E-Commerce Help Line: How to Leverage Customer Reviews to Increase Online Purchases

When online shoppers see customer reviews on your website, it can make purchasing with you seem less risky and inspire confidence in your store. 

keyboard with person typing a customer review with various options: one star to five stars, frowning emoji to smiling emoji
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If you’ve ever bought anything from Amazon, you already know the influence that customer reviews can have on a person. “People will believe a review as much as they believe their friend,” says dance retailer and retail consultant Gilbert Russell. “We’ve all gotten used to shopping online, but we still like to shop with people we like and trust. Having reviews helps build that trust factor.”

Step 1. The best place to start collecting reviews is on Google. 

Russell, who owns two Brio Bodywear shops in Ottawa, Canada, recommends retailers log into their Google My Business account (if you don’t have one, they are easy to create) and claim their short name. This is a name, up to 32 characters long, that is unique to a store and helps customers find a Google My Business listing. When you claim your store’s short name, Google creates a link that can be shared with customers to direct them to your Google listing. Russell recommends printing cards with the link that you can hand out to customers when they check out—and personally ask them for a review. “Send them to Google,” he says, “and then pull the reviews from there to put on your website.” 

Step 2. Give customers a reason to write a review.

Delivering excellent customer service is fundamental to great customer reviews, of course. But even people who frequent your store and want to give you a rave review often don’t get around to doing it in writing. “You need to give them a reason,” says Russell. It could be as simple as saying “Because it will help my business.”  “COVID has opened our hearts to support local businesses. People want to help us,” says Russell.

Step 3. Encourage customers to get specific.

“Ask them to mention what they bought,” says Russell. “It’s one thing to say that you had a great experience, but it’s more powerful to say that you bought tap shoes, and they were amazing.” Now, when someone searches for tap shoes locally, your listing will most likely appear. 

Step 4. Share the reviews on your website.

Technically, you don’t have to ask permission to share a review that’s posted online, but Russell says that he does as a courtesy. Do that offline, he says, and also ask if you can use the customer’s photo along with the review. (Don’t wait for them to send you one; ask if you can use their social-media profile picture!) “Seeing a face is that much more powerful,” he says. 

DIG DEEPER: Be aware that the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 protects consumers who write product or service reviews from possible lawsuits or other penalties. Its basic principle is simple enough: “Let people speak honestly about your products and their experience with your company.” Find more details at the Federal Trade Commission website.

Libby Basile reports regularly on visual merchandising, retail strategy and store design. She is a former editor in chief of Dance Retailer News.