How to make the most of online customer reviews

How to make the most of online customer reviews

Online customer reviews are really important for both customers and online stores. In today’s digital world where competition is high, more than 92% of e-shoppers take reviews into account for their purchase decision. Either positive or negative, online reviews can have a very big impact on your e-commerce online reputation.
This post will cover everything you need to know about online customer review including:

  • The impact of online customer reviews for your SEO and sales rate.
  • The implementation of your review strategy.
  • How to properly handle bad and good reviews.

Understanding the psychological mechanism behind customer reviews will help you increase your online reputation and sales rate.

Why Are Online Customer Reviews Crucial for your E-commerce?

Online customer reviews have a big role to play in your customer journey. When positive, you can amplify them on the web and social media to increase your visibility and gain new customers. When negative, you need to be quick in your response. Because online reviews matter for the person who wrote it, for sure, but most importantly it matters to potential customers. Like for any business, your e-commerce has to display a good online reputation if you want to attract enough customers and make it sustainable.

Online Reviews Contribute to your SEO

Online customer reviews matter for your SEO ranking. Because consumers love online reviews, search engines love them too, since people will keep coming back to look for more if they think the search results are relevant. Search engine algorithms, like Google for example, are completely oriented toward the user’s satisfaction.
Good reviews about your business make it attractive to customers and inform search engines that they are happy from your brand, hence your online store deserves to rank better.

  • Online reviews are a great source of user generated content and search engines love it! Fresh relevant content tells them that your website is truly active and valuable.
  • They generate long-tail keyword which tend to have much less competition and display the same language than the real life targeted audience who makes the search.
  • Online customer reviews enable the activation of Google start rating which attract more customers.

They are a great source of feedback

Online customer reviews can also be useful when it comes to website and UX improvement because they can provide you with extremely valuable feedback.

Don’t take it too personally though, because even if they are not always 100% nice, reviews are constructive and will allow to adjust your business toward what customers truly desire. Which, if you do it well, will lead to increasing your sales rate. This feedback will help you identify the products and services you can be the most proud of and that you should advertise, and which one(s) might need improvement.
The mental process between reading online reviews and deciding to actually make the purchase is really small. As a small business, your online reputation is going to influence your sales performances. According to a survey from BrightLocal, about 85% of customers admit they read online review before buying.
Online customer review play a psychological role thanks to the “Social Proof” effect. Social proof is very powerful but you need to deserve it by making your service or product great. It makes prospect think as following: “If others like this online store, it must be safe for me to like as well, right?
It’s the word of mouth of the 21st century. Nielsen institute study shows that 89% of people that visit review sites will make a purchase within a week and that almost 30% will actually purchase during the very same day.

How to solicit customers to leave more reviews

If you want to get any benefit from online review, keep in mind that almost 50% of e-shoppers think that they have to be written within 1 month to be pertinent. So you regularly need to get people to write new reviews about your products. This is the reason why you should be proactive and always ask your customers about their experience during their purchase.
It can easily be done by automatic follow up e-mail. Besides, either really happy people or very unhappy ones will usually be the most eager to share their experience. Getting review from average customers is sometimes hard, so don’t forget to remind them that it would be much appreciated if they could leave you feedback.

Define a review acquisition strategy

Most people love sharing their opinion, so start asking them to do so about their experience with your online store. A lot of happy customers will definitely take the time for you. However, don’t forget about the timing.

To collect the maximum of reviews, your request must come at the exact moment the customer is the most pleased with your product or your service.

There are different ways to demand online customer reviews: you can ask for it on the buying confirmation e-mail, on the purchase receipt or even set up automatic follow-up e-mails quite soon after the purchase.

Get your own review section

Whether or not you decide to propose online review section to your website is up to you, but even if you think this is not that necessary, customers who wants to express themselves will find plenty other ways to do so, but won’t be in control at all. So knowing that 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews, you should definitely try to control it as much as you can by implementing such section on your online store.
But if you don’t feel like having your own reviewing corner, because you don’t want to invest too much time in it, or you believe that reviews left on external websites will seem more authentic, it is still fine. Just still ask your fellow customers to leave you a review on trusted websites. Google My Business, Facebook, and Amazon are among the most commonly used to do so.

The review sites

The most famous rating system : Star rating

The system of star rating is the most used among customers to evaluate the quality of a business. Obviously, the more stars you receive, the more customers you will get in return because you will show you are trustworthy.
If your e-commerce has only 1 or 2 stars, then you have to improve your customer service because only 14% of consumers would consider using or buying something from you. While online stores displaying at least 4 stars rating will get 94% of the customers, you need to have at least 3 stars to become appealing to more than half of them. The most famous sites like Google and Amazon use star rating system.
Word of mouth is still the most popular method to get valuable recommendations along friends and family. But online reviews now tends to complete this process and can sometimes replace it, as 88% of e-shoppers declare that they trust them as much as they would trust in real life personal recommendations. The big majority of online customers need to read about 6 reviews to form their opinion though, so the more review you can show them, the more sales you will trigger.

Google reviews

Research show that consumers tend to spend 31% more at an online store with great reviews. Beside your own website, online shoppers have several possibilities to review their experience with your e-commerce. The first one is search engine leader Google.
Google is the world’s biggest search engine of all time with 64% of all worldwide searches. Research found that it is also the most important review site for purchasing decisions and that about 30% of customers are more inclined to buy from a website that possess a full Google My Business page. Keep also in mind that Google algorithm display Google reviews in priority.

Other Review Sites

In order to be visible to all your prospects you need to determine which review platforms would work for your e-commerce. Search for “your industry” + “review” + “your operating zone”, and make sure you are listed on the first pages. You will also need to assess your competitors’ presence and be visible on the platforms they already are. The result will indicate the sites your competition uses so that you can make your e-commerce visible from there as well. Facebook is also more and more used by customer to express their feelings.
Once you’ve figured out where you should host your online customer reviews, either internally or externally, how should you go about responding to your reviews?

How to handle negative reviews and sensitive situations

The first thing you should do is to set up a Google Alert so that you know whenever someone mentions your business online and you can manage your online reputation more proactively.

Bad reviews are not always bad

When it comes to online reputation, customers reviews and social posts are really important. The worst thing to do is to ignore negative ones.
Because angry customers will spread their dissatisfaction somewhere else, and make things worse. However, according to a research from Reevoo, 95% of consumers assume online reviews might be fake or censored if there are no negative reviews at all. Having few of them about your e-commerce is not that much of a problem if you have the right reaction.
Because 86% of people hesitate to buy something from a business that has received negative online reviews, you need to answer appropriately to motivate the customer to write a second review, but positive this time. If you resolve this issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of those unhappy customers usually accept coming back to your online store.
Why should you respond to a negative review then? Well, even if you wish you could ignore bad reviews (which can be seen as much more comfortable for you), the truth is, your e-commerce cannot afford it. Because it can make things much worse.
Even if it is just one review, thousands of potential customers will read it. Your answer is your only opportunity to smooth things over and propose alternative to your unhappy customer. Don’t let the review sit without response like above, instead turn the this situation to your advantage and show your possible future customers that no matter what might happen with their order, you will face the issue and make things right for them. Plus it shows that you accept feedback and are willing to improve your quality of service.

4 Points procedure to correctly answer a negative review:

#1: Apologize and be friendly: Be sincere and admit your mistakes. Even if you personally think they are unjustified, you still need to demonstrate empathy and be sorry that they faced a bad experience. Ex: “We are sorry to hear that you had a bad experience….”
#2: Emphasize your strengths by explaining what customers usually experience when coming to your website and that everything goes well. Ex: “We are usually very attentive to details and we truly regret that your experience didn’t go as expected.”
#3: Take the discussion offline: If the discussion starts to become very intense, give your unhappy customer the contact info of the person in charge depending on the issue.
#4: Use simple response, make it short and nice (but don’t write like a business entity, show it actually comes from real person). Don’t ask for too many details, this way the angry customer won’t display too much of the issue publicly. If you can use 3 sentences for the entire reply, this is usually a good thing.
Bonus: Never include your e-commerce name or the keywords you use in your marketing in your review response. Because you don’t want this bad review to show up whenever potential customers searches for you!

Reduce their impact

When negative reviews happen, what you want to do is to lessen their impact and make them less visible to your audience. Here is what you should do then:

  • First of all, you need to quickly resolve the issue your customer is facing. You need to show your customer you are doing anything you can to make it up to him/her and if you can’t, then offer a compensation. As mentioned above, don’t let the bad review sit without answer. Otherwise, not only will you lose this customer, but others will notice and think you don’t care about your customers which could make them lose confidence they had in your business. You can use the template above to help.
  • Second, once the issue is resolved, kindly ask your customer to update the post (it will demonstrate to others the effort you have made). Chances are, if you handled the situation correctly, then your customer will update their negative review on their own. However, that’s not always the case and your business will have to live with it as the bad review won’t disappear.Getting the bad review to lose visibility by drowning it in good reviews will eventually help.
  • Finally: Try to bury the negative customer review under positive ones. To do so, you should use solutions that will send automatic reminders to your customers about their experience on your website and ask for them to leave a review. If the products/services you propose are great, you are likely to be bombarded with positive reviews, burying the negative one which will finally turn into the little thing you needed to show customers that all the reviews on your website are real and not censored or faked.

How to enhance positive online customer reviews

Needless to say, positive reviews are the kind of content you absolutely want to for your e-commerce. There are few things you can do though to maximize their impact.

Why should you respond to a good review?
  • It is a matter of politeness. If this was happening offline, then you would say thank you without even thinking about it. With online reviews, your appreciation will be displayed publicly. Time for extra kindness!
  • By talking to your happy customer, you are also talking to all the prospects checking your online reputation.
  • It can contribute to your search ranking by adding more SEO optimized content.

The 4 Step procedure to correctly answer a positive review:

#1: Say thank you to your customer for showing such positive behaviour. Keep a tone that shows a real person is behind the answer, and try to respond to something specific they said in their review. Be genuine.
#2: This time you want your e-commerce’s name to be related to this positive review, so use it in your response, and integrate keywords as well. Ex: The [your name here] team appreciate a lot to hear about such good feedback, and we are really proud of our customer service in [location where your business operates].”
#3: Time to include some marketing. Because your answer might be read by thousands of potential customers, don’t forget to mention what could be the reason of their great experience they had with you, some promotion going on or feature newly released products. Ex: “Did you know we just launched our loyalty program?”
#4: Invite customers to do something: Ask the customer to return, use another service and/or spread the word. Ex: “Next time you’re here, you should try the [insert product here]!” “We hope to see you again soon, and bring a friend!”


Keeping an eye on online customer reviews is crucial for your online reputation. It will help your e-commerce taking off. The more concerned you are about it, the more you will become a reference in your field and gain visibility among competitors. So give yourself some time to take care of your customers and they will return it to you hundred-fold.

Image credit : Arnaldo Petrazzini