Product Reviews 101

From an overall branding, marketing and reputation management perspective, product reviews play a crucial role in determining not only how a potential customer may perceive your brand or product, but also whether or not they choose to complete a purchase.

In this digital age of user-generated content and aggregated review sites, as well as the rising prominence and power of peer-to-peer interactions on social media platforms, it is of paramount importance that businesses and branding experts give product reviews the care and attention they deserve.

Your customers are talking. Are you listening?

1. Claim and Verify Your Listings

On some platforms, this is already a given. If you are selling products on your own website, of course you already own the listings. Similarly, if you are selling products on Amazon or eBay, you’d be selling under your own business profile as well. This is also why it’s so important to make sure your customers and followers are leaving feedback on anything they do or buy with your brand.

And for online ecommerce, it’s even more true. Product reviews on platforms like Amazon can be the difference between a Top Selling Product, or simply being another product on Amazon amongst millions of others.

For the most part, verified reviews are also going to carry more weight, because they are proven to be real. The same can be said about verified business listings as well. 

That way, you can typically gain a bit more control and more access to analytics for customer reviews, as well as potentially some other tools. The platforms where you need to do this will vary based on the nature of your business. A few common places to start include:

  • Yelp
  • Google My Business
  • Facebook Places
  • Trustpilot
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Several of these may be for business reviews in general and not product reviews in particular, but it’s still important to claim and verify them nonetheless.

2. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews

After you’ve claimed and verified your business listings, you’ll need to get some product reviews. The simplest and easiest way to do that is simply to ask your customers. This can be a part of your automated email workflows, for instance, which is easy to setup with almost any e-commerce solution. Similarly, automated emails can easily configured on Amazon and eBay, among other selling platforms.

A perfect example of this can be seen in various reviews of Neil Patel’s products and services. Neil has a number of online courses and sites, and he is a well-known entrepreneur with huge social followings. With so many people using his tools and taking his courses online, you are bound to run across a number of reviews and testimonials as you browse the web.

Some of his best ones lay out the pros and cons of his courses, which is great content for anyone looking to make the purchase for one of his premium courses or training.

There’s a lot that marketers can learn from this. Encourage customers to leave a positive review. Ask that they reach out to you if they’re not completely satisfied before leaving the review; that way, you will have an opportunity to rectify the situation first.

If you’d like to further entice more reviews, offer a small incentive like a discount code on future purchases.

3. Reach Out to Influencers and Professionals

In addition to regular customers sharing their product reviews on platforms like Amazon, it is also worth your while to consider investing in influencer marketing.

Depending on the size of your business and the scale at which you wish to take this on, some of the outreach can be handled in house. You can send out product samples to targeted influencers in your niche or industry, encouraging them to share their honest opinions on platforms like Instagram and YouTube. This also extends to professional reviews with online and offline magazines, as well as radio and television.

There are also several advantages to working with networks or PR firms to handle this part of soliciting product reviews too. Influencer Marketing Hub has a list of some of the top influencer marketing platforms. Of course, there are many, many others.

4. Keep It on the Straight and Narrow

A widespread controversy across the Internet pertains to companies that are outright paying people to post glowingly positive reviews of their products or services. Or they may request influencers not to disclose the sponsored relationship in an effort to appear more authentic.

This is not only unethical, it has also become illegal under current FTC regulations. It is critically important that you remain 100% transparent in all interactions with reviewers and influencers.

5. Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews

Product reviews are not just a form of one-way communication. Those reviews should not and do not exist in a vacuum. Whether the review is positive or negative, it is important that you follow up in a timely manner.

Be respectful and courteous, upholding the values of transparency and customer care, thanking the customer for a positive remark or addressing the issues raised in a negative review.

In addition to the reviews that you should already be monitoring, like on Amazon and other e-commerce platforms, it is also a good idea to set up a Google alert to monitor online mentions. Brandwatch lists several of the top social media monitoring tools as well.

Be proactive and prompt. Show that you care, and you might succeed at turning harsh critics into raving fans. At the very least, you’ll look good to people who come across this content when deciding whether or not to do business with you.

6. Leverage Testimonials and Excerpts

The product reviews that you receive from customers do not need to be isolated to the platforms where they were originally shared or posted.

Depending on the context, you may need to ask for permission (it’s usually a good idea and a common courtesy either way), but there is great power is sharing these testimonials across other channels as well. The featured case studies example below is a perfect one to follow if you have enough customer feedback and success stories to display.

The excerpts can be featured as testimonials on your official website, in product descriptions, in product packaging, in social media updates, in trade show displays… the list goes on and on.

7. Improve Future Product Offerings

Again, this comes back to the idea that the reviews do not exist in isolation. When you receive constructive criticism or honest feedback from customers in the form of product reviews, whether they’re reviews posted on product pages or they’re review videos on YouTube, you should take note of both your product’s strengths and its shortcomings.

No product is perfect, and so you can take these insights and apply them to future products. And as you prepare for the release of the second-generation product, it’s time to gear up for another product review cycle all over again.

These product reviews will work to maintain and grow brand awareness in the marketplace, and hopefully win over some new lifelong fans too.

Take Your Footprint Seriously

Whether you’re interested in using customer reviews as marketing assets, as social proof to help boost conversions or as a way to maximize your brand’s discoverability, there’s a lot you can do to take control of the situation. Stay on top of your digital footprint and reputation by proactively managing it, and the impact that this activity has on your business health is likely to go a long way.