Using Customer and Peer Reviews Efficiently for Cross-Channel Marketing Purposes

Updated: October 26, 2010

A smart consumer knows that he should read these customer reviews with a grain of salt. Take customer reviews for holiday resorts for instance: it is obvious that during the high season, when there are many tourists, complaints will be made much more frequently than when it is quiet and the employees of the holiday resort have more time for the maintenance of the location and for a more personal service. The results of customer reviews sometimes also depend on external circumstances: someone who experienced a week long sunshine during his vacation, is much more positive than someone whose vacation literally drowned in rain. And unfortunately there are also companies that don't exactly play the game of customer reviews fair.

However, they have every interest in playing it fair. Customer reviews offer many more possibilities than those which most people think of in the peer influence and review era! Below you can find several possibilities of customer reviews and tips that help your company forward on various levels of online marketing and customer service.

The improvement of product range, online marketing and customer experience

If your clients review your products, whether this involves tangible products or services, that's an invaluable source of valuable feedback. You have every interest not to fashion the reviews depending on terms like positive or negative. Every input is important and, furthermore, when people want to criticize, they can also do this elsewhere. Naturally there will always be variations in the reviews, but if for example a specific product continuously receives negative comments, you know that something is not right. Let's use the example of holiday resorts again. If one specific destination is always evaluated negatively, that's a signal to intervene and maybe even remove the specific destination (temporarily) from your portfolio. The same applies for products that are distributed by you and even the products that you manufacture yourself. What one should do in this case, is interact with people and, if there is actually a problem, solve it. Obviously the same also applies for the customer experience and for input on how you interact with people. Customer reviews aren't strictly about this, but they do offer you important feedback that allows you to improve both the customer experience as well as the efficacy of your online and also offline marketing and customer service activities. You can really use the opinions from customer reviews everywhere with the necessary creativity and fantasy. When using them for feedback, do not forget to prioritize.

Search engine optimization: get found on the Web

With customer reviews most people don't immediately think about SEO. But it is definitely an element to take into account. In the end customer reviews are content: user-generated content.

What people write, ends up on your website and is included in the indexations when crawlers search your website. This user-generated content ensures more possibilities to be found. You can even add relevant keywords by offering people the possibility to tag their content and/or split it up into specific categories. Naturally you can also do some of this yourself.

Sales by recommendations, trust and peer reviews

Various studies, including a report from Harris Interactive, indicate that people call increasingly more upon the advice of friends and peers, even complete strangers, when preparing their purchases. They are increasingly less trusting of advertising and recommendations by companies. That is a fact. But this is definitely not a result of social media. It often lies with the activities of the companies, the power of word-of-mouth and the increased control options of the consumer. That phenomenon is strengthened by the increase of interaction possibilities including social media. The power of peer reviews is huge. But let's not generalize though: companies with a solid reputation are definitely trusted as such. There is a large difference in all these changes depending on the company, its culture, the sector, the communication strategy etc. However, customer reviews and peer reviews draw in new clients, certainly when the tone is positive and takes on the form of recommendations. And offering customer reviews will in any case ensure more sales. Why? Because companies that provide this option have a more trustworthy appearance since they open themselves up. And ‘trust' plays a large role in the buying journey.

Customer reviews and loyalty programs

While some companies take great efforts not to receive any reviews, there are other companies that practically beg for them. They even fit them into their customer loyalty programs. For example, I know a provider of short vacations who asks every client, after a trip, to write a review and award a score to his accommodation. For doing this customers receive extra points in the company's loyalty program, which they can use for a discount on a new trip. For the company this offers the possibility to automatically observe, monitor and indicate ratings for all its destinations. The weighted averages of the ratings (a score) also appears at every destination. Not only does this provide a better idea for the future clients, but is also shows the company where there may be possible problems. The inclusion of the customer reviews in a loyalty program further ensures a solid brand reputation, an excellent customer relation and a superior customer experience. You can also setup the customer reviews as such that people can leave tips. For example: what was a really fun thing they did during their vacation? For a seller of other products this could for example be tips for using those products better. This content can then be included and shared in different ways. Community and user-generated content!

Cross-channel, word-of-mouth and social sharing

The company I mentioned above does more with its customer reviews: it also includes them in its emails and other channels. You can also include your customer reviews in your social media presences and ensure that people share them. You can even tweet them. By distributing this content via various channels, you also improve the ability to find your company: after all, search engines take increasingly more account of social media content and real-time search whereby channels like Twitter and Facebook also provide incoming traffic. The inclusion of customer reviews also works exceedingly well in email marketing. When British retailer eSpares, instead of referring to its products, referred to the peer reviews of these products in its email, this improved all metrics of the campaign, including sales.

Customer reviews: do it now!

If you are brave enough to open your site and other online presences in a professional and "open" manner for honest customer reviews, you will benefit greatly: trust; a better conversion, SEO, links, buzz, cross-channel interaction possibilities, user-generated content, customer satisfaction, sales, important opinions for his business, you name it.

You simply need to take a team of people, professionally active in content marketing, cross-channel and social media, to look as how you can organize everything, integrate the correct flows, establish mechanisms, overcome the fear for possible problems and learn how to deal with comments, think holistically and define the correct metrics.

From then on it's merely an issue of creativity and doing it! The return is enormous. Trust, customer loyalty, word-of-mouth, conversion and sales are the result.

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