategy is important

The truth is simple: consumers read online reviews. If you’re not managing reviews, you’re putting your brand one step behind competing brands that are using reviews to connect with their customers on a deeper level. Just like your e-commerce fulfillment strategy, your review strategy should be well thought out and properly planned to maximize search visibility and repeat business.

Online reviews matter just as much as personal recommendations

It’s simple psychology – when someone you know has either purchased something from a brand, stayed at a hotel, or dined at a restaurant, you’re going to trust their experience. Studies find that online shoppers trust reviews as much as they would trust suggestions from friends and family. Meaning that your review sites shouldn’t be taken lightly!

Reviews are a valuable social listening strategy

Much like a detective gathers information about their person of interest, social listening involves scanning social media platforms and review sites for mentions of your brand.

Are your customers having a good experience? Do they comment on the shipping time or delivery packaging? Are they pleased with the product, or are they experiencing issues? 

What customers say online gives a brand a ton of insight – and the opportunity to make changes accordingly.

Reviews contribute to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

That’s right – online reviews increase a brand’s visibility within organic search results. Why? They are rich in keywords. The phrase “best wedding guest dress” in a review might be the exact words your customers are Googling – meaning your site could appear higher within their search results.

Consumers like providing feedback, but they may need a gentle push

Do you ever feel like online reviews either focus on super positive experiences or vastly negative ones? Consumers are often moved to leave reviews when they find themselves at polarized ends of the satisfaction spectrum.

However, if there’s a review management strategy in place, like customers being able to earn loyalty points for posting reviews – it might spark their interest to give feedback each time they shop. Plus, reviews tend to breed more reviews, so the more that you read and reply to in multiple locations, the more marketing materials you’ll have to work with!

No matter what route you choose for online review management, your customers will thank you. It’s a sure-fire way to let them know you are here and willing to listen – which is one of the most authentic ways that your brand can stand out in an over-saturated e-commerce environment.

What review sites should you be managing?

Between Google reviews, Yelp, social media like Facebook reviews, and more – there’s a wide array of review sites that your customers could be utilizing to voice their concerns or spread positive reviews regarding your business online.

It’s a good idea to use a mixture of general review sites, as well as more industry-specific sites to make sure you’re collecting as much data as you possibly can while expanding your brand reach.

For example, a local business or restaurant might look to a review site like Google My Business, Yelp, or TripAdvisor for feedback, while apparel and beauty brands might look more into social media DMs, comments, and tags on Facebook or Instagram.

To increase the effectiveness of your review management strategy, you should offer your customers the ability to leave reviews directly on product pages.

Not only does this offer your brand valuable insights without having to go searching throughout the internet; but it’s also convenient for customers who are eager to leave feedback.

You can even take it a step further by adding filters so that you (and your customers) can sift through only the most relevant feedback. Petal and Pup, one of Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash’s clients, does this wonderfully by allowing their audience to filter via size, height, images provided, and more:

reviews on a petal and pup product page

Note: People will leave reviews on a platform regardless of whether you’re managing it or not, so it’s important to check which review sites your customers are using.

4 tips to manage online reviews successfully

1. Claim your existing business listings

First and foremost, claim your existing business listings as soon as possible – it’s essential for actively managing your online reviews and boosting customer acquisition.

The minute you do so (whether it’s via platforms like Google My Business or Yelp), you’ll be able to control the content to make sure it’s up-to-date and provides a cohesive experience in relation to your social media pages and website.

Moreover, you’ll be notified when a new review has been posted – this way, you can react quickly and begin your review monitoring right away.

If you think reviews don’t affect search engines, think again. Google’s algorithm takes into account customer reviews, pushing brands with more positive feedback and higher ratings to the top of the list.

2. Ask for online reviews

Customers are quick to read reviews, but they aren’t always so fast to post them (unless, of course, they’ve had a particularly good or bad experience). For this reason, many brands actually put forward review requests to their customers, hoping to kickstart the feedback journey and better understand their audience. Asking for reviews is a simple and effective way to practice review management.

How to ask for online reviews

  • In a delivery confirmation email. Your customers are already awaiting a delivery confirmation – so there’s a high chance they’ll open this email. Also, timing is everything! There’s no point in asking for a review if your customer hasn’t received their merchandise yet.
  • Via a QR code at a physical checkout. If your customers are shopping in-store, QR codes at checkout counters take all of the effort away – your customers need only point their cameras at the code, and they’ll be taken to a review site or form instantaneously.
  • When customers join your loyalty program. A customer who is interested in joining your loyalty program is a customer who likely has a lot of good things to say about your brand. Loyalty programs are already a wonderful way of developing your customer relationships, so the small ask of leaving a review should be worry-free.
  • Via SMS message. This is a true example of meeting your customers right where they are – on their phones. If you have a system in place for shipping or sale updates via SMS, you can easily work with your automation team to configure a review request once your customer receives their order.

Ultimately, as long as you are asking for business reviews in an organic way, your customers shouldn’t be too upset by your inquiry. One thing’s for sure: never buy reviews.

If word gets out that your company is investing in inauthentic customer feedback, your business reputation will be on the line, and you’ll have a lot of unhappy customers who’ve lost trust in your brand.

If that’s not enough to deter you, the FTC has clear penalties (fines greater than $40,000) for local businesses that are caught faking reviews.

3. Respond to positive AND negative online reviews

Your response to all your reviews is an essential aspect of your reputation management and directly affects your customer experience.

Think of it this way: would you rather be known as the brand that stays silent when customers are complaining or the brand that offers to connect and address the complaint promptly? You should always aim to be a responsive brand.

While negative reviews are never fun to receive, they provide invaluable insight into the customer experience your brand is providing while presenting an opportunity to resolve customer issues.

If you do come across a negative review, instead of running in the opposite direction, try the below online review management tools:

  • Take the time to investigate the issue.
  • Thank the customer for their feedback.
  • Acknowledge the problem, give a solution, or explain how you are going to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.
  • Make note of any recurring complaints that could indicate a larger issue at hand (like slow delivery times or awkward sizing).

Another thing about reviews? They’re time-sensitive. No matter whether a customer is seething over a mis-picked order, or jumping for joy at their newest addition to their closet, you should aim to reply as quickly as possible.

Last but not least, be sure to personalize your replies with their name. Did you know that customers are more likely to shop at a brand that provides a personalized approach? This doesn’t negate the review process either.

4. Promote reviews on social media/your website

There is such a thing as review marketing! It’s not uncommon for brands to collect their best reviews and put them on display for potential customers to see. But in order to do this, you’ll need to find positive reviews – which means a strategy for monitoring your reviews must be in place.

Once you are monitoring reviews, you should be able to develop feedback into messaging and user-generated content (UGC) to use within your marketing and reputation management strategy. This includes highlighting star ratings and customer testimonials with the knowledge that you can back it all up with an original review.

Whether you’re gathering online reviews for a Story Highlight on your Instagram page or using a customer testimonial on the homepage of your website, having proper review management strategies in place make curating feedback all the more easier.

Tips for promoting your reviews:

  • Always ask for permission from the reviewer to publicize their response.
  • Be savvy of the rules surrounding using reviews as marketing collateral.
  • Not sure where to start? Google has some great resources for small businesses here on how to collect reviews as well as market them.

The verdict? E-commerce brands should incorporate online review management into their overall marketing strategy

As long as e-commerce is a thriving industry (and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon), potential customers will rely heavily on new reviews and old reviews alike. Through their detective work in scouring online feedback and seeing your responses, they’ll begin to understand your brand’s image – and they’ll decide whether or not they want to connect with you.

Remember, it’s not always about how many reviews your site has. Instead, what are the quality of the reviews? What is the response time from your brand? How are you presenting your brand to new customers?

It’s clear that online review management is a must. Your marketing strategy doesn’t stop at customer acquisition; it should cover all touchpoints in the customer journey.

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