Customer reviews have become one of the most important ingredients for the success of an online business. People are more likely to trust other people than they are to trust brands; they’ve grown up in a world bombarded with advertising, and know that brands have a built-in incentive to sell them something. Customer reviews, by contrast, seem to offer a pure and unbiased vision of the brand or product they’re reviewing.
Accordingly, many companies have turned to including customer reviews on their websites in an effort to attract more customers or improve their brand reputation—but this strategy isn’t guaranteed to be successful.
How to Feature Customer Reviews
There are many different ways you can feature customer reviews on your site. You can include individual reviews for different products on those respective product pages, like Amazon does, or you can create a page uniquely dedicated to customer reviews, like this one from Bombshell Sportswear.
Either way, there are some best practices you’ll need to follow to succeed:
- Make sure they’re visible. This should be obvious, but too many companies make their customer reviews hard to find, or bury them at the bottom of a page. If you want people to notice these reviews, don’t make them hunt them down. It’s okay to include them below your product detail information, but make sure they’re prominent enough that the average web visitor will eventually stumble upon them. You can also use eye-catching graphics to make this section more noticeable.
- Include a quantitative and qualitative element. The best review formats include both a quantitative element and a qualitative element; the quantitative element will give people a high-level objective assessment of the product or service, while the qualitative element will give them more details. Most companies these days allow customers to rate the item on a scale of one to five stars, but you can use 10 stars, or a scale of 1-10, or something similar, so long as it’s consistent. In addition, make sure to encourage comments from your reviewers; in most cases, a simple number isn’t enough.
- Avoid fake reviews. In an effort to artificially boost the star reviews of their products or start customer review momentum, some brands have deliberately paid for “fake” reviews; they seek help with a third party, or perhaps write the reviews internally. Either way, these reviews are positive but insincere—and most discerning customers are able to tell the difference. It’s always better to let reviews come in naturally, even if they’re not always flattering.
- Keep both good and bad reviews. You may be tempted to hide or remove reviews that are negative or unflattering, preserving only the best reviews on your site. However, this is always a bad idea. The negative reviewers will likely find some other way to voice their opinion, and if you’re caught deliberately removing negative reviews, you could instantly lose consumer trust in your organization. Besides, when a customer discovers that a product only has good reviews, they may become suspicious; in some ways, negative reviews are also beneficial because they help customers set appropriate expectations.
- Allow customers to rate review value. It’s also a good idea to create a mechanism that allows customers to evaluate the quality of each review, as a kind of meta-review. For example, you could have a button for users to click if they find the review “helpful” or “unhelpful,” allowing them to praise well-written and articulate reviews, and discourage poorly-written or misleading ones. Ideally, this feedback will be used to preferentially rank the most helpful reviews.
- Make it easy for others to post reviews. Customer reviews become more valuable as you accumulate more of them. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to make it easy for people to post new reviews. Give them multiple opportunities to write and post reviews, in multiple areas; for example, you can have a “draft review” section with the existing customer reviews, and also send follow-up emails to your customers, prompting them to review their recent purchases.
- Learn from both good and bad reviews. Reviews aren’t just for other customers; they’re also an important way to learn more about your business. Pay attention to both positive and negative reviews for chances to improve.
Perfecting Your Approach
You probably won’t have the perfect formula for customer reviews the first time you make the attempt to include them. Instead, be prepared to make lots of little tweaks as you learn more about what works and what doesn’t. Use AB testing to experiment with different layouts, and see which ones are more engaging overall. As long as you keep experimenting and adapting, you’ll eventually find a formula that works perfectly for your needs.