Want Reviews? Give Customers an Incentive

Filed in Featured, Local Search, Word of Mouth by Matt McGee on April 30, 2010 12 Comments

evogear_logoInternet Retailer has an interesting article that offers a case study of sorts about how online retailer evogear.com convinced customers to write more reviews. While the article talks about product reviews, I think there are still some truths in it for small businesses who want more company/business reviews.

As the article explains, evo’s problem was that a lot of its products have a short shelf-life and customers weren’t writing enough reviews. So, the company identified 15,000 recent customers and sent out three separate emails to them. Here’s how it went:

One message was simply a basic request for a review; a second message suggested that a review would help support the community of evo customers by providing good shopping advice; and a third message said that by submitting a review customers would enter a contest to win a prize valued at $1,000. The contest was administered by PowerReviews Inc., which provides eco’s product reviews system.

The test revealed the contest as the most persuasive method. 5.6% of customers who received the contest e-mail submitted reviews, compared to 2.4% for those who received the basic message and 2.1% who received the message suggesting that reviews support the community of evo customers. “We realized we need to use the contests, so now we’re doing one every quarter,” Decker says.

(emphasis mine)

I mention this because it drives home a point many of us have been making for a long time: If you want customers to review your business online, you may have to give them a good reason to do so. In Yelp’s world of pixie dust and unicorns, no one’s allowed to encourage or even invite reviews. But pretty much anywhere else, if you need reviews for your small business, give people a reason to do it and more of them will.

Comments (12)

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  1. Mike Ramsey says:

    First ;-)

    Hey Matt! Cool coverage and interesting stats. I really think that this brings up the point that Yelp has got to change it’s review policy or you will see 1 of 2 things happen.

    1. Companies will ask against their guidelines giving it an unfair advantage to those who will play by the rules.

    2. Others will pass up yelp with review data because businesses will promote their sites since they encourage review programs.

    Really a shame though because of my undying love of pixie dust and unicorns.

  2. Will Scott says:

    Hard to argue with a greater than 100% increase in reviews.

    Clearly there’s an analog for businesses vs. products.

    Will

  3. The question that I ask is: How many reviews are enough? and How many reviews are too many?

    Local is an area that is different than product reviews in the regard that having 10 x’s as many reviews could be viewed negatively if the number far exceeds your industry average.

    While incentives do likely increase the review totals, I find that persistent and regular asking with no incentives generates plenty of reviews…good process is often enough.

    One situation where incentives might make sense is if a company is late to the game and needs to make up lost ground.

  4. Matt McGee says:

    Good points, but I’d ask Mike — is there any evidence that Google really cares and does anything when one business has or gets dramatically more reviews than its direct competitors? I’ve no doubt that would raise a huge flag with Yelp, but do we know who else cares enough to take action when velocity is unusual/suspect?

  5. I have not seen any indication that Google much cares or does anything. I was more thinking from the point of view of the potential customer not the search engine.

  6. Stever says:

    Who else cares enough to take action when velocity is unusual/suspect?

    Users/customers/people care.

    Besides what Google or Yelp may or may not do algorithmically with “too many” reviews, real people make judgments based on seeing too many reviews. If it’s highly skewed out of the average people can get suspicious.

    More than once I’ve seen reviews left in Google Maps by people commenting on the other reviews that seem fake or too plentiful. I would imagine it’s a VERY small percentage of people taking the time to leave such a review about the other reviews, but many many more who take notice and have those same negative judgments about it.

  7. MiriamEllis says:

    “In Yelp’s world of pixie dust and unicorns, no one’s allowed to encourage or even invite reviews.”

    Matt, that’s classic. Made me laugh.

    But, of course, this is the problem. We can’t really recommend giving incentives for reviews to our clients, precisely because of Yelp’s fantastical policies (and Google’s too). Like all of you, I’m waiting to see if this will change.

  8. Just because Yelp (fill in any company here) says X does not mean that X is what is the best interest of your client.

    That is the case here. Incentives may offer a strategy to garner reviews…whether Yelp thinks that is appropriate or not.

    I personally don’t generally recommend them as I think that if handled improperly (ie only offered to certain customers) it could be viewed as inappropriate.

    As a contest it has many fewer issues that a direct reimbursement of some sort. And there are certain situations where it would make sense regardless of Yelp’s opinion.

  9. Thos003 says:

    Insiderpages.com got its start early on by paying users for reviews. 50 reviews got you $50. And I didn’t complain one bit. =)

  10. Wynne says:

    Nice post. Interesting what an earlier commmenter said about posting too many reviews having a potential negative impact – makes sense really.

    Also, it’s good to point out that Yelp doesn’t take kindly companies encouraging reviews about themselves. Good to note in any case.

    However, I think it’s a reality that people will encourage reviews of their business. It’s too much of a temptation. Therefore Yelp should acknowledge reality and let it happen.

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