“Not impressed at all!”

“Love it!”

“A terrible experience!”

“Great—I will definitely be a repeat customer!”

In today’s retail landscape, everything and everyone comes under scrutiny. Including your brand and even your customer service professionals. Learn how to deal with online reviews of your brand is essential. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, online reviews will contribute to the story that surrounds your product. You can’t control what people say, but you can manage it. The good and the bad.

What’s more, a brand with a dearth of reviews will not gain the confidence of potential buyers. Especially to younger shoppers, a lack of opinions translates into irrelevance. If nobody takes the time to comment on your products, many people will assume nobody cares about them.

How to get online reviews.

If you’re responsible for a brand like Nike or Apple, there will be no shortage of opinions about your products being shared online. When a brand has millions of customers—or maybe billions—it’s reasonable to expect that a number of them will want to weigh in.

For a recent launch or a nascent brand, however, the first challenge will be getting people to talk about you at all—good or bad. There are ways to buy reviews but, well, they typically seem just like that—praise that was bought instead of earned. They sound fake, and today’s consumers are savvy enough to spot the phoniness. If that happens, you don’t gain the goodwill or buzz that reviews can create—you actually lose credibility with potential customers.

How to get good online reviews.

Again, we don’t think it’s a good practice to buy fake reviews. But we do think it makes sense to cultivate good ones—it's part of how to deal with online reviews of your brand.

Let’s say you know a customer had a positive experience and is happy with their purchase. Or that you have repeat customers who return to purchase your products again and again. Craft an email message that you can send to these groups, asking them to provide positive reviews about your brand. Include a link that takes them to the URL where you need the review. If you think it would help, you can also add a sample review to make it easier for the person you’re asking to say nice things for you. A template they cut and paste is probably not the best idea, but samples of other reviews or a short piece that walks them through what they’ll be asked can be helpful. Just make sure it feels like you’re trying to help and not telling them what to say.

And don’t forget about social media. Keep track of the activity on your accounts, and use Replies, Likes, and Retweets to show you’re engaged. Part of the appeal of social media for the people who use it is the rush that comes from seeing reactions to posts. When you do that, they will be more likely to put positive reviews online.

What about the negative reviews?

We’re lucky enough to have free markets and free speech. Generally great for you, except in online reviews of your brand when the gloves come off and the opinions of your products are scathing.

Apart from what that might do to your ego—you’ve put a lot of work into this product so it’s only natural to be sensitive—it’s important to avoid taking the criticism personally. When you are reading negative reviews, try to keep an open mind. Can the thoughts expressed help you improve your products or your customer service? Did you miss something important? Is your supply chain letting you down? Remember that before the internet, companies invested a lot of money in surveys to find out what consumers thought about their products. These days, you can crowdsource that information through online reviews.

That’s not to say that online reviews of your brand won’t frustrate you. Sometimes a reviewer will be unfair or unrealistic about your product. We’ve all seen reviewers complain about a product that is made inexpensively and cost little, demanding a level of quality that does not correlate with the price point. Or the people who seem intent on saying negative things no matter what, maybe because they are hoping the brand will respond with a free item or a special offer.

The best approach to managing negative online reviews is to be proactive. Read them and respond politely and factually. Or apologetically, if the criticism is justified. Fact is, you can turn a negative review into a positive outcome for your brand with a measured, thoughtful response. Prospective customers will see you as more credible simply because you care about the customer experience and are willing to engage to improve a situation.

Another tip: avoid getting into an extended back-and-forth exchange online. Keep your cool if every response you make is met with more negativity. There are people who are firmly committed to trolling businesses online and when that happens, your best course of action is to withdraw and ignore them. They want attention—don’t give it to them.

Putting reviews on your own eCommerce site.

If you sell online, you can make it possible for people to post reviews about products on your eCommerce store. At first, this can seem like a dangerous proposition, since the people on your site are typically ready to make a purchase and may be put off by a bad review—the last thing you want to do is deter them.

For years, many traditional retailers resisted putting reviews on their own sites, but digital native sellers—think Huckberry, Iron & Resin, ThirdLove, and others—have adopted it because they believe it provides another measure of confidence for buyers.

Often the reviews posted on your own eCommerce store will come from people who will post less subjective opinions and more about issues such as sizing, colors, etc. When that occurs, shoppers will rely on this information to increase their confidence about an item they are buying online without being able to see or touch it. What’s more, if they’re reading reviews on your site, they are spending more time on it—and a sticky site almost always produces better sales.

Reviews help search.

Google and other search engines factor reviews into their algorithms. More reviews are interpreted as greater interest in your brand or products, and this will help your site move higher in the rankings.

It’s less about the opinions and more about the activity. If your brand has a lot of reviews, you can expect to see more traffic because it’s interpreted as greater relevance.

Don’t ignore reviews.

No matter how you feel about customer reviews, there will be no getting away from them. Consumers like to have a voice, and reviews are here to stay. Their importance will only increase.

Managing reviews will pay off.

Smart brands will embrace reviews, using them to generate attention, keep customers, upgrade search rankings, and even improve products. Stay engaged with online reviews and you will eventually be rewarded for your effort.

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