Marketers focus on email, content marketing, and paid advertising methods to help grow their customer base. While these channels are undeniably important, they often overlook the fact that third-party reviews are far more persuasive sellers than marketers will ever be.
With prospects hunting for trustworthy customer stories before they make a purchase, third-party reviews provide the level of social proof that you just can’t get on your own.
In this post, we’ll discuss what third-party reviews are in detail, why they’re important, and tips to garner your prospective customers’ attention.
What are third party reviews?
Third-party reviews are customer reviews published on a third party website such as a directory listing or social media platform not affiliated with the business being reviewed. Examples are Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other feedback gathering platforms.
There’s a notable difference between third-party vs first-party reviews and how prospective customers view them. While third-party reviews are gathered outside of a business website, first-party reviews are collected and published directly onto the site in discussion.
While first-party reviews are also a good way to provide prospects with immediate access to opinions of your product or company, third-party reviews add an extra layer of authenticity when on the search.
Why are third-party reviews important?
Third-party reviews are seen as more legitimate than first-party reviews, which a company collects on its own. Since it's information coming from a seemingly unbiased source, that's enough to make it far more trustworthy than any of your paid advertisements.
In fact, 75% of consumers don't view advertisements as truthful, while an incredible 90% will believe a brand recommendation that comes from a trusted friend. This level of trust even extends to total strangers — particularly in the form of online reviews.
So to gain that trust — and those always-needed sales — you need to start racking up the third-party reviews. The more positive ones you can get, the better off your company will be. So, read on for some tactics below that will help you generate third-party reviews and grow your customer base.
Tips for Generating Customer Reviews
1. Create profiles on third-party review sites.
While many ecommerce brands give customers the option to leave reviews directly on their website, this isn't necessarily the first place a buyer will look. More likely than not, they'll go to Google, Facebook, or another third-party site to check reviews for your business.
This means the first step to generating reviews is setting up your profile on each relevant platform. Google My Business and Facebook are great starting points, but be sure to check out other platforms that are relevant to your business.
For example, ecommerce sellers that use Amazon should claim their Amazon page. Businesses associated with the travel and tourism industries should create a profile on TripAdvisor. Even registering with the Better Business Bureau can give you an additional platform for collecting customer reviews.
Consider each avenue where a customer might discover your business, and make sure you have claimed your profile so you can collect and manage these reviews.
2. Start with your existing customers.
Many brands create their review profiles after they've already established a customer base. If your customer service team is doing its job, you should already have plenty of satisfied buyers who enjoyed their experience with your company.
The problem? These customers aren't automatically going to become aware of their ability to leave reviews for your business on third-party platforms. So, to build a solid foundation of third-party reviews, you'll need to reach out to your existing customers for help.
The good news is that you should already have contact information available thanks to previous interactions. If you have a CRM, you can log contact data when customers purchase products from your website or sign up for your email newsletter. Letting these customers know about your review profile will allow you to obtain more trustworthy, "verified" reviews. And, better yet, these reviews tend to have higher ratings since they're coming from your loyal customer base.
As research from the Spiegel Research Center explains, "The average star rating for reviews from verified buyers is 4.34 compared to 3.89 for reviews written by anonymous consumers. In addition, reviews from verified buyers contain a high percentage of 5-star ratings, while reviews from anonymous customers have a larger percentage of 1-star ratings. (This is consistent with the theory that people who are self-motivated to write a review have more extreme, and often more negative, reviews)."
3. Sign up for Google customer reviews.
As your customer base grows, it'll be tricky to reach out to each customer individually to ask for a review. Thankfully, the world's largest search engine helps you optimize this process through the Google Customer Reviews program.
According to KlientBoost, "To participate in Google Customer Reviews, the survey opt-in module must be added to all of your order confirmation pages... Integrating the survey lets your customers choose whether to leave a rating, and if they do, the review and relevant transaction information are automatically sent to Google. Once you've qualified for enough reviews, you can also add the seller rating badge code to your site to show off your stats."
Once the module has been added to your website, the survey opt-in will automatically be shown to users after they complete their checkout. If the customer opts in, Google will send an email with the survey attached.
The data collected from these surveys count toward your seller rating on Google — the "star" rating that appears in your PPC ads and general search results. You will also get a Google Customer Reviews badge that can be integrated with your site, giving potential customers a quick form of social proof.
4. Include third-party review links on receipts.
It's increasingly common for brick-and-mortar retailers to offer a survey on a customer's receipt. Typically these offers include a prize that's given to the customer once they complete the survey or write a review. While most ecommerce sites don't provide printed receipts, your brand can still leverage this strategy when sending your confirmation emails.
When customers place an order online, they expect to receive an email to confirm their purchase. While you can certainly link to a custom survey, you could also use the space below the order confirmation to link to your third-party review profiles. A set of links with a short message like "Tell us about your experience!" or "Leave a review" is an easy, non-intrusive way to encourage customers to leave an online review.
5. Request reviews shortly after conversion.
You can also build social proof by getting customers to opt into a survey immediately after purchase. The easiest way to do this is to send an email survey shortly after a customer completes a transaction. In fact, research from Power Reviews indicates that as many as 80% of reviews come from a post-conversion email.
While not everyone will respond to these unsolicited emails, you can make the task easier by following a few basic guidelines. Research from ReviewTrackers indicates that most online reviews are written between 2-3 PM and 6-7 PM. Sending your email around these times increases the chance of getting a review posted to one of your third-party profiles.
You should make the review request as easy as possible for the consumer. Don't give them a long survey to fill out. Instead, remind them of the product they've purchased, and include links to relevant platforms where they can leave a review (such as Amazon or TripAdvisor).
While you can certainly ask for a review shortly after completing a service-oriented task, you should wait a little longer after ecommerce sales. Rather than reaching out immediately, give the customer a week or so to use the product so they can give you honest feedback when you ask for a review.
6. Deliver an amazing customer experience.
It should come as no surprise that the best way to get customer reviews is to provide an amazing customer experience. When expectations are exceeded, customers will share that delight with others and according to BrightLocal, "Positive reviews make 91% of consumers more likely to use a business."
For ecommerce sellers, this means consistent product quality and meeting expectations for things like shipping and customer support. For service-oriented businesses, this means providing friendly, quality service during each customer interaction.
AdEspresso recommends, "Train your employees to ask for more reviews. Many employees take pride in their work but need to be reminded to ask for reviews. If you can incentivize them to ask for more reviews, everyone wins; have a contest, and whichever employee gets the most or best (or both!) customer reviews on social media can win a prize. Whoever has the most direct interaction and relationships with the customers should be the ones to ask."
No matter what you do, your customer service team is generally on the front lines of the consumer experience. By helping them see that asking for a review should be part of their normal workflow, you'll be more likely to gain reviews from each interaction.
Third-Party Review Value and Potential
To make an immediate impact on your customers, it helps to get your reviews published online. Third-party review value can look like more exposure on major review sites while attracting the interest and trust of those looking to bring legitimacy to your business. We hope you take these tips and put them into practice to bolster your advertising efforts and see the value in third-party reviews.
Editor's note: This article was originally published in July 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.