The holidays are a bustling time for many online businesses, and the period between October and early January—which is jam-packed with opportune events like Black Friday, Super Saturday, and Boxing Day—can be the savvy retailer’s most profitable season.
Less auspicious is the dreaded slump that invariably follows in the holidays’ wake.
Since mid-November, I’ve experienced a huge increase in sales at The Stockroom, Shopify’s own ecommerce store for entrepreneurs. While this new revenue created a lot of excitement—and an equal amount of logistical stress—I started to worry about what would happen when the holiday madness died down.
Concerned that my January would be filled with nothing but broken New Years Resolutions, I started researching the best ways for The Stockroom to sustain the sales spike we’re experiencing over the holidays. I came across some interesting stats about the importance of customer reviews:
Adding product reviews to your online store can increase ecommerce conversion rate by 14-76% (Internet Retailer)
90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business (Bright Local)
88% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations (Bright Local)
The consensus was clear: The Stockroom needed to convert its holiday sales into customer reviews.
My first step was to set up a stellar post-purchase campaign that would make my holiday success last.
How I Got 50 Product Reviews in One Week
My first step was installing a product review app on The Stockroom. I went to the Shopify App Store and reviewed their app catalogue, which is full of options.
Seriously—it's like the twelve days of Christmas for entrepreneurs.
Here are some I considered:
Product Reviews by Shopify
Created by Shopify’s in-house developers, this product reviews app is a great first bet if you’re just getting started collecting reviews. It gives you the essentials: a product review section on every product page with an assigned 5 star rating for each review.
Yotpo is one of the best-known review apps. Yotpo provides every feature under the sun, including email review forms, social integrations, mobile optimization and much more. The pricing is steeper. However, you get what you pay for—Yotpo goes the extra mile by integrating with platforms like Facebook's Ads Manager, so you can use your positive reviews in advertisements to generate more sales.
Judge.me makes collecting and leaving reviews as easy as possible for the store owner and the customer. With Judge.me you can customize the look and feel of your post-purchase emails and schedule them to be sent to customers at the optimal time.
One of the best features of Stamped.io is their customizable fields, where you can ask your customers relevant questions when they are leaving a review. For example, if you’re selling a piece of clothing with complicated sizing (like bras), you might want to ask your customers what size they usually wear to give their reviews the context other customers might be looking for.
Since I was just getting started with customer reviews, I chose to use Product Reviews by Shopify. The strong fundamental features of the app allowed me to get setup and ready to collect reviews fairly quickly.
Begin with Friends and Family
Every entrepreneur knows that dreadful feeling you get in your gut when your friends and family demand discounts. However, the good thing about giving your friends and family a discount is that it gives you an excuse to send them a follow up email asking for a product reviews in return for the favour.
This is exactly what I did with all of my co-workers at Shopify, and after giving them all discounts I made 141 sales and had 141 potential product reviews to collect.
Testing Your Copy
I began by writing three different post-purchase messages that I could test against each other with my Shopify co-workers to see what yielded the best results.
Here are the three messages I sent to test groups of 15 people:
Crazy Attention Grabber
Full of emojis and reminiscent of 90’s era chain mail, I thought this message was going to be a hit with my mostly millennial co-workers. I soon found out—thanks to a few angry replies—that it was way too distracting for a direct message while at work.
Simple and Sweet
I felt much more confident with this message. It got right to the point in asking for a product review and more accurately expressed the gratitude I felt towards everyone for supporting our store.
Personal and Inquisitive
Even though each of these messages were sent individually, I wanted to experiment with making them even more personal by referencing the customer's order history.
In the end the Simple and Sweet message got the best results so I deployed it to the remaining 97 co-workers who had made a purchase. It worked out pretty nicely.
Collecting Customer Reviews
Next, I took what I learnt from my friends and family and applied it to the rest of The Stockroom’s customers. My testing taught me to keep my message simple, and to thank purchasers for their support.
The Discount Code
While researching customer reviews, I found that many merchants offer their customers rewards in the form of discount codes or loyalty points in exchange for leaving a review. This is great for the customer, and it helps with customer retention since the newly awarded discount code will almost guarantee a repurchase.
The Brand Mention
Finding a way to incentivize customers to leave a review without discounting your product takes some creativity. I would begin by focusing on what your customers like most about your brand. If your business has a great Instagram feed, consider awarding customers by posting an image they can submit along with their review.
The Simple Message
Although offering your customers a reward as incentive for leaving a review works well for most businesses, it may not be completely necessary. It is always important to see how far a nicely written email will get you. This is why I also tested an email with no reward:
It was clear that my customers were most incentivized when I offered them a coupon code in exchange for a review. I took my winning campaign and sent it out to the rest of my customers.
After a week of experimenting with different campaigns I ended up with 50 new customer reviews on my store. More importantly, I gained a ton of insight into what my customers want.
Don’t Confuse Them
Even though it can be tempting to communicate multiple different points to your customer while you have a customer’s attention, it’s important to keep your priority objective—getting product reviews on your website—clear. My emails that asked customers questions like “What did you think of your product?” or linked to other pages, ended up performing poorly. Customers either got distracted and answered me directly in a reply email, or were too overwhelmed with options to do anything.
Don’t Make Assumptions
One surprising thing I learnt while testing out my messaging is that many people didn’t even know how to leave a review. A few people responded asking for instructions. I responded to this problem by adding a set of easy-to-follow steps on how to leave a review in the footer of future post-purchase emails.
Following up with customers and asking for a product review is always risky since there’s no guarantee that they will leave you a positive review. There are precautionary measures you can take to minimize customer disappointment and negative reviews.
One of the most common customer complaints is that the product they receive does not match the description or images on the website. If you are dropshipping your product from another supplier, I highly suggest asking for a sample before you begin selling it online. Getting a sample in your own hands is the best way to make sure you are describing your product correctly, so customers are not mislead and don’t have a reason to be disappointed when they receive it.
Another thing to avoid—and an issue that hamstrung my experiment—is mistakenly reaching out to customers who have had problems with their order. The Stockroom ran into backorders on a bunch of our best selling products and several customers who I followed up with for a review became very frustrated, since they had not received part of their order yet.
Before automating your post-purchase campaign, make sure that your order fulfillment and customer service operations are setup up correctly and that you’re handling customer issues in a timely manner.
Now that you have a winning post-purchase campaign that has been tested with your friends, family and customers, you can automate the entire process using apps.
The product review apps I listed above (Judge.me, Stamped.io and Yotpo) along with many others you can find in the Shopify App Store allow you to write and schedule the delivery of your post-purchase email, where you can ask for a product review and reward your customers for leaving one with no manual effort.
Not only do product reviews help improve your store’s SEO, conversion rate and social proof, but they also allow you as a store owner to learn from your customers and correct mistakes so you can build a stronger business going forward.