Saturday, August 4, 2012

Triggered Emails Drive More Product Reviews

Let me see a show of hands.... How many of you, without being prompted, have returned to a retailer's website to leave feedback in the form of a product review?  Now, how many of you have done the same thing to submit a positive review? That's what I thought.

Without question, a ratings and review system can offer many tremendous benefits to a retailer's e-commerce site.  Among others, reviews have been shown to increase user engagement, increase traffic via sharing, increase conversions by harnessing the power of social, and, if implemented correctly, provide added SEO benefit with the addition of original content.

Build it and they will come.  Well, not exactly.  Unfortunately, that's not usually how it happens.  Consider this... when a customer receives a new item, he or she is typically excited to tear open that box, sift through all the packaging, read the owner's manual, and give that new gadget a test drive.  Unless there's something broken or wrong, returning to the retailer's website isn't a priority and probably not on his mind.  As time passes, that consumer is further removed from the transaction and may have even forgotten where he or she had purchased the item.  The chances of this customer submitting a review at your website is very low at this point.

What can be done to increase reviews?  The short answer is simply ask.  A best practice is to follow up with your customer to make sure they had a positive buying experience at your site.  I process hundreds of transactions per day, how can I accomplish this?  Well, here is where the concept of triggered (or automated) emails enters the picture.

Case Study:  A while back, I implemented a ratings & reviews system into one of my client's sites.  We were all excited to start receiving feedback and see all those yellow stars light up across our product pages.  Well, a few hundred transactions later, we had not received a single submission from our customers.  What was going on??  We decided to remind folks via our newsletter about the new system, and urged them to provide "valuable" feedback.  About 100,000 emails later, we had received a handful of reviews-- Not the level we had expected.  We even began to communicate incentives in the form of store credit to our buyers.  That actually prompted an uptick in reviews to the site.  Still, not where we wanted to be.

Solution:  Upon further brainstorming, we decided that we needed to be more personalized with our approach.  As a result, we turned to our order database and our email application.  We programmed the system to email buyers 10 days after purchase to follow up on their order experience and solicit a review.  Now, here's the critical part to this setup... you have to be specific in your email.  You cannot expect a customer to click through to your homepage, find the product page on his own, and then submit a review.  They need direction.  Some folks may not even recall what they had purchased from you.  Be sure to remind them. It's advised that you merge their order data into the email and provide a direct hyperlink to the review page.  It also never hurts to incentivize them!

Results:  Review submissions increased 40% over the next 30 days.

In conclusion, whether you're implementing a local review application or going with a hosted solution like Bazaarvoice, be sure to integrate triggered emails (with merged order data) as a touch point with the customer.  This will greatly enhance the success of your program!

**BTW, these emails are considered transactional, so they aren't constrained by most provisions in the CAN-SPAM Act.  You do not need prior permission from the customer to send these.  An existing business relationship exists.  Just be sure their email address doesn't find its way into your general mailing bucket.