Resources / Customer Experience / Why You Need An Online Customer Review Strategy

Why You Need An Online Customer Review Strategy

With the rise of so many avenues for online feedback, consumers have started exercising their right to criticize when they receive sub-par service - and you must start paying closer attention.

Introduction

We now exist in a world where technological innovation is empowering customers to expect more from the retailers and brands they shop with, to switch when they’re not happy or satisfied, and to share their negative experiences in the form of bad online reviews.

With the rise of so many avenues for online feedback, consumers have started exercising their right to criticize when they receive sub-par service - and you must start paying closer attention.

Most customers today will do at least one search for your company online before deciding to make a purchase. So if a bad review or overall rating can be found on an online review site, social media platform, or on your own website, then shoppers are going to think twice before buying from you.

The influence of online product reviews and ratings on consumers continues to grow and plays an increasingly important and normalized role in consumers’ purchasing behavior. And it’s what happens after the buy button that has the most potential to create the kind of consumer disappointment that often translates into negative feedback and ratings.

But with a solid review strategy combined with retail operations technology powering your business to provide superior shopping experiences, you’ll not only deliver on your customers’ demands and expectations, but exceed them.

Ultimately, the ability to delight your customers at every interaction is well within reach - and with it, the positive endorsements needed to capture consumer attention and position your brand as one that customers can trust.

With this in mind, this article will explore:

  • The power of reviews on your business and its customers

  • Strategies to help you get more reviews

  • How your online customer experience can cause consumer dissatisfaction

  • How to use technology effectively to improve CX

The Power of Customer Reviews

The power of customer reviews is increasing. Recent research from Brightpearl and Trustpilot shows that star ratings and reviews are important to shoppers as it gives them a voice and a compass to aid decision making.

Here are a few takeaways from the report:

  • 46% of shoppers often or always check star ratings before making an online purchase

  • 84% of shoppers read online reviews before buying

  • 88% of shoppers believe star ratings are important to their buying decision

In addition, Product Review Monitoring claims that “online reviews are the second most trusted source of information behind friends and family,” while 35% of shoppers told Podium that what motivates them most to leave a review is “to inform others about the customer experience”.

While once upon a time having a slick website was key to a great ecommerce experience and positive reviews, most shoppers’ expectations now stretch far beyond this. They expect superior experiences at every touchpoint - from same-next day delivery options to real-time shipping, hassle-free returns and fast response times.

If one of these areas fails, then they all do, potentially leading to frustrated shoppers and negative feedback. With this comes increased cost for your business as you strive to get a grip on poor feedback. The average merchant now spends $10k a year managing negative reviews.

This tangled web of negativity spirals out of control before - wham! - lost sales and a serious blow to your revenue forecast.

In fact, our recent study reveals that the difference in revenue between a 3-star and a 5-star rating can be as high as 33%. If you have $1 million in annual revenue, for example, you may be losing as much as $330,000 because of a negative reputation.

On the flip side, brands with a stellar five star review strategy are yards ahead of the competition - leading to increased conversion, retention and spend.

As an example, DIY specialist retailer, Mad4Tools.com has successfully built a passionate and vocal community around their products by investing in excellent experiences. As Paul Swain, Director of Mad4Tools.com, explains here, the business prides itself on an excellent end-to-end journey. “If a customer has a positive experience with our brand, they’re more likely to buy from us again, to tell their friends and leave positive feedback on consumer review sites, which gives other shoppers more confidence to buy.”

While Seriously Silly Socks has been able to drive a 60% higher average order value on its website compared with its other channels, thanks in large part to its 3000 five star reviews that populate the ecommerce site’s various product pages.

In an online world and in the absence of live face-to-face interactions, it’s the customer reviews and ratings that have the power to show potential customers whether your business is trustworthy or not - either giving them the confidence to buy, or causing them to sprint in the opposite direction and towards your competition.

Positive reviews also have the power to convert more than any other copy you have on your website - whether that’s due to an increased feeling of trust between you and your customer, or whether it’s because reviews show how other shoppers like them have benefited from using your products.

Displaying reviews has the power to increase your conversion rates by as much as 270%! [Source: Spiegel Research Center, 2017]

“We recognize that the decision to buy from Mad4Tools.com will be influenced, to a large degree, by our ratings and reviews.” - Paul Swain, Director, Mad4Tools.com

Brands that recognize that modern consumer expectations stretch far beyond the website experience, to crucial factors such as fulfillment, delivery, returns and post-purchase customer service, are able to delight customers at every twist and turn and generate the glowing endorsements some businesses only dream of.

At Brightpearl, we believe it’s never too late to get a tarnished online profile back under control - especially once you have the optimal technology stack and know-how at your fingertips, which is where this article should help.

How To Get Customers To Leave Reviews

While negative reviews provide you with ample opportunity to show the speed, quality and genuine care of your customer service within your response, our research shows that just 6% of shoppers look at reviews that are over six months old.

This underlines the importance of focusing on building up a series of good customer reviews once a negative one has been posted. But how can you get more customer reviews - particularly positive ones? Here are five key ingredients.

1. Provide a superior shopping experience

First and foremost, your customers have been conditioned by big box retailers like Amazon to expect the very best from you - or you’re at risk of them leaving a less-than-glowing review.

To help combat this, you should invest in optimizing the complete end-to-end buying experience, not just how your website looks and operates.

At Brightpearl, we’ve put a lot of our own time and energy into building centralized retail operations software that has been designed with this very goal in mind.

From streamlined order processing and automatic warehouse routing, to real-time inventory management, integrated CRM and more, these are just some of the ways in which technology can help you to provide your customers with a superior shopping experience.

NB: We’ll dive into this topic in greater detail in the final section of this article.

2. Use a variety of review sites and plugins

There are a growing number of review sites - and you need to make sure you’ve claimed your company presence on each one that your shoppers are likely to use.

Top sites that your customers write reviews on include:

  • Trustpilot

  • Yelp

  • Google

  • Amazon

  • Facebook

Furthermore, popular ecommerce plugins like Yotpo and Feefo enable you to easily collect feedback and display reviews across your website as well.

3. Ask for feedback at the right time

Loopy Loyalty claims a whopping 70% of customers are happy to leave a review when asked. But you also need to ensure you’re asking your customers at the right time.

There have been numerous studies over the years related to when is the right time to send a follow-up email to customers post-purchase. Although the answer is heavily dependent on your own business and trial and error, this article from The Good Group is helpful as a starting point.

It recommends sending a ‘shipment check in’ email about a week after the item should have been received, while the ‘review request’ should be sent once enough time has elapsed for your customer to have tried the product for a few weeks.

Based on data from over 3.5 million emails, this article from Yotpo is useful for outlining what this email should look like and what wording works best.

And if you’re using a centralized retail operations platform, then your data will also provide information on when to send follow up emails. This process can even be automated based on the shipping and delivery status associated with each order, as well as the return status, ensuring you send review requests at the appropriate time, every time.

4. Incentivize your customers

Your customers’ time is valuable so you may need to provide them with an incentive to encourage them to leave a review.

Offers like discount codes for their next purchase, entries into exciting prize draws and gift cards are all great incentives.

Just remember that these incentives relate to ALL reviews - not just positive ones. This can be something of a gray area, but this quick guide from Trustpilot is great for listing the do’s and don’ts when it comes to incentivized reviews.

5. Respond to every review

Your customers are going to be much more likely to leave a review - good or bad - if they feel like they’re being heard and respected for leaving their feedback.

This is your golden opportunity to show just how much you care about your customers and their opinions – and it needs to come fairly rapidly. Our research found that almost one in five shoppers (17%) think that brands should respond to a negative review within 24 hours and a further 21% believe it should be quicker than that.

Learning to manage your negative reviews will not only allow you to collect more consumer insights in order to identify areas of development, but will also prove that you are a customer-centric business. Indeed, 95% of unhappy customers will return if a business has resolved their issue quickly and efficiently.

The Customer Experience Gaps Causing Consumer Dissatisfaction

To succeed in the growing review culture, you can’t just efficiently fulfill orders or deliver generic customer service; you need to expertly fulfill the modern expectations of customers, delighting them with a superior experience at every touchpoint.

Yet our research shows that it’s what happens after the buy button is clicked, which has the potential to cause the most consumer dissatisfaction - in turn, creating more negative reviews for your business.

We looked at 29,080 1-3 star reviews left by consumers rating the service of ecommerce businesses. A whopping 77% of these less-than-stellar reviews were a result of typical operational failures, such as poor customer service, or negative experiences related to delivery, returns and refund policies.

It’s vital to determine the specific stages where customers are evaluating and talking about their experiences - and whether there are gaps or issues that need to be addressed.

We’ve identified that the customer experience often follows what we call: the slippery slope of customer happiness. It’s the last impression that determines whether a shopper comes back to your store, but as the graph below shows, the percentage of customers that rate their last online shopping experience as ‘very good’ declines as the lifecycle of the customer buying journey progresses.

The slippery slope of customer happiness.png

"Shoppers want a user-friendly website, with accurate product descriptions and sizes. Once you get those front-end fundamentals ironed out, then everything becomes an entirely operations-driven game. Brands must remember they are competing with Amazon. Customers want ease of purchase - but they also want their products as quickly as possible. They can count on that with Amazon, so as a retailer, you must be able to offer similar convenience, personalization and speedy fulfillment. Brightpearl enables us to deliver in all three areas.” - Lalan Shrikam, Founder, Malabar Bay

Using Technology to Revolutionize Your CX and Generate Five Star Feedback

As you can see in the word clouds below, which show snapshots of real customer feedback on Trustpilot, the themes that are most apparent across one star feedback are very similar to those found in five star feedback:

Negative reviews word cloud.png
Positive reviews word cloud.png

By implementing a more cohesive technology stack within your business, you’ll be able to close these gaps after the buy button and streamline your operations to power excellent five star ratings and reviews. Read on for our best practice advice.

1. Improving Shipping and Delivery Speeds

Six years ago, customers would have to wait 5.5 days for items they ordered online to be delivered. However, customers expecting items within 24 hours is now fast becoming the norm - with 61% willing to pay extra for the convenience that same day delivery brings.

These are high expectations to live up to, so how can you ensure customer satisfaction is synonymous with your business? We believe that this is more than achievable with the right systems and processes in place.

First and foremost, you’ll want to adopt automation within your business with intelligent systems like Brightpearl. Whether it’s to automatically route orders to your warehouse or mark them as paid, fulfilled and invoiced instantly, automating tasks like this can shave hours off each work day.

In addition, shipping integrations like ShipStation and Shiptheory also have the power to automate your carrier workflows. From instantly calculating prices for each shipment, to assigning the most appropriate shipping method based on things like value, weight, volume or delivery location, and even automatically generating tracking references and packing labels, your processing times and shipping speeds can be drastically improved by these tools.

“Using Brightpearl allows us to process orders twice as fast as before, giving us the confidence to introduce multiple delivery options, including late next-day delivery services, as we now know that we will be able to fulfill our service promises effectively.” - Andy Lockley, Head of Ecommerce, Love Shopping Direct

2. Reducing Processing Costs

If you’ve drastically improved your shipping speeds and order management processes as outlined above, then another benefit your business could receive is reduced processing costs.

But there is also another element of your technology stack that you should consider to help reduce costs even further: efficient warehouse management.

A warehouse management system (WMS) is software that is designed and built to optimize the warehouse, distribution, supply chain and fulfillment processes within your business.

But as we’ve outlined here, not all warehouse systems are built equal.

Our recommendation would be to adopt a fully integrated WMS, which means the system shares the same database as all your orders, inventory, accounting, CRM and reporting.

This functionality should support barcode scanning and cycle counts, while providing you with increased flexibility for your fulfillment and returns processes, promoting efficiency and cost-savings in your business where it matters most.

3. Faster Returns Processes

A fully functioning WMS also has the ability to improve your returns processes, making them miles more efficient and your warehouse less expensive to run.

In order to streamline your operational inefficiencies, consider warehouse management software that has been especially designed to help improve your returns processes.

We’ve written extensively on the topic of returns, so we would recommend reading the resources listed below:

4. Providing Hassle-Free Returns

Getting your returns processes fully under control means they’ll also be more likely to be hassle-free for your customers. As we’ve found in our research, it’s the last impression that can cause the most dissatisfaction so this is a crucial part of the journey to get right.

Key pieces of the technology stack include an advanced ecommerce platform to help ensure your shoppers have a slick website experience, as well as point of sale systems that seamlessly integrate with the rest of your business for an equally slick in-store experience.

Whether you operate solely online or across brick and mortar channels, you should use the concept of hassle-free returns to help promote your website and business above the competition.

In addition, identify whether your policy offers store credits, exchanges or refunds (either partial or full), alongside what you expect from your customers. Display this information clearly across your website, on your packing slips and in emails.

As a starting point, think about:

  • Do your customers need to use the original packaging or their own?

  • Should they include the original packing note?

  • Do they need to return goods within a particular time frame?

  • Who is responsible for the costs of sending the item back?

5. Excelling At Customer Service

While your operational processes will largely dictate what your customers’ buying experiences are like, the way you engage with, inform and care for your customers is also a determining factor.

In our view, a reliable CRM is paramount to knowing and understanding your customers thoroughly, as well as being able to provide them with a consistent experience regardless of who they speak to within your company.

“We use Brightpearl CRM to make sure we never let a customer down. You can see a customer's entire purchase history in one record and it’s easy to schedule tasks and callbacks so nothing gets missed.” - Gary Murray, Ecommerce Manager, Leader Stores

Additionally, an automated email marketing platform like dotdigital Engagement Cloud or MailChimp will ensure you can keep your customers updated on their purchases. These systems will also enable you to automatically ask for feedback once items have been received by your customers, while helping to uncover future cross-sell and upsell opportunities as well.

Conclusion

Today’s online review culture can make or break your business. Get it right and you will reap the just rewards of increased conversion, retention and spend for your business. But get it wrong and you risk becoming trapped in a messy web of negativity and a poor online reputation.

As our research has shown, it’s the operational processes behind the buy button that have the power to cause the most customer dissatisfaction - and it’s this last impression that has the power over whether customers will come back to your store.

But by following the above advice regarding your online review strategy and by implementing the optimal technology stack to power all facets of your business, you can gain control over a negative online reputation and turn it into a positive one.

“We win business because of our positive feedback and high ratings and we retain business because of the experience we provide - from meeting fulfillment expectations, to orders being delivered as expected. Brightpearl supports this by making our operations as slick and automated as possible.” - Paul Swain, Director, Mad4Tools.com

Further Reading

Rise of the Review Culture

by Brightpearl

Bad reviews: why people write them, and what they expect

by Trustpilot

How To Ask Customers for Reviews: Data from 3.5M Emails

by Yotpo

Get your reviews strategy into shape

by Feefo

3 Simple Ways to Get More Google Reviews & More

by Speak Creative

Creating branded customer experiences: How to align marketing and CX

by MyCustomer

⬆ Back to Top