The importance of online customer reviews for ecommerce—and how to get them | Klaviyo
When you sell primarily online, your brand, unfortunately, isn’t what you say it is. It’s what the internet says it is.
That’s not a story you can write yourself. But it is one you can invest in—and contribute to—by developing a robust, authentic ecommerce reviews program.
This is your high-level introduction to ecommerce reviews. Read on to learn the basics:
- What are ecommerce reviews?
- Why customer reviews are important for online business
- How to collect (positive) customer reviews for your ecommerce business
- Plug the value from reviews into every channel
- FAQs on ecommerce reviews
The main elements of customer reviews
Ecommerce reviews are comments, opinions, and evaluations of businesses, products, or services from people who have had an experience or interaction with an ecommerce brand.
Put more simply, ecommerce reviews refer to any kind of feedback from your customers about your ecommerce business. They can come in the following forms:
- Written commentary
- Video or photo testimonials
- Star or number ratings
Ecommerce reviews are a form of user-generated content (UGC), in which your audience takes an active, participatory role in your marketing.
Why are ecommerce reviews important for an online business?
“Reviews occur at a unique moment in the brand/customer relationship,” writes Mat Bingham, head of technology partnerships at Okendo. “They offer the customer an opportunity to give feedback directly to the brand, and brands have the opportunity to collect data directly from the customer. It’s a win-win.”
Here are 4 primary reasons ecommerce reviews are a win-win for every online business:
Reviews build trust and credibility in your brand
As a marketer, you can make all sorts of promises or claims about what you’re trying to sell. But marketing images and positioning can only get you so far. Most shoppers trust a customer who is reviewing a product over a marketer who’s trying to sell it.
A 2020 Gallup poll found that only 9% of Americans trust mass media “a great deal.” By contrast, nearly half (46%) of consumers trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member, according to recent research from BrightLocal.
“Asking for customer reviews,” then, “is an essential part of building a positive online reputation for your business,” says Lindsey Arellano, director of email and SMS at CURIO.
Unlike marketers, real people typically wouldn’t benefit substantially from praising a product or service. Their opinions are simply a reflection of their actual experience—which, for other consumers, is a whole lot more relatable than a pretty, polished ad campaign.
With customer reviews, “you get to leverage a customer’s voice rather than your own,” explains Alexander Melone, co-founder of CodeCrew. “As trustworthy as your brand might be, it isn’t as trustworthy as someone who doesn’t have a clear agenda to promote your product.”
Reviews attract new customers
Reading customer reviews is the most common way online shoppers research an unfamiliar online business before making a purchase, according to Statista—even more common than comparing prices, checking for a secure payment process, and seeking discounts:
Image source: Statista
And the younger the shopper, the more product reviews they expect. While the average consumer expects 112 reviews per product, those in the 18-24 age group expect over 200, Statista reports:
Image source: Statista
As many as 70% of consumers, meanwhile, use ratings filters when researching new businesses online, according to ReviewTrackers. The most common filter? 4 stars.
Translation: Without investing in consumer reviews and ratings, you could be missing out on a huge demographic of potential new customers.
Reviews move people to buy
Once you have a prospect’s attention, online reviews are also instrumental in influencing purchase decisions. Consider the following numbers:
- Adding reviews to product pages can drive a 1.5% increase in revenue, according to Gorgias.
- Bazaarvoice reports that doing so makes 81% of consumers more likely to buy.
- A recent PowerReviews analysis of 1.5M product pages on brand and retailer sites discovered a 120.3% lift in conversion rate among consumers who interacted with ratings and reviews.
Negative reviews, meanwhile, can have the opposite effect on shoppers: 94% of consumers say a bad review has prevented them from doing business with a brand, according to ReviewTrackers.
Reviews improve product development
On that note: You might be able to dismiss one bad review as an outlier opinion. But several bad reviews? Those constitute something a little closer to an objective fact.
As Melanie Balke, CEO of The Email Marketers, puts it, “reviews aren’t just about good reviews that you can display on your website. They’re also about getting customer feedback that you can use to enhance your product or customer experience.”
Perception is everything in ecommerce. Negative reviews, while disappointing, can help you identify opportunities for improvement in your customer service and product offerings.
Arellano recommends using reviews as a source of “customer insights and feedback.” Brands can “analyze the feedback from reviews to identify areas of improvement and make changes to their products or services accordingly,” she says.
And that brings us full circle back to trust, Arellano adds: “By responding to all reviews, whether positive or negative, brands can show that they value customer feedback and are willing to address any issues or concerns. This can help build trust and loyalty with customers.”
How to collect customer reviews for your ecommerce business
According to BrightLocal, the No. 1 factor that influences customers to leave a positive review for a business is that the business went above and beyond to ensure they had an exceptional experience.
In other words, happy, satisfied customers are more likely to leave you a positive review. No surprise there.
But that doesn’t mean happy, satisfied customers will always leave you a positive review. Correlation is not necessarily causation. Sometimes, people need a little push.
Here are a few reliable ways to nudge your customers toward leaving you an online review:
List your online store on review sites
According to ReviewTrackers, 63.6% of consumers check Google Reviews before doing business with a brand. This is largely because Google displays reviews in search results, without sending shoppers to a third-party website.
Yelp ranks second at 45.18%, followed by TripAdvisor and Facebook. But depending on the industry your business operates in, it could also be worthwhile to list your ecommerce site on authoritative review sites such as:
- Online marketplaces
- Angie’s List
- Consumer Affairs
- Google My Business
- Power Reviews
Simplify the review process on your ecommerce site
The most powerful review site, however, is probably your own ecommerce website.
Here’s an example from Compass Coffee. At the bottom of their product description pages, the Washington, DC-based coffee brand not only allows customers to write a review directly on their website, but also includes—and responds to—recent customer reviews and ratings:
Image source: Compass Coffee
Many ecommerce platforms, like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Adobe Commerce (formerly Magento), let you toggle on a native review functionality button that allows customers to leave reviews directly on your ecommerce site.
But if these solutions are too limited for your needs, you can also look into third-party reviews tech.
Klaviyo, for example, recently launched Klaviyo Reviews—a product add-on that helps ecommerce brands deliver a seamless reviews experience directly within the Klaviyo platform.
With Klaviyo Reviews, which captures data gathered from your reviews at the customer profile level, ecommerce brands can:
- Automate review requests with flows that include email and SMS.
- Use insights from custom questions in personalization and segmentation.
- Easily display reviews and Q&As on your website to increase sales.
Unlike other third-party reviews solutions that are hard to set up and don’t integrate seamlessly with each other, Klaviyo Reviews was built within an intelligent marketing automation platform—the same one you use to access all customer data and send owned marketing messages.
Establish a post-purchase email automation
On that note: Your owned marketing channels are a great way to collect consumer reviews. When BrightLocal asked consumers which review request methods would make them more likely to leave a review, they identified the following:
- In an email: 34%
- In person, during the sale: 33%
- On a receipt or invoice: 32%
- Through social media: 31%
- On a device inside the business (i.e. an iPad): 27%
- In a text message: 23%
That means email is still the most effective method for prompting customers to leave a review. Here are a few ways to go about it.
The review request email
A review request email is a type of post-purchase email that asks recent customers to write a review about their experience with your brand or a product they just bought.
The good news: Bazaarvoice reports that using review request emails increases review UGC quantity by 10x.
The even better news: You can—and should—automate it.
Klaviyo recommends using “fulfilled order” as the trigger for the post-purchase review request email, and incorporating a time delay to ensure the customer receives the email not only after their product has been delivered, but also after they’ve had a chance to actually use it.
Image source: Klaviyo
You can also set up additional filters to target specific audience segments, such as:
- Big spenders: Send review requests only to customers who recently bought a high-value item.
- VIPs: Send review requests only to customers who’ve achieved a specific lifetime value with your company.
- Second-time purchasers: Balke recommends sending review requests “after the second purchase, because at this point you know they are a satisfied customer.”
Regardless of who you’re asking to leave you a review, timing is absolutely critical, here. “Nothing is more frustrating as a customer than getting a review request for a product that you haven’t even received yet,” points out Brandon Amoroso, founder and president of Electriq.
The “correct” range can vary dramatically depending on the industry and product. Food and beverage products, for example, “are fairly easy for customers to taste right away and determine whether or not they like it, so asking for a review a few days after the product is received would be a good strategy,” says Lindsay Kolinsky, sr. marketing lead at Okendo.
On the other end of the spectrum, “skin care may take up to 4-6 weeks before a customer can truly notice the impact of the product,” Kolinsky points out. In that case, “it may be best to ask for a review after a more extended timeframe.”
But you generally want to schedule a post-purchase review request “after a normal number of days post-delivery for the customer to have used the item at least once, but not so long that they’ve forgotten about the purchase altogether,” says Bailey Sigmon, associate director of email marketing at EK Creative.
“Work backwards based on your typical customer journey to find the ideal timing to ask for reviews,” agrees Dylan Kelley, founder and CEO of Wavebreak. “It’s different for every brand.”
Finding your ideal timing might require a bit of trial and error. “Use your data to your advantage,” advises Peyton Fox, agency owner and email strategist at Spark Bridge Digital. “I recommend testing a standard window of 14 days post-arrival and seeing what your submission rate is.”
From there, Fox suggests, “A/B test shorter and longer windows. See a difference? Just keep testing to find that sweet spot.”
The customer feedback survey
The goal of the customer feedback survey is to simplify the feedback process for your customers. Instead of emailing them a request to write you a review from scratch, ease the burden of creativity by emailing them a survey request instead.
Customer feedback surveys require a bit more planning and development on your end, because they require you to understand what kind of feedback, specifically, would be most useful for your brand. Less is more, here. You might ask customers to:
- Rate their overall experience with your brand
- On a numbered scale, such as 1-5
- Using visual icons, such as emojis or thumb’s ups/downs
- Rate the product they just bought on a few specific attributes
- Rate their customer support experience
- Select from a variety of multiple choice options to describe their experience with your brand or product
- Confirm whether or not they would buy from your brand again in the future
- Confirm whether or not they would recommend your brand to a friend or loved one
Customer surveys are also a prime opportunity to collect Customer-First Data™. With skin care brands, for example, Amoroso’s agency asks the customer “for their gender, skin type, and age, so that we can use it for segmentation in our remarketing strategy moving forward.”
“Reviews are a great source of product feedback and social proof, but they’re also an invaluable way to collect zero-party data about your customers,” Kolinsky agrees. “Many brands are collecting customer attributes in their reviews but don’t realize the full power of that data for building personalized experiences.”
Offer incentives in exchange for a review
Be careful with this one. Rewarding customers for providing feedback is generally considered acceptable, as long as you don’t require them to leave a positive review in exchange for the incentive.
Common incentives for leaving reviews include:
- Discounts or coupon codes
- Free gifts
- Early access to products
- Access to gated content
- Loyalty or rewards points
But again, testing is your friend, here. “Brand operators should always be conscious of not over-discounting, and this can be solved with simple conditional splits contained within a Klaviyo flow,” points out Ben Zettler, founder of Zettler Digital.
In other words, it may not be necessary to offer a review incentive to every customer, every time. You might, for example, experiment with escalating incentives based on the quality of the review:
- Text-only review: gated podcast episode or video
- Review with image: free gift with purchase
- Review with video: 15% off next purchase
Or you might “incentivize users to leave a review only if they haven’t left a review previously,” Zettler says. “For users that have left previous reviews, send a letter from the founder or give a chance to enter a giveaway. Transactional dollars are not always the way to go.”
OK, you’ve got the reviews. Now what?
Once you understand what your customers are saying about your brand and your products, you can use that feedback to not only improve your products and services, but also speak their language in your digital marketing efforts.
Here are a few high-level ideas customer reviews once you’ve collected them:
Display reviews on your ecommerce website
Your website is one of the places people spend the most time learning about your products or services—and if you’re an ecommerce or DTC brand, it’s also where they’re most likely to buy them.
You can highlight customer reviews directly on your product pages, like Compass Coffee. But you can also distribute them elsewhere on your website. Women’s apparel brand Pink Lily, for example, dedicates a whole landing page of their ecommerce store to recent customer reviews:
Image source: Pink Lily
Use reviews in social media
According to TINT’s State of Social and User-Generated Content 2023 report, 64% of consumers are more likely to post about a brand that re-shares content by its audience.
That means your social followers are more interested in understanding how your products and services benefit real people. Incorporating customer reviews into your social media strategy might look like:
- Re-posting a customer’s video testimonial as a reel or story on Instagram
- Creating a branded hashtag customers can use to share their thoughts and experiences about your brand and products with their followers
- Quoting comments your customers have made about your brand or products on your company Facebook or Twitter account
- Incorporating customer reviews into your organic and paid social creative
Highlight reviews in paid ads
Similarly, paid advertising can be an incredibly powerful vehicle for leveraging customer reviews in your marketing efforts. According to Kolinsky, “incorporating UGC into your paid marketing creative can drive qualified traffic to your site channels and increase return on ad spend (ROAS).”
Include reviews in email and SMS marketing
Finally, UGC like customer reviews “can also increase the impact of your email and SMS marketing strategy at critical conversion points in your customer journey,” Kolinsky says—think welcome series, abandoned cart emails, and cross- or up-sell emails featuring product recommendations.
“Look for reviews that stand out from the crowd—in the language, in what they are about—and then use those in your cart abandonment promotions,” advises Kathryn Browning, senior marketing manager, Justuno. “Double points if you segment it down to the items in the cart corresponding to the specific review.”
Ecommerce reviews: let your customers do the talking
How you go about collecting reviews from customers, and what you end up doing with them in the long run, may evolve over time based on your shifting business goals.
“Are you looking to leverage reviews to further promote specific products? Are you truly looking for honest feedback? The answer can change at any stage of any company’s lifecycle, too, of course,” Melone says.
“At one point in your company’s life, gaining reviews that you can disperse through marketing channels will far and away be the most valuable use of time,” Melone continues. “But gathering real, hard, not-always-happy insights from your customers will always be valuable.”
“By implementing these advanced review strategies,” Arellano says, “brands can not only improve their online reputation, but also gain valuable customer insights—and build stronger relationships with their customers.”
FAQs on ecommerce reviews
Where can I collect customer reviews?
You can collect customer reviews through a variety of channels, beginning with listing your brand on review sites. Many ecommerce platforms also offer either native review functionality or integrations with third-party reviews platforms, both of which allow customers to leave and read reviews directly on your product pages. But one of the most effective ways to collect customer reviews is to ask for them in a post-purchase email automation.
How do you reward customers for feedback?
Rewarding customers for providing feedback is generally considered acceptable, as long as you don’t require them to leave a positive review in exchange for the incentive. Common incentives for leaving reviews include discounts or coupon codes, free gifts, early access to products, and loyalty or rewards points.
How should you respond to negative reviews?
Don’t get defensive. Personalize your response, thank the reviewer for their honesty, apologize sincerely, answer any questions they have, and offer to connect them with customer support. Above all else, try to respond to all negative reviews within a week, and never, ever suppress negative reviews.