How to get more customer reviews for brick-and-mortar

Reading time: 6 minutes

You probably all have this one friend which is studying reviews for hours or even days before he decides eventually for the product which he was intending to buy.  Well, this guy has a point. 
How do you choose a hotel out of dozens in the same price category? How do you pick a restaurant after your girlfriend figured she wants Falafel tonight? You rely on the opinion of others which have most probably similar preferences. The customer structure has changed to more digital usage, a new era of marketing has started. If you read our article “Missing customers in store“ you are aware that reviews are not only important for online businesses but became the new word-of-mouth for brick-and-mortar. Already 87% of consumers check online reviews for local shops in 2020, Covid-19 just forced this way of choosing a local business.  
User-generated content (UGC) is one of the biggest influencers for long termed consumer relationships. It brings your customers trust to a far greater extent than any commercial could do. Reviews are besides texts, videos and photos only part of the UGC, but a striking driver for the communication with your existing and potential customers.  
Once you realize the significance of ratings as one of the quality digital touchpoints in the customers journey, you can easily gain more and turn even negative ones into your advantage. The more reviews you get, the more you are visible. The more visibility you have, the more customers visit your store. The more customers you have, the more reviews you collect. It is an upward spiral.  

Present a platform for user generated content 

Getting reviews is not finding a grain of salt in a jar full of sugar. Even if it seems daunting at the beginning – a simple requirement is to provide your customer a stage for sharing and communicating their shopping experience. It can be found besides well-known and more conservative sites like Google and Yelp on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok etc.
Considering different preferences depending on your customers demography you can adapt your approach and consequently your alignment. Similarly, to the communication in real life, you must adjust to each customer type individually. The elderlies might prefer a classical star rating, the younger ones an Instagram post with linking you and your shop.
The result stays the same: consumers see user-generated content 2.4 times more authentic and trustworthy than the one created by brands.
Show online presence in the pre- and post-purchase phase of your customers’ journey and set up your profile in multiple sites. Using digital touchpoints and possibilities for interaction such as ratings is enhancing authenticity and cultivating loyalty.

Understand the motivation for user generated content

“With an understanding of reviewer motivations, brands can devise winning strategies to win over their advocacy and generate more user engagement and ratings and reviews,” Andrew Smith, VP of Marketing for PowerReviews. What are the key motivators for submitting a review besides an uncomplicated access using digital tools?
There is the one customer which simply had a great experience with you, your product or your services and wants to share it with others – the same is valid for a negative incident. These reviews intention is supposed to be a guidance for others which results from the community feelings the consumers have. As they rely on the opinions of others with a particular experience, they feel the urge to share theirs as well.
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” – one more leading motivator for submitting a review are free samples or incentives, for example discounts or one monthly winner out of the reviewers.
Rewarding your customers can even put a negative experience into perspective. Be careful with highlighting positive reviews, since customers might conclude a “paid” review. People usually strive for better, therefore some of your customers are willing to leave a review to help you improving your products/services or simply to support your local business.
Just like the preference and motivation, the timing and frequency of reviewing also differ. Some might leave a review right after the purchase, some might need a reminder, the next will first test the product and rate it later. All highly depends on your customer and you know them the best.

Motivate reviews

The easiest and fastest way to request a feedback is to ask in person right after the purchase. This might feel way too personal – for you and your customer. Thanks to digital tools you can avoid this embarrassing moment by inviting them right in the store or after they left it.
If you already collected your customers data such as email address or phone number a gentle reminder with links leading to the corresponding websites this is an easy task, especially if is an automatized procedure and connected to the individual profile of each customer.
Not verbally invited, but digitally spurred to leave a review in-store can be covered with various digital tools: everybody knows the simple method, airport bathrooms are evaluated regarding hygiene (green, yellow, red smiley button you press when leaving). Similar to this you can install tablets with a short in app survey or even just a star rating published on your business website later. If you already established QR codes in your store for scanning products why not asking your customer through this code how they feel advised so far? If you already offer digital payment methods together with additional services like home shipping, why not go one step further and ask at that very moment for a review? You can point to a list of possible links so your customer can pick the platform of his choice. With offering a full package of digital services in your shop – starting with a free guest Wifi, adding music, up to digital menus – you are preparing the foundation for a memorable experience which is highly likely to be rated.
Don’t be afraid of asking for feedbacks – it will give your customers the feeling of appreciation, show that you really care about their opinions and are willing to continuously improve your products and services.

Monitor and respond

Receiving reviews is only half way there – you constantly need to monitor and answer them. Questions around your services, fulfillment options and others might arise as well in a review. If your customer spent the time to rate your store and services, it is your duty to respond. The more personal and unique your answers are the more encouraged the customer will feel.  With responding to all reviews, you show gratitude to your customers which will certainly give each customer the feeling of exclusivity.
Nevertheless, there is not all sunshine in the reviews you receive. How to deal with negative ones? First, you should not get emotional about them. They are putting your store in a more authentic light. Only having 5-star ratings seem to be fishy and leaves a bad taste of fake reviews. Secondly, you should treat them as a priority by acknowledging your mistake as fast as possible. Politely explain your point of view and apologize in the most personal way. Offer some kind of a compensation like a voucher. A product with negative reviews is still seen better than one without any.
See criticism as an upgrade and use especially the bad reviews as an opportunity for improvement of your business. Simultaneously you show that one specific customer, but also all others which are reading these reviews that you profoundly care about the satisfaction of your customers.

Owner reacting to negative customer review

Inspire your customer with an immersive experience in your store and they feel obliged to rate you. Exceed their expectations to enhance the ratings. Ensure the possibility of reviews as one of your digital touchpoints with the customer. Incorporate user-generated content in your marketing to create and strengthen your customers’ trust. Be present on multiple channels and monitor your reviews permanently without feeling overwhelmed and losing the overview ). Generate more customers and sales through authenticity with reviews from direct experience.

Markus Demirci

Founder & CEO mPocket

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