In the past two years, e-commerce has swiftly become more dominant than ever. If you’re not able to put your product online, it’s going to be difficult for people to find it. Naturally, business has been trending this way for over a decade now, but the events of 2020 were suddenly rocket fuel for the mass push toward online shopping.

What exactly does this mean for business owners? Aside from the obvious - beef up your online presence, and in fact, lead with it, it means it’s time to investigate and master your best advertising tactic: no banner ads or pop-ups, but product reviews written by your very own customers.

The Power & Temptation of Online Reviews

According to BrightLocal’s 2020 survey, 79% of consumers consider online reviews just as trustworthy as advice from friends & family, up 3% since 2019. In fact, once your product collects 100-200 quality, mostly positive customer reviews, it often looks attractive enough to start selling itself. The only problem with getting those quickly, of course, is you need to have customers willing to write those reviews. If you don’t, then it’s rather tough to collect the reviews you need in order to attract more customers.

It all might seem like a Catch-22, but the truth is there are tried-and-true methods of quickly getting the online reviews you need to boost sales, increase customer loyalty & grow your business. Just as importantly, there are many shortcuts to avoid that could ultimately hurt your business more than they’ll ever help it. Below, we lay out both, and give you a clear idea of exactly how to jumpstart those first 100-200 reviews.

What Not To Do

Simply put - it never pays to buy fake online reviews. Why? Well, it’s often illegal for one. In fact, in recent years the FTC has been relentlessly cracking down on the practice. The fines incurred from getting caught are enough to seriously damage business, or possibly even drive your company into bankruptcy.

Even if fake reviews don’t damage your business, however, they can still damage your reputation. According to MarketWatch, 84% of consumers say they can spot fake reviews. The telltale signs are generally obvious -exceptionally positive with vague details, short statements, poor grammar and linked profiles with little to no distinguishing information (just to name a few).

If customers can see your product page is flooded with fake reviews, chances are they’re going to doubt your product too, and for good reason. After the damage is done & your reputation is tarnished, it’s going to be much more difficult to build or rebuild a fanbase in an already-crowded marketplace.

Aside from out & out fake reviews, though, another option some businesses take is openly buying their reviews. In accordance with Section 255.5 in the Consumer Fairness Act, which details disclosure of material connections, if you’re paying for customer reviews - or using a site that gives the product away in exchange for free reviews - you simply have to disclose this to your consumers. The consequences of choosing this route, however, should be obvious, and take us back to your brand reputation. Openly buying or baiting real reviews may be legal, but it certainly won’t speak to your confidence in your own product, at least from the average consumer’s perspective.

Finally, don’t censor negative reviews. According to Trustpilot, 62% of consumers won’t engage with a brand they feel is censoring their reviews - and if they happen to see nothing but positive feedback, it’ll sure look like you’re censoring reviews. 

A Smarter Method

So buying your way to those first 100-200 reviews is a shortcut to all kinds of trouble. What’s the road to success? Hiring a service that helps grow your online reviews legally, respectfully and in detail. A star rating may be one thing, but it’s the details of a review that can really make all the difference. According to a study by Salsify in 2021 conducted on over 1800 online shoppers, 62% of them chose reviews as the number 1 most important element to make a purchase decision based on. Also, according to Bizrate, nearly 55% of the online audience reads at least four reviews before deciding to make a purchase. That means the content counts.

Sites like Yotpo, Bazaarvoice and even Amazon Vine offer platforms that provide large quantities of reviews, but often lack templates that encourage depth from their users. The result is lots of short reviews that often, ironically, resemble fake ones. Investigate which service works best for your product at the moment, but in general - it works best to choose a review provider that demands more from its users.

Revioly has quickly garnered a reputation for delivering high-quality online reviews, thanks in part to a template that requires detailed feedback to multiple aspects of a product, not just the product as a whole. Revioly offers another big benefit to businesses as well - unlike some of the sites mentioned above, which often operate under the free giveaway-per-review system we discussed in the previous section, customers are incentivized to review your product after actually buying it.

The process is simple - list your product on Revioly’s marketplace for no charge, and their users will then click to buy it, through either your own homepage or a third-party retailer like Walmart, Target or so on. The users then get a rebate after writing a detailed review that meets Revioly’s standards. Ultimately, you wind up paying only a percentage of your total MSRP, instead of giving away the whole product, or offering a massive discount that negates any profit. It’s a pretty attractive business model for brands looking to quickly grow online reviews without sacrificing more of their marketing budget than they should ever have to part with.

Review Maintenance & Final Thoughts

Once the reviews begin to flow in, make sure you’re actually reading them, too. To give you one final set of statistics, ReviewTrackers reports that over 53% of customers expect a business to respond to their negative review within a week. That doesn’t give you much time to ignore the online conversation about your product (though hopefully you wouldn’t want to anyway). Following that, BrightLocal reports that 97% of consumers who already read online reviews also read the business’ response to those reviews. What really matters is that 45% of them are more likely to support any business that responds to them.

In other words, your audience is always watching. You can attract all the online reviews in the world, but make sure you seem accessible if you want to stay in your customers’ good graces. Negative reviews are practically inevitable, no matter how great the product (in fact they make your reviews at large feel more real). It’s what you do about them that matters. Directly addressing your customers’ concerns and working toward a solution, instead of ignoring...and especially instead of censoring...counts for a whole lot, and can guarantee your product won’t just be a hit - it’ll be here to stay.

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