The fact that having user reviews can be an effective sales driver, providing valuable information for customers is well established, but how do retailers attract reviews onto their product pages?

I looked at ways etailers can attract reviews a few months ago. One of those ideas was to email customers after purchase and invite them to leave a review of the product(s) they had bought. A recent report from Snow Valley(pdf) takes a closer look at the issue...

In September, Snow Valley placed orders on 137 UK e-commerce sites, of which just 54 (39%) provided reviews. Of these 54, just 15 emailed after purchase to ask for a review.

How soon should these email requests be sent?

This is probably something that should be tested and adjusted according to the response rates, but it seems sensible that requests should be sent while the purchase is still likely to be remembered by the customer, yet to also allow some time for people to actually use their products and form an opinion.

The majority of retailers studied waited at least two weeks before sending these emails, which seems wise, though the five weeks that Wickes and Clarks waited may be too long.

Kiddicare was fastest, sending the request five days later, though considering the impressive range of reviews on its site, this obviously works for the retailer.

Should an incentive be offered?

Of the 15 retailers, seven offered an incentive for leaving a review, including the chance to win iPods, cash and vouchers, though others offered discounts or vouchers which can be set against the next order.

This is a good idea, and it makes sense to give customers a reason to make a purchase once they have left a review, killing two birds with one stone.

Subject lines

It makes sense to use the subject to explain the purpose of the email clearly, and sure enough, 14 of the 15 mentioned the words review or feedback in the subject. Clarks may be missing a trick here, since it didn't mention the point of the email, and would come across like any other promotional email.

Content of email

It makes sense to refer directly to the customer's purchase as a reminder, which all but one did. Showing a small picture of the product is a useful visual cue, and 12 of the retailers used this in their emails.

The exception here was Clarks, which sent a generic looking email with a request to write a review at the foot (where it could easily be missed), and didn't refer to the product purchased: 

The best keep the email as clear and simple as possible and displayed a clear call to action link to the review page, and this was the case with the majority of emails. Some of the links could be made clearer though, such as the one in this Charles Tyrwhitt email:

Landing pages

Best practice here is to send users straight to a form where they can leave their review, as the links in the various emails suggest. Three of the links didn't work, which defeats the object of the emails.

Of the links that worked, most sent users straight to the review form, though two just sent users to the product page, where they then had to find a link to leave a review, and in the case of Comet, sign in first. This is an obstacle which should be avoided when the object is to get more reviews from customers.

Review forms

The forms were all reasonably simple to fill in, though some asked for more detail than others. There is perhaps a balance to be struck between getting detailed feedback from customers and making form filling too tedious for customers.

However, as with the Reevoo reviews on Jessops and elsewhere (as in the example above) and, the detail contained within the reviews can be a valuable resource for other customers.

Graham Charlton

Published 6 November, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

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Comments (1)


Luke Errington, Marketing Director at Reevoo

Interesting stuff. You highlight some of the key trade-offs that we have to consider when collecting reviews. On one side we want to publish as a high a proportion possible from the customers we contact, on the other we want reliable insight from the person writing the review.

At Reevoo, for every 100 customers we contact we publish 15 reviews. We know that shorter questionnaires and incentives could boost this further but each jeopardises the quality of the content. Shorter questionnaires would reduce the richness (eg ratings for different aspects of a product's performance) and balance (encouraging reviewers to provide both "good boints" and "bad points"). Incentives impact the impartiality of the review; "if I write a positive review am I more likely to win the prize?" "I'll just fill it in quickly to get the voucher"

Similarly, contacting customers just a few days after purchase is good for timely coverage of new products, but in the majority of categories someone needs to have owned the product for at least a couple of weeks to be able to review it fairly.

As you suggest the key here is to optimise the other levers to maximise response rates: subject line, e-mail content and calls-to-action, time/day of send, usability and perceived length of the questionnaire.

For Reevoo a 15% publish ratio, combined with the aggregation of reviews across members of the Reevoo Club, delivers the right level of coverage whilst maintaining quality, but the optimisation goes on. Any other ideas welcomed.

almost 9 years ago

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