5 Tips to Leverage Reviews this Holiday Season

By Matt Parsons, Chief Customer Officer at PowerReviews

The holiday shopping season is truly a wonderful time of the year for retail brands, but those unprepared for the end-of-the-year shopping blitz could end up missing out on thousands (in some cases, millions) of dollars in sales. The reason? Reviews.

By now it's clear that ratings and reviews are an essential part of the digital shopping experience, and further, how consumers make purchase decisions (see sidebar). Not all review content is created equally, however. So how can a brand ensure it makes the most of the review experience? Let the following serve as a useful guide during this holiday season and those beyond.

1. Stock Up on Reviews

The best way to ensure that products have reviews is for retailers to ask for them by sending a post-purchase email to every customer each time they buy from them (internal data revealed that nearly 67 percent of reviews originate from post-purchase emails).

In the event that a company is introducing a new product for the holiday season, those responsible for marketing should consider conducting a "sampling"¬ù campaign, sending samples of that pre-released product to generate reviews ahead of time. This could help move potential customers toward conversion since others have already tested it and provided their recommendation.

Did You Know?

+ 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (BrightLocal, 2014)

+ 70% of consumers are interested in accessing product ratings and reviews while in store. (PowerReviews, 2015)

2. Make it Mobile

More mobile shoppers than ever before are expected by the end of this year. And while shoppers are using mobile to make purchases online, they're also using it at brick-and-mortar locations. In fact, a 2015 study released by the Local Search Association revealed that 90 percent of consumers are using mobile devices to help them make purchases while in-store. Marketers can take advantage of this growing trend by ensuring shoppers have everything they need in the palms of their hands and that means mobile-friendly reviews. Brands, for example, will want to use responsive design to ensure that reviews display properly regardless of screen size. Further, they should ensure their reviews section doesn't slow down page load time, which is especially important on mobile, as there are already environmental fluctuations to contend with.

3. Use Reviews in Holiday Ads & Signage

As mentioned above, customers don't just read reviews, they trust them. Only price impacts purchase decisions more. When featuring products in holiday advertisements and signage, retailers should consider including reviews and star ratings to enhance their ads with the voice of the consumer. Marketers can even use the data they've collected to create holiday shopping guides that feature top-rated items, making it easy for consumers to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list. Creative marketing campaigns like these can increase sales this holiday season, and increased sales provide more opportunities for retailers to collect reviews - even offline.

4. Solicit Reviews from In-Store Shoppers

With foot traffic at an all-time high during the holidays, retailers should consider leveraging in-store shoppers to generate a higher volume of reviews. This is best done by tying existing loyalty programs, which track in-store purchases, to post-purchase emails campaigns. For example, when a person provides his or her phone number to access loyalty perks in-store, the retailer can email them a receipt, ask for a review and even provide a small promotional offer.

5. Test Incentives & Rewards for Reviews

The majority of consumers who aren't writing reviews cite needing an incentive to do so. As the holiday season approaches, it is a good idea to use rewards to motivate customers to leave reviews. By experimenting with different types of rewards - 10 percent off the next purchase, bonus points to an existing loyalty program or a sweepstakes entry - retailers can see which offers generate the most reviews. Sweepstakes programs, in particular, are a digital goldmine if acquiring more reviews is a retailer's goal. Reviews will prove critical to the performance of Internet retailers this holiday season. Those that actively pursue them, make them accessible and reward those that invest their time in providing them, will be those positioned for Web success in the future.

Matt Parsons is chief customer officer at PowerReviews, a provider of ratings, reviews, and question-and-answer technology.