When I talk to marketers at consumer goods companies, I often hear a familiar challenge: Figuring out how to encourage customers to review their products at scale.
While we all know that product reviews can have a positive impact on sales, the dilemma that marketers face lies in choosing review solicitation tactics that are both effective and ethical. Customers will rarely write reviews without some type of motivation or prompting. At the same time, following the footsteps of countless companies that have paid people to review products that they’ve never used is ill-advised.
Having worked with dozens of CPG companies on marketing strategy, I’ve found that the ones who are most successful in generating product reviews focus on activating their customers’ intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. The former might be particularly good experiences that customers’ have with a product, which compel them to write a review. Extrinsic motivations are the free products, coupons or other forms of incentives that shoppers are offered in exchange for a review.
With this in mind, here are four tips to nurture customers’ intrinsic motivations, and offer extrinsic incentives ethically:
Provide customers with extraordinary experiences
Providing customers with an experience that is unusually positive can go a long way towards motivating them to review your products. For instance, if your company sells toothpaste, and notices that one shopper has been buying your product online for years, consider sending her a freebie during the holidays, with a thoughtful thank you note for being a loyal customer. Or, if you’re an apparel company that has a first-time shopper, you could consider offering a surprise percentage off at checkout to thank them for trying your brand.
In addition to pursuing random acts of kindness, providing consistently above average customer service is another effective way to generate positive reviews. If a customer calls, emails or visits your store with questions or concerns about your product, this is a golden opportunity for you to bend over backwards to address their needs.
Make reviews part of your omnichannel strategy
Many consumer brands ask for reviews across some of their sales channels, but I’ve worked with few that have been successful in doing so consistently across every customer touch point.
For CPG companies that offer their products through multiple e-commerce sites as well as brick and mortar stores, make sure that every retailer you work with is making the effort to gather product reviews. If you see that certain retailers are not asking for reviews via email after an online checkout, or in store once the purchase is complete, try to work with them to improve their review collection processes.
If you’re selling your product directly through your e-commerce site or physical store, make sure that you do everything possible to make the review process frictionless. For instance, when asking via email for a review, consider using an email template that allows customers to leave reviews right there in the email, as opposed to having to go to a different website. Or, when shoppers buy a product through your mobile app, consider launching a pop-up the next time they open the app that asks them to rate their purchase on a scale of 1-5.
Capture reviews where your customers are most vocal
Many consumer brands receive positive product reviews that they don’t fully utilize, in the form of tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts, and Pins. CPG companies should take the time to capture these positive mentions, and display them prominently on their product pages.
To get an idea of just how valuable social media reviews can be, consider this: Our research has shown that when micro-influencers, defined as people with between 500 and 5,000 social followers, post about a brand with a link to a product, they drive a click-through rate that’s more than three times higher than either sponsored Facebook posts or promoted tweets. Brands that amplify these customer posts by sharing them through their social channels, and on their website, could see even greater value from the social media praise.
Offer incentives as ethically as possible
While I encourage companies to focus first on the three tips above, they should also consider offering incentives for reviews. After all, giving a percentage off your customer’s next purchase, or entry into a contest for a bigger prize, can go a long way toward generating reviews.
When you do decide to offer an incentive, remember that the incentive’s value should never be tied to the rating a consumer gives your product. Even if someone gives your product a two- out of five-star review, she should receive the same token of appreciation as a customer who gives your product a full vote of confidence. Also, put in place systems to ensure that customers are only able to review products that they’ve actually purchased or used.
Following these suggestions will not only motivate more customers to write product reviews, but will also ensure that the reviews you do receive are authentic.
Lyle Stevens is Co-Founder and CEO of Mavrck