How Online Reviews Can Help Build Your Brand

How Online Reviews Can Help Build Your Brand

February 26, 2019

For decades, the customer service exchange occurred behind closed doors. It was private matter between a business and its customer, served through face-to-face interactions, letters, phone calls, and (eventually) email. But in our app-based economy, that exchange is now public. And customer service is no longer just as a record of a customers experience, but a published opportunity for new and potential customers to do research. In the era of social media and communities dedicated entirely to reviews, any random customer experience, good or bad, can be on display.

Scary? Not all all. In fact, this is good news for eCommerce, and especially helpful for direct-to-consumers brands going up against larger online shopping outlets. An honest customer review has the potential to influence future purchasers for years to come… much longer than a social post or targeted promotion. And a business’s ability to respond to those is key to converting sales and beating the competition.

The truth is: your customers are reviewing their experiences anyway: on social media, on Google, on Yelp, or in conversations in daily life. It’s your business’s job to give them a forum to do that to find ways to make it work for you.

Reviews matter. To everyone.

A recent study by PowerReviews confirms that 97% of consumers consult user product reviews when making a purchase. This comes as a surprise…to no one. Anyone who has shopped at Amazon or researched a restaurant on Yelp can attest-it’s impossible to not look at those stars. Equally interesting, that PowerReviews study also reveals that 85% of consumers intentionally seek out negative reviews when considering a purchase. But this is a different activity than simply checking a star rating. By looking for what didn’t work for a previous customer, the consumer is not simply seeking affirmation for their purchase; they are actively researching the particulars of what they might want to buy. This is the human negativity bias at work-consumers are seeking out the less-desirable parts of a product to determine whether or not they can handle those shortcomings.

“Customers desperately want the information that gives them the confidence they’re making the best purchasing decision, whether deciding between competitive products, or buying that thing at all.”

Why are reviews so important to this part of the process? Simple. In an average day, online user sees as many as 3,000 branded messages. In one day. In that environment, consumers naturally trust each other more than those branded messages. So, successful brands are able to grow their engagement, and sales, through organic channels: social media and online reviews.

Here’s what to do

First, ask for reviews. Make the process available to every purchaser for every product. Consider solutions that include both a ____ out of ____ rating system (such as five stars, 10/10 or a letter grade), but more importantly, provide a field for narrative, personal reviews where customers can both describe the products and their shopping experience. A five star, or one star, review doesn’t hold much meaning without accompanying details. Whenever possible, include an option to upload photos or videos to lend authenticity to a review.

Then, you want to display reviews prominently. Make them part of your site or store design, your landing pages, even your emails and ad campaigns. The Speigel Research Center determined that displaying reviews can increase conversion by 270%. That number speaks for itself. Get those reviews, and let them be seen.

The first five reviews matter most, so either feature them wisely, or allow the “most helpful” to rise to the top. What’s most helpful? One featuring a longer character count, and with a diversity of ratings. (One-star reviews are often voted most helpful. Do not feature only five-star reviews; your shoppers will perceive them as inauthentic (because they are). The Speigel study highlights an interesting trend:

Across product categories, we found that purchase likelihood typically peaks at ratings in the 4.0 – 4.7 range, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0. Put differently, products with an average star rating in the 4.7 – 5.0 range are less likely to be purchased than those in the 4.2 – 4.7 range.

Lastly, prioritize responding to reviews as a component of your consumer engagement process. This includes the positive, the negative, and the right-down-the-middle. If you were in a brick and mortar business, and a customer told you “this was great…thank you.” you’d certainly respond. An online review is absolutely no different, and to not respond is ignoring a bid from a customer who reached out. If a customer takes their time to engage with your business, do the same with something as a simple as “thanks for sharing your experience.”

How to deal with negative reviews

They’re going to happen. Whether a customer feels a product didn’t match the description, or they were disappointed with the transaction experience, customers are compelled to leave negative reviews.

Negative reviews are typically shared for two reasons: 1) a customer is frustrated, and wants to take the opportunity to feel heard, and pass their feelings of stress back onto the people they think caused it in the first place. (Sometimes they’re right; sometimes they’re not.) Or, 2) they want to ensure that future customers will have a better buying experience next time.

The solution is simple: respond to negative reviews. All of them. And do it publicly. Every negative review is an opportunity to prove that you take your customers’ experience seriously, and that opens a possibility for a second chance. Furthermore, a positive response helps to neutralize the negativity, and ward against it having the last word. Future customers learn that when they buy with your brand, things will work out.

Plus, there are opportunities for learning in these conversations. Not only do you manage your reputation, you can gain new insights and feedback from customers that allow you to improve your products and the shopping experience.

Okay…Then What?

Once you’ve implemented a formal review and response process, you can take things a step further by asking for feedback about the review process itself. How did it go? Is there anything that you could change? What would make a customer more or less likely to use your feedback system in the future?

Lastly, consider rewarding folks for reviewing their experience. Give anyone who left a four or five start rating additional perks, or send them to a new page that provides even more exclusive offers.


Reviews matter because they help the customers themselves build a brand. Don’t forget: featuring and responding to reviews is affordable; the cost is extremely low when compared to marketing messages. Just remember: your potential reviewer might not be an Instagram star with millions of followers, but could be a “micro-influencer” someone with a much smaller niche community whose impact goes much deeper.

When brands get proactive and join the online conversation their consumers are having, they are able to achieve deep levels of trust with their audience. Positive word-of-mouth is among the best ways to drive new customer acquisition. If you sell something great and give them the space, your customers will help to do your marketing for you.

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