Your online shop needs reviews – period. Why? Because we are a society that has become very cynical about advertising. Whether you consider yourself a skeptic or not, there’s no denying that marketers have been bombarding us with so many ads that we’ve developed an evolutionary ability to block them out. In essence, we’ve all become native New Yorkers walking down Times Square while somehow ignoring the millions of lights and larger-than-life billboards.

The power of customer reviews

Times Square, New York City via Unsplash

Just like those New Yorkers would rather get a restaurant recommendation from a friend rather than a TV commercial, online shoppers have come to trust their fellow consumers much more than any advertisement. The main factor here is trust. We’ve come to rely on strangers for their experiences, opinions, and recommendations because we trust them more than the companies who are shelling out millions to stick ads in front of our faces. That’s not to say that ads don’t have their place in marketing. However, today’s modern shopper does their research and who better to trust than someone with no vested interest in a product or brand?

We’ll be looking at the who, what, when, where and why’s of reviews, so one important thing to note before we begin is that in e-commerce, there are generally two kinds of reviews: shop reviews and product reviews. Shop reviews refer to feedback given to a particular business. These shop reviews should generally deal with the services of a shop, including delivery, communication, packaging, and such topics. Product reviews, on the other hand, should discuss the qualities of a certain product. Details in these reviews are limited to the product, which include topics like durability, intuitiveness, and appearance.

Why does your website need reviews?

Ask your customers for reviews with a card
Card design by effedue

Besides all the reasons stated above, shop reviews are valuable to your shop’s search engine ranking. In essence, every review written for your website is seen by Google as new content. Fresh, new information on your website is something Google factors into their algorithms when ranking websites for keyword search results.

Another practical reason why collecting reviews makes sense is that your shop reviews can add up to a shop rating (in the form of stars). If your company works hard to rank high on Google, whether organically or through paid ads, then it’s possible to have those star ratings show up next to your company’s name. According to Google, ads with seller ratings displayed get a 17% higher click-through rate on average than the same ads without ratings. We’ll have a closer look at those star ratings later in this article.

Additionally, the simple fact that customers will actively search for product reviews is perhaps the best reason to have them on your site. Even if your company offers the best price on a product, the fact that a potential customer might have to visit another site to read reviews is exactly what you want to avoid.

How can your shop collect reviews?

Displaying your reviews is one thing, but motivating your customers to write them for you is a whole other story. There is one magic rule that I’ve learned when it comes to reviews: if you don’t ask for them, you won’t get them. Some review systems will give you the option to send your customers a review request via email at a predetermined time after the package has been sent. This allows customers enough time to test your products while also reminding them to write a review while those warm, fuzzy feelings are still fresh.

Use cards to thank your customers and ask for reviews
Card design by mAvi design

Another option is to leave a card in each package reminding customers to leave a review. Some companies like to offer their customers incentives for leaving reviews such as a discount on their next purchase. It’s generally better to avoid such promotions as different countries have different regulations when it comes to such practices. Generally speaking, your company should be fine as long as you don’t encourage your customers to write exclusively positive reviews in exchange for rewards, but it’s best to research this if you are really intent on doing this.

One last point when it comes to collecting reviews is that some businesses fear getting fake reviews. Having a closed review system means only verified customers are able to leave reviews and your shop can have a bit more control over who is leaving reviews for the shop.

Where should I display my ratings and reviews?

If you’ve collected reviews for both your shop and your products, you should make them easy to find. As mentioned above, you don’t want your customers to click on another site to find reviews because that increases the chances that they’ll shop elsewhere.

Shop reviews should be found somewhere on the homepage. Depending on your review system, you might be able to add a small widget to your page that stays floating in a corner of your website at all times. Shop visitors can click on it at any time and gain access to reviews along with other information.

Build trust with a trust badge on your website
Here, the Trustbadge can be seen on the bottom right of the page displaying the shop rating. Clicking on it expands the widget and gives the customer even more information.

If you don’t have or want the option of a floating widget, you might consider placing a small window somewhere on the homepage that can display a variety of reviews. Depending on the review system, this can be customized to show a select few (e.g. only 4-stars and higher).

When it comes to product reviews, the rule of “easy to find” still very much applies. If possible, show the average star-rating at the top of the product page, near the product images. A hyperlink connecting to a review page should also be clearly visible as well.

Alternatively, if you’re getting a lot of page visits, but the conversion numbers aren’t where you want them to be, you could also try creating an exit-intent pop-up (a pop-up which appears when a user is about to “x” out of a page) that lets a customer know how many positive reviews a particular product has gotten before they try to exit the page.

What do you do if you receive negative reviews?

Illustration by leargamar

Getting negative reviews is any shop’s worst nightmare, right? Well, stay calm and breathe. You need to look at the big picture here. This negative review might end up doing more good than harm. Have I been taking crazy pills? No, I haven’t. Let me explain.

If you can manage to resolve a negative review correctly, then you’ll be showing potential customers that you take customer issues very seriously and are intent on resolving those issues. People know that businesses are run by human beings. That means that customers expect things to go wrong sometimes. It’s the nature of being human. They are willing to forgive and forget those issues if they’re handled correctly.

Illustration by leargamar

If a potential customer is reading a negative review and sees that there is a reply from the company, they are going to very interested to see how the company responds and resolves the negative review. Arguably, the potential customer might be way more interested in the details of this negative review than any of the positive ones because they’ll want to gauge what the customer service of the company is like. Therefore, it’s important to keep calm, stay friendly, be transparent and respond unemotionally, yet sympathetically, and yes, even apologize even if you don’t think you’re in the wrong.

How can you display your star-ratings?

Illustration by PolaKarola

You’ve collected plenty of positive shop reviews and now you want those star-ratings to shine in Google for the whole internet to see. Who can blame you? The question is “how?” When it comes to Google, you can display your stars in both organic search results as well as paid ads (AdWords). Let’s have a look at AdWords first since it’s a bit easier.

A standard Google paid ad shows up at the top of search results for keywords that you bid on. They usually just include a headline, a link and some text. However, you can add extra information to your ads by adding (free) ad extensions to your text ads. Some of these ad extensions are manual and some are automatic, but they all share one thing in common – they add extra information about your business to your text ads. That includes your star-ratings (or “seller ratings” as Google refers to them). It’s worth noting that Google has been known to change their requirements for displaying stars in advertisements. For an updated list of requirements, check with Google.

This paid ad shows off its star ratings thanks to ad extensions.

With organic search results, things get a bit trickier. You’re going to need to add “structured data” to your webpages. Structured data (or schema.org markups) are to your website what sticky notes are to a textbook. By adding small bits of code to your webpages, some of the information on your site becomes “structured”. This lets search engines easily identify the most important parts of your website. For example, some markups highlight your business address, while others highlight your opening hours. And naturally, one markup is for your star ratings. Making this information easily identifiable for search engines can result in rich snippets.

Rich snippets are extra bits of information that show up in the search results. This is how some websites have their opening hours appear alongside their domain in the search results. Other common rich snippets include nearest store, telephone numbers, and of course, star ratings. The best review systems include Google integration, which can automatically forward the most recent reviews and ratings to Google.

See those little stars? They really catch your attention, don’t they? Side note: only 4.4 stars?! This is an outrage!

Although Google can’t guarantee that these star-ratings will show up in either paid or organic search results, putting the above-mentioned tips into practice will greatly increase the chances that they do appear. Since adding stars to your organic search results can be a bit more difficult, you can download a free whitepaper from Trusted Shops for a detailed look at how to add star ratings to organic search results.

Conclusion: Let your 5-star-reviews shine

Illustration by Katarzyna Doszla

Reviews are today’s version of word-of-mouth. Ask any advertiser, marketer, copywriter or graphic designer and if they’re honest, they’ll admit that word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising you can get. Nothing can replace the recommendation of a friend and when it comes to online shopping, consumers are all friends, even if they’re strangers. They share their experiences; good and bad. It’s up to the companies to handle this by being proactive and transparent. One thing is clear: reviews are necessary in today’s e-commerce climate and having your customers endorse your products and services is the best endorsement you can get.

About the author

Alon Eisenberg works for Trusted Shops, Europe’s most well-known certifier of online shops. He grew up in New York City and graduated from Boston University with a bachelor’s in Communications. He’s a marketing enthusiast who enjoys researching many topics ranging from e-commerce to travel to education. Alon has been the Copy Editor UK at Trusted Shops since March 2017.