5 Steps to Better Online Customer Reviews Using Email
Authentic customer reviews are often a dime a dozen, especially in the B-to-B sector. Many review programs and campaigns are mired by redundancy, confusion and even irrelevance. For B-to-B organizations and e-commerce sites dealing with purchasing professionals in particular, reaching end users directly for their authentic and timely feedback can be even more difficult.
Email marketing, contrary to what many believe, can be an effective medium to generate quick, authentic customer reviews — when implemented wisely and deliberately. If you're a B-to-B marketer or e-commerce manager, consider these five tips to soliciting better online reviews from your customers, all via email:
1. Get your timing down. Mastering your timing is the first step to successfully executing an email solicitation program. Create, queue up and push out triggered, automated email messages to your customers once they make a purchase. As simple as it may seem, the most effective time to reach a customer is usually once the product is in their hands. For example, if your customers wait an average of five days to receive a shipment, consider emailing them on day seven or day eight to ensure they have the product on hand to write an informed review.
2. Limit your requests. If waiting long enough to send your customer the first email is one half of a successfully timed solicitation program, then waiting enough time to send your customer the second email is the equally important other half. Understand that overwhelming your customers with review requests will deter them from participating, and in some cases may motivate them to post a negative review.
While striking the right balance can be tricky, a good rule of thumb is to limit your email outreach to one message and purchase per month — i.e., your customer should receive only one review request within a 30-day period. This is where waiting enough time to initiate contact can also prove helpful. For customers who place multiple orders over a short period of time, consider grouping together their orders in one email. This ensures they have the option to review all of the products without sending them multiple redundant messages.
3. Auto-populate the process. Once you have your timing down, automate the review process as much as possible to make it easy for your customers to comply. Tie backlinks within the email to your customers’ accounts so that when they click on the review form they're already logged in to your system. Requiring customers to re-enter their account details when requesting reviews is one more hurdle for the user to jump and one more deterrent to their seeing that review through. Similarly, auto-populate all of the necessary product and order information into the review form — e.g., SKU or part number, manufacturer, shipping information — so customers don't have to do it themselves. The more intuitive and seamless you can make the review process, the better.
4. Keep it short. This often goes without saying, but keep the review form short and sweet. If your customer needs to spend more than five minutes filling out a review form, your process is too long. This is particularly true for customers who place orders weekly or in bulk. Those five minutes add up and quickly become a tedious process. Minimize the number of short answer questions on your review form and consider a multicategory ratings system to even further simplify and shorten your review form. B-to-B organizations dealing directly with procurement professionals will find this approach particularly effective because they can then forward that short review form on to the actual end user for completion.
5. Incentivize your reviewers. Incentive programs remain one of the most widely debated components of marketing and customer engagement. When leveraged wisely, however, they can be very effective in garnering better customer reviews without compromising the authenticity of those reviews or the integrity of your organization. Like the timing of your program, be selective in who you offer those rewards to and what rewards you offer. Don't be afraid to consider incentives outside of the scope of your organization (e.g., Starbucks e-codes).
Offer and deliver incentives once a review has been submitted and not prior to. A/B testing is an effective way to gauge whether incentives are influencing your customer reviews before implementing an incentive program on a wider scale. You may be surprised to find out that they in fact don't influence reviews.
While many of these five tips may seem intuitive or self-explanatory, they're often the most overlooked or undervalued. Every organization's needs, products and customers are going to be different when developing a review system, but the elements that make up a successful email marketing program are the same across the board. If your B-to-B organization is struggling to garner authentic customer feedback on your products or services, consider how these steps can help you solicit better reviews in the future.
Laura Orth is an email marketing specialist at Newark element14, a global electronic components distributor and online community of more than 290,000 engineers.