The Negative Review Spike and Ten Tips to Get More Festive Cheer

This post is by Jordan Garner, Director of Marketing at Trustpilot. 20,000 new reviewers join Trustpilot each day, making it one of the world’s largest online review communities. Trustpilot has over 20 million reviews of 130,000+ businesses and counting.

The holiday season, for most online retailers, is the busiest time of the year in terms of sales revenue. But new data shows that it’s also when the proportion of negative customer reviews is at its highest.

Having a rock solid strategy to proactively collect and manage reviews is critical at all times of the year, but is certainly most urgent during the holidays simply because of the sheer quantity of feedback that comes in during this time.

It’s not all bad – the increased quantity of reviews also gives sellers a unique opportunity to turn 2016 holiday wins into 2017 sustained growth. By proactively collecting tons of feedback, retailers can use these reviews to boost sales moving forward, as well as make sure any new customers are having the best possible experience so they will come back for future transactions.

Let’s look at the numbers…

According to Trustpilot data, online reviews spiked 35% daily during the 2015 holiday season, as compared to the rest of the year, with negative reviews increasing by a whopping 52% and not returning to average levels until halfway through January.

It’s important businesses plan ahead to ensure both revenue and customer satisfaction goals are achieved during this critical season – this can be a critical differentiator to separate a brand from the rest of the pack, and how retailers can keep new holiday shoppers coming back for more into 2017.

In 2015, the average shopper spent $800 during the holiday season, with 40% of shopping occurring online and 21% of shoppers using their mobile devices to make purchases.

This year, US shoppers are projected to spend over $655.8 billion in November and December alone, with $117 billion in online sales. This is no doubt an important time to ensure your customer service skills are on point in order to increase sales, retain customers and solidify their business for next year – especially as negative reviews tend to increase immediately following major holiday shopping days.

To help you get a winning strategy in place, we’ve listed our best practices for proactive review collection and managing your online reputation over the course of the holiday season, and onwards.

Tip 1: Facilitate conversations now for conversions later

The first step is to know your ABC’s – Always Be Collecting! By proactively collecting reviews from customers, you’re gaining valuable insight into how they think and feel about your customer experience. Open review forms, as opposed to multiple-choice surveys, allow customers to highlight the parts of their buying experience that are most memorable and important to them.

When you invite customers to leave a review, you open up a dialogue for meaningful engagement and have an incredible opportunity to better serve your customers, while showing that you care.

Don’t be discouraged by negative reviews – use them to better understand possible issues with the business and make every effort to respond to them, both in a public forum if available and privately to ensure the issue is resolved. It shows unhappy customers, as well as prospective ones, you are the type of business that listens, reacts to and resolves issues.

You may even win back a customer who would have otherwise been lost forever! Don’t forget to ask customers to update their reviews when an issue is resolved – you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many will take a moment to do so.

Tip 2: Spread the love via social media

Actively collecting reviews from your customers is beneficial on its own, but you’ll further amplify these benefits and turn happy customers into advocates if you share positive experiences on your company’s social media channels. Third-party endorsements will always resonate more than advertising while confirming to customers and fans the strength of your customer experience.

Take it one step further and encourage customers to share these awesome experiences with their own social networks and watch the referral leads pour in!

Furthermore, don’t forget to actively listen for reviews regarding your company that naturally occur in these channels and don’t be afraid to participate in these conversations. No matter the channel – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram – social engagement with your customers can only help showcase you’re listening to and appreciate their feedback.

Tip 3: Track review trends

You’re wasting reviews (and the time put into obtaining them) if you’re only collecting and squirreling them away without a second thought. Use your customer feedback as a way to discover important business trends and insights.

If you collect content-heavy reviews rather than just simple ratings, you’ll be able to get even more insight to help analyze and refine your business approach. These reviews can also help uncover trends you may not be aware of and, once tapped into, incrementally improve your overall customer experience, which will positively impact your customer retention and loyalty numbers.

Tip 4: Get bigger wins with stronger email marketing campaigns

Creating engaging, high-converting copy in email campaigns and other digital advertising allows businesses to communicate with customers more continuously and through multiple channels. Using catchy subject lines, graphics, GIFs, and emojis will better align with the personality of your customers while making your messaging more powerful and successful.

To further accelerate digital campaigns, highlight the reviews of happy customers as a way address potential questions and emphasize your value proposition. The featured feedback could provide validation for your customers, reduce buyer hesitation and improve sales conversions. Plus, using the actual words of your customers in your marketing will result in messaging that rings truer with prospective buyers, meaning more ROI-positive campaigns.

Tip 5: Use verified ratings to get more click-throughs from PPC ads

Looking to get more clicks and spend less in AdWords and Google Shopping? Give the Google Seller Rating (GSR) ad extension a try (Bing and Yahoo! have similar paid advertising extensions).

GSR is a compilation of third-party, verified ratings in the form of click-through boosting gold stars that display in your PPC ads and in Google Shopping. Once you meet the minimum criteria, the ad extension turns on automatically. It’s an easy add-on and the impact can be significant – Google reports the average lift in click-through rate to be 17%, once the extension is successfully implemented.

Tip 6: Inspire employees

A little incentive goes a long way. Use the authentic customer reviews you’ve collected to inspire your team members and gamify their work in sales, customer service and support.

There are a variety of ways to do this – such as providing free lunches to those who receive positive reviews or inciting friendly competition to see who could gather the most positive reviews on a weekly basis. Set an average rating goal for your entire company to work towards and make sure the progress towards this goal is transparent and easy to track – your team, and your customers, will reap the benefits!

Tip 7: Bust your checkout ghosts

Reviews are valuable internally, but they gain extraordinary value with prospective customers when shared externally. In fact, consumers trust online reviews (from strangers!) more than any other form of advertising content – they are second only to a recommendation from a friend.

Not convinced? Try displaying reviews in key conversion points on your website – landing pages, forms, shopping carts – and test the effects. We’ve found sharing reviews and ratings throughout your buyer journey can improve conversion rates substantially by reaffirming consumers’ trust in your business.

And for the advanced marketer – try sharing review content that covers specific prospect concerns in targeted areas of your site. By addressing potential questions prospects may have head-on, and with trusted content, you can keep potential buyers moving swiftly and successfully through your conversion funnel.

Tip 8: Product reviews move products, faster

Promote individual items, offerings or services on your website and in marketing campaigns with targeted reviews – these reviews will not only improve conversion rates, but will help boost organic search rankings with highly-relevant user-generated content. Additionally, integrating reviews and ratings on your site in a way that qualifies your pages to display with rich snippet stars in organic search can create an incredible traffic-boosting effect.

Leverage reviews in both Google Express and Product Listing Ads to gain similar click-through boosts within these paid advertising channels, via those same awesome gold stars. Once enabled, you’ll realize further optimization and efficiency, helping your products stand out even more within crowded search results.

Tip 9: Give your business credibility via word of mouth advertising

The truth is more than 50% of Americans do not trust advertising, but more than 70% trust consumer opinions posted online. Therefore, incorporating online reviews within your advertising can create more trustworthy and effective ads, while building up a business’ credibility.

One more tip? Don’t stop at the ad! Use reviews on the landing page the ad leads to in order to generate maximum conversion impact. And test, test, TEST – true optimization is never done.

Tip 10: Create an atmosphere of success

When your company prioritizes reviews, your customers know they come first. And when you optimize and improve your customer experience, you gain repeat customers, increase your value to them and offer a key differentiator between your business and your competitors, thus building a loyal customer base.

Analysts and experts alike predict that in the future, customer experience will be the #1 differentiator between businesses, so take this opportunity to get ahead of the crowd gain a lead in your category as the brand that listens and cares.

Start focusing on customer satisfaction as a priority (measurable in glowing customer reviews), and you’ll see your company grow, scale, and succeed.

Wrapping Up

Not only will these tips help you strengthen and maintain your online reputation during the busiest shopping (and review) season of the year, but implementing them can also increase company-wide efficiency, grow revenue and customer loyalty, and future-proof your business for 2017!

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