When it comes to marketing in the eCommerce space, you really have to differentiate yourself. 24/7 live chat, or loyalty programs are some really great ways to distinguish yourself from your competitors, which we’ve spoken about in the past.
But one tried and true method that always works is killer social proof. If your customers are ranting and raving about how awesome you are all over social media, your in great shape. But, unfortunately, that’s usually not the case. Even if your customers rate you an 11 out of 10, getting them to proclaim it is another story.
In this episode we get to speak with Talia Shani, Director of Content at Yotpo, a leading rating and review platform that helps let your customers do your talking for you. She shares with us the secrets of generating more reviews, and the best ways to leverage your reviews – from boosting SEO to converting more sales.
Links Mentioned on the call
Companies that are nailing it with product reviews –
read the Transcript
Daniel: Hi, everybody. Welcome back to another episode of eCommThinkTank. My name is Daniel Kohn. I’m your host, and today, we’re talking all about product reviews. Most sites have tools or have reviews, and I know that a lot of people look at their reviews and might have hardly any on their site. They might want to get more reviews, they might want to improve the way they use their reviews across their marketing efforts.
And today, we’re gonna be talking with Talia Shani from YotPo, which is a really cool rating and review tool that we use a lot with a lot of the clients that we work with. I just think it’s a great tool, so I wanted to have Talia on the show and we’re gonna talk a little bit more about reviews. So Talia, welcome to the show.
Talia: Thank you very much, Daniel. I’m excited to be here.
Daniel: Yeah. So, maybe, just to get started, tell us a little bit about YotPo, what you guys do, and how the tools really benefit eCommerce companies.
Talia: Sure. So, for anyone that has shopped online, I’m sure you know that reviews are an incredibly important part of that process. I certainly wouldn’t buy a product that didn’t have any reviews. I doubt there’s a lot of people that would. So, YotPo is all about getting those reviews for your store. We have a bunch of technologies that make it really easy to get those reviews, so we’re getting more reviews than the other softwares out there.
Getting the reviews is great, but what really matters is what you do with the reviews afterwards. They’re super valuable content, and so we have a bunch of tools and features around leveraging those reviews in a lot of different ways that are gonna drive traffic to your site. They’re gonna help you retain customers and they’re gonna help you make more sales.
Daniel: Right. And I think that’s probably a lot of what people wanna hear about, is that they’ve got these reviews on their site and what more can they do with them. And when I was looking at the homepage of YotPo, it says, “Reviews are just the beginning,” which I thought was really cool, because just getting them is the first part. So maybe you can tell us a little bit about what are some of the other areas you can use and leverage these reviews for.
Talia: Yeah, for sure. So, here's the thing. If you're a marketer in the e-commerce space and you're following the trends, you know that for awhile there it was just advertising, and all you could do was put money into marketing your product. And then content marketing came around, and for awhile, it was super cool.
And then it very quickly became extremely noisy, to the point where now it's very, very hard to rise above the noise. And I'm talking about this as a content marketer myself. It's super difficult to rise above the noise in content. Every article's been written already.
Daniel: It's fun doing this podcast. We're just gonna talk about it now.
Talia: Exactly. And so, what we really believe is gonna be the next frontier and the way for businesses to rise above that noise and sort of the next trend or the next phase of marketing, is gonna be leveraging user-generated content. So that's content that comes from your users. Whether that's in the form of reviews, if they submit photos. You can curate pictures from Instagram. If your users are writing blog posts about you, even better.
Anything that's created by your users is gonna go really, really far in terms of marketing your brand, because first of all, you're gonna rise above the noise. It's not gonna be your blog talking about your products and why you are great, it's gonna be someone else talking about it. And because you have that other person talking about it, they're gonna share it with their networks, their peers, and it's gonna be trusted a lot more than what you say about your brand.
We strongly believe that that's gonna be the next frontier, and the most important way that businesses are gonna market themselves is not by marketing their product but by marketing the content that their customers create around them.
Daniel: Wow, I like that, because what that's really doing is, in some senses, it's like humanizing the experience from one customer to the other as opposed to the company saying, "Hey, we're really good." It's more of a communal kind of space, and I think that gives it a human element. Because at the end of the day, seeing is believing, right?
Daniel: I also think I read somewhere that when people shop on Amazon, the main indicator are the reviews. And when you've got more reviews, it's one of the main things to help sell more of your product on Amazon.
Talia: And it's one of the reasons that it's so hard for a smaller business to compete with Amazon. It's because Amazon has all of those reviews. So that's one of the things that we pride ourselves in doing, is leveling the playing field between those smaller guys and Amazon. I mean, Amazon is Amazon. You're not gonna beat Amazon, but you can try to level the playing field a little bit. One of the ways you can do that is by generating a large amount of reviews.
Daniel: Right. So, before we go into what we can do with the reviews, I know a lot of people listening are probably thinking "Well, I've got a review tool," or "I'm gonna look at YotPo and maybe try them out. But how can I actually get more reviews?" One of the tools I know that you guys have - because I use it - is this automated email that goes out a certain amount of days after someone makes a purchase.
One of the things I noticed when we started working with one company and we used that feature is that when you actually send those emails out and they're automated, it amplifies the amount of people that actually do respond and write reviews, like, tremendously. So it's actually not that hard to get more reviews, you just have to have these tools in place and set them up to make it happen.
Talia: Exactly. I think the automation is key. If you're using any review solution, it should be doing that work for you. You shouldn't have to be chasing your customers to write a review. What's really important, and like anything in marketing, it's all about optimization.
So, what you wanna do, one of the smart things that you can do to get more reviews, is optimize the time that you're sending that email. So there's two ways you can do that. One way, for example, if your product ships within one business day and arrives within two days of the order, you wanna be sending that review email, maximum, five days after the order comes through.
Daniel: So you don't want it to be too long after they get their order.
Talia: Exactly. And likewise, you don't wanna do it before. If your product takes a month, if you're building custom products, it takes you a month to build them and ship them, you don't wanna send your request two weeks after the order comes in.
Daniel: Yeah. So you gotta find that sweet spot.
Talia: You have to find that sweet spot. There's over 150 businesses using YotPo, so what's really neat is that we have all this really cool data that we're sitting on and that we're leveraging to improve the product. One of the things that we find is, by industry, there is a different sweet spot for when to send that review request.
So, for example, when you're talking about electronics, people usually wanna use the product a little bit more before they write a review. They're not gonna, out-of-the-box, wanna write that review. So you wanna do a longer time for when you know that they received the product. You wanna give them a week or two to use the product before you ask for a review. Versus fashion, where that sweet spot is like right when they get that new outfit.
Daniel: Right, they open the package.
Talia: Exactly. And they're the most excited about it. And if you wait awhile, they're like "Yeah, whatever, it's in my closet." But when they open that package, they're super excited and they're ready to write a great review.
Daniel: Wow, that's very interesting. Just another question. Is it necessary to offer customers incentives to write reviews, or is that just probably going a bit too far?
Talia: No. Look, it certainly helps. What's neat about offering an incentive to write a review is...I mean, you gotta be smart about the incentives, so I wouldn't say "We'll send you a free gift for writing a review," but saying, "We'll send you a coupon for writing a review" is not only gonna increase the number of reviews you have but it's also gonna increase your retention rates. So, those people are gonna come back to use the coupon.
Daniel: And maybe to just kick-start everything, you might just run it for a month or two just to boost up the reviews. And if it's costing you too much, you could maybe remove it.
Talia: Exactly. You could always try it out. What's kinda neat and what we do, and this is going further into how you can use reviews once you've gotten them, one of the places where reviews are super effective is on social media. Because you can imagine, people are not going on to social to hear from brands, they're going to hear from their friends.
And when you use reviews on social media, it's creating that "Okay, I'm hearing from a person, not a brand," which is really important. So one of the things that's really neat to do with reviews, that's actually a feature YotPo has, is you can offer, let's say, a 5% coupon for writing a review and an additional 5% if you share that review on Facebook or Twitter.
Daniel: Right. That's cool.
Talia: Yeah, it's really neat, and we call it "the explosive coupon." Because what happens is, if I buy a product, chances are, my friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter are gonna be interested in that product as well. And if I share that review to my social networks - because I'll do it for a coupon, I definitely will - they're gonna see it, they're gonna click-through.
And as a business owner, you're gonna see your social traffic jumping. So, in terms of incentivizing, it's a good idea to incentivize, but like I said, you wanna be smart about it. You don't want to end the relationship at that review. You wanna see if you can lengthen it by offering a coupon, getting them to come back, getting them to share on social.
Daniel: Yeah, and getting them to do something for it. Cool. And the other thing that I really like using as well, because I think it adds a lot of credibility for a site, is just general site reviews as well. So to ask people about their experience with the actual website, about the shipping, about all this stuff, and then being able to post that in different areas on the actual site to validate you as a company as well.
Talia: That's super important. One of the places that is most important, is that's the only way you're gonna get ranked in Google seller ratings. So if you wanna have those beautiful yellow stars showing up in your Google adwords ads, you need to get site reviews. You will not collect product reviews for that. So you need to get reviews about your site, your service, your business. And Google, they will know.
You can't send them product reviews and try to pass them off as site reviews. You need to be collecting a separate kind of review that's specifically around your service and your business as a whole. Those are also neat because you can display them anywhere on your site.
Versus a product review, which, outside of the product page, outside of that context, doesn't always make sense. Those site reviews, you can have them right on the checkout page, no matter what product they were using. You can have them on your homepage. You have a lot more places that you can use them.
Daniel: Right. Because I was gonna ask you a little bit about where to place these reviews. I guess this is in that thread. So you're saying, basically, it's a great idea to have more confidence-building reviews placed around the site about your company, like on the homepage, and around the checkout area, to be able to strengthen your brand. And then on specific product pages, stick to product reviews.
Daniel: I think that's really good advice. The other thing I wanted to ask you about was, being able to...because you mentioned using these reviews in Google ads, like, other areas, or maybe people who are listening and they have reviews and they're just trying to figure out other ways, outside of just their website, to be able to use these and different areas they can place them in to better leverage that content.
Talia: Yeah. You said one second ago "Where should we put reviews?" the answer is "Everywhere." Everywhere you can, you should get reviews. We talked about having them on social. It's important not only for your customers to share the reviews that they wrote, but for you to share reviews written by your customers on your social feeds. That's key.
Then we're going into ads. Social ads that have this user-generated content - the reviews in them - perform...I think we did a study on it and it showed that the CTR jumped by a crazy amount. I don't want to give you a number because I don't know. But the cost per acquisition was like slashed in half.
Daniel: Sorry, when you say "social ads," what do you mean by that?
Talia: So when you're doing ads on Facebook or doing paid campaigns on Facebook, and now Twitter and Instagram are offering those ads, you wanna, in the content of those ads, include reviews.
Daniel: Right. How does that work? It works through?
Talia: We have an automatic tool to do it.
Daniel: So the ad is the review?
Talia: Yeah. So the content of the ad is basically...the way that we recommend doing it is, if you know how the ad looks, there's a bit of text on the top of the ad, so something like "Thinking about buying this product? Check out what Daniel had to say about it!" Then you have the image of the product and then you have stars and a review, and Daniel saying "This was the greatest camera I've ever bought. And I love it."
Daniel: And that plays into the whole social atmosphere as well.
Talia: Yep, exactly. They're reading something from their peers, not something from a brand, which comes off as a bit cold. It's something much more emotional. It really helps to build that connection and that trust, and so we see people really like to click on those.
Daniel: Wow, that's a cool idea. I saw that in the dashboard, but I haven't used that because the client we work with sells tobacco related products, so they can't advertise. Interesting. And the other area that I've seen people using reviews is in email.
Talia: Yeah. People get really creative. I just saw an email one of our clients was sending out where they did it themselves. They sent out an email, the subject line was "see what customers are saying about us," and they did an image of the product and had like a screen cap of the review. They just did like three of those and it went out in a blast to their customers. I don't know the results on it, but it looked great. It's so much more effective than "Hey, check out our latest sale."
Daniel: Yeah, it's true. I think another idea with reviews is, if you're just sending out a regular newsletter and you've got a hero product, your main product that you're trying to push, if it's hard for you to actually feed the review in automatically, you can really just create an image. If the review is on your page, just add an extra image in there of the review and the stars. Because when they click-through to the product page, the review will be there as well. But having that element of other customers talking about it, like that product, it's so powerful in email as well.
Talia: And what really takes it to the next step is if you can get those customer images. So we've just released a tool to collect customer photos.
Daniel: Right. Yeah, I saw that. That's really interesting. That's kinda like the next level. When we talk about user-generated content, it shouldn't really just be limited to text. Having a good content mix on your side should be a mixture of text, imagery, and ultimately maybe video as well.
Talia: Yeah, exactly. It's all moving towards visual. Everything is coming into visual marketing, when we talked about rising above the noise in content. And this is not a secret. People know this. This is why people love Instagram, and this is why people love infographics, because we're visual creatures and we like to see pictures.
So, that next step is collecting photos from your customers. Before we built this product, we did research into it, obviously, to see how useful is this going to be. What we found was that a huge, huge amount of people said that they preferred those customer images to the professional photos.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah, 100%. It comes back to that humanizing element again, where it's just "Regular people like me also wearing these pants or these shoes."
Talia: Exactly. When I'm shopping for clothes, I always look for...Urban Outfitters does it really well and they collect photos from their customers.
Daniel: Yeah, there's a site called "Black Milk." Have you heard of them?
Daniel: Black Milk. They have Instagram feeds on their product pages of all their customers who bought all those specific products. Yeah, I think it's really cool.
Talia: It's really neat, and it's so effective. We think fashion is the easiest implication. That's the example you jump to right away. We always come back to the example of cameras. Obviously, you don't want people to take a picture of a camera. That's not exciting. But what's really neat is if they upload the picture that they've taken with that camera.
And those people who are camera nuts are gonna be able to look at that image and see "Okay, this is exactly what I'm looking for." I don't know what camera nuts are looking for, but the pixels, or the lightning, or the lens, that's what they really wanna see. Reading about the specs of the camera is one thing, seeing it in action is what really matters.
Daniel: I also think it's experiential. For other cameramen...coming back to our Cuban cigar guy, I was talking to him about this new feature that you guys have. And I said other cigar smokers seeing this guy smoking his cigar that he just bought, because they all relate to each other as well.
In some cases, with some products, it can be more than just actually seeing the product, like you said, being worn, it's an experiential thing as well. With cigars as an example as well, just getting the packaging is a really big thing. If you're a cigar smoker, you probably know this. I'm not, so I didn't know this beforehand, but just getting the packaging and knowing that the cigars were packaged properly so they don't go moldy or soft.
Talia: Ah, that's interesting.
Daniel: Yeah. So, for someone to take a photo of the packaging and share that with the other smokers, it gives them confidence in knowing "Ah, okay, the packaging is really good. My cigars aren't gonna go bad."
Talia: Yeah. And also, with the cigars, talking about the experiential thing, I also wanna see the guy smoking the cigar. You know what I mean?
Daniel: Yeah, exactly.
Talia: I have this great image of this guy who has this man cave, where he goes to smoke his cigars. That is such a powerful image versus this professional photo of a cigar or of a model with a cigar.
Daniel: Yeah, exactly. Just another thing that I wanted to throw in the mix as well. To me, it's probably up there as one of the most important things when we're talking about how to really leverage our reviews, and specifically, all this user-generated content, is around SEO.
I think, with e-commerce companies, the idea is not always to have so much text on your pages. But with tools like YotPo and some of these review tools, you can actually turn that content into crawlable content by Google for your SEO efforts as well. Maybe you can tell us a little bit about that, because I think it's a very powerful element of how to leverage your reviews, and I think a lot of people who have reviews don't really realize this yet.
Talia: Yep. It comes back to the importance of UGC and really speaking the language of your customers. So, what's really interesting about reviews is that often, if you are collecting reviews, you might have had the experience of reading through them and seeing that...let's say it's a shirt where you thought the most important thing was how soft it was, and everyone is instead writing about the fit. There's this element of you can guess what your customers are gonna love about a product, but you won't know until you ask them. And you might be really surprised by their answers.
So, what's really neat about having your reviews indexable and crawlable by Google is that you're using your customers' language. So if everyone is saying they're looking for a shirt with a great fit and all of that is being indexed by Google, when people are searching with those search terms, with that language that your customers are using, they're going to hit your page. You might be feeling this gap of content that's people are talking about your product or thinking about your products in a way that you're not. And you're feeling that gap by letting your customers' content also be crawled by the search engines.
Daniel: Right. And it's also just creating more content for Google to go "Hey, these guys have new content." And when the crawler comes back in a month and there's more reviews, and they go "Wow, there's even more content here now," it just helps the whole on-page SEO thing.
Talia: Yeah. I don't claim to understand how Google's algorithms work, but the rumor is that they love user-generated content and they love fresh content. So the thing about reviews is, you're getting fresh content on your page every day. If you're using a good review solution, you should be getting fresh content on your page every week, every day. And that's awesome. Google really likes that.
Daniel: Yeah. I mean, it's hard to really keep adding content, if it's not user-generated, about your coffee mugs you're trying to sell.
Talia: That's the other thing about user-generated content that's awesome, is it takes, for all you content marketers out there, some of the burden off of you, because your ad copy is written by your users. You can even use it...I love when people take the stuff that they've learned from reviews and incorporate it into their product page descriptions.
Yeah, it's taking a lot of the .... You're getting all that really good SEO content also. I know something I've struggled with is, again, that visual content is really, really hard to create, unless you have...I know, Daniel, we were talking about YotPo's videos, where we have a professional person in-house creating those videos.
That's not a reality for a lot of businesses out there. And what's really neat about collecting photos and eventually videos from your customers is that they're doing that work for you. And that's something that I know, especially in small to mid-size businesses, it can be hard to keep up with the amount of content you're expected to create. And when you put that work on your customers, they, by the way, love to share. People really like to share their opinion, they like to be asked, and they like to answer questions. That's another thing we should talk about actually, is having questions.
So, people really like to participate. What's really interesting is, it keeps them really engaged with your brand. It creates a relationship. Basically, if you're not collecting reviews, someone buys from you and you send them an order confirmation, you send them the product, and the relationship is over.
You're probably following up with promotional emails and things like that, but as we all know, a relationship is two-sided and you want them to participate also. So when you start to ask them for reviews, when you start to ask them for photos, when you start to ask them to answer customer questions, you're keeping that relationship going in both directions, which is really important.
Daniel: So just to fill everybody in around the question stuff, in the "review" section...and maybe what I'll do for this post is, Talia, maybe you could send me a couple of sites that use reviews really well, and I can reference them so people can actually see these examples of what we're talking about, how they're placing the site reviews on their homepage and the checkout and things like that.
If you're gonna look through these examples, one of the things Talia is talking about is, in the review widget, you can actually ask questions. You can also have other customers answering the questions, so it creates, again, that human, communal kind of spirit. And that's what you're talking about, right?
Talia: Yeah, exactly. It's super cool. Basically, what happens, one of the main barriers for people purchasing online is that they have questions that are not answered by the content on the product page. If you don't have reviews, they're not seeing it there, usually. And if they don't wanna scroll through all the reviews, they're not gonna get there.
So what's really neat is if you let people ask questions on your product page, what we'll do is...I mean, you have the option. You can answer them yourself, of course, or what we'll do is, we'll automatically send it to the last five people who bought that product. And they'll get an email saying "Hey, so and so had a question about this camera that you just got," and they'll get the question, "Is this a good camera for traveling?"
And what we find is that people love to answer these questions. We have an amazing response rate on those emails, which is funny because, instinctively, you think "Oh no, what am I gonna get my customers to answer questions? That's the support team's job" or something like that. And what's really neat is it has all of these super cool implications. So, first of all, you're collecting more UGC, you're collecting more of that fresh content that's being crawled by Google. You're creating that connection, like you said, that human-to-human connection.
They like to hear from other customers who bought the product versus hearing from you. They want to hear it from someone who actually used the product or experienced the service. And the other thing is that it's lessening the load on your customer service team.
When questions are getting answered, then you're also seeing "Wow, everyone's asking me about the weight of this camera. I should probably add that to the product description, because that's gonna help a lot of people out." And then you see those people who answered the questions come back to your store again. You see huge click-through rates on those emails, of people returning to the store.
Daniel: Yeah. I'm sure it creates a lot of loyalty as well, because you're basically saying "Hey, we think you are a really good advocate to help us answer these questions. What's your opinion?" And people love to feel like their opinion matters.
Talia: It's true. Especially in the really nichy [SP] markets, yeah, people love it. With cigars, I would imagine that they love that.
Daniel: Yeah, yeah. And the last question I wanted to ask you is, when we're talking about all these ways to use reviews and all these different channels we can use them in, when we look at trying to measure the success of the whole review program, not everything can always just directly be related to revenue. Maybe yes, maybe not; I'm not 100% sure. But I'm just curious to find out how do you guys measure the success of a review program?
Talia: So if you're using a good system, they're gonna have a strong dashboard where you're going to see analytics. We're actually in the process of redoing our dashboard, because we had a pretty strong one but we're seeing people really, really crave those numbers, that data, and those graphs that are gonna show ROI, especially if you're a marketer that's answering to a CEO and you wanna show the success that you're having. So, one of the things that we do is, we talk about sharing reviews to Facebook so we can track. There's a pixel in those...you know what? I don't know if it's a pixel. I'm not gonna get into the technical. I don't know how it is.
Daniel: In broad strokes.
Talia: In broad strokes, exactly. Let's say we can track through the link. You have a product link and that shared review is gonna link back to your product, obviously. And we can track the traffic that's coming from those reviews that you shared. Which is huge. People see this huge lift in traffic, and you can attribute it directly to the reviews. For me, as a marketer, there's nothing more frustrating than seeing that jump in traffic and not being able to say what I did that made it happen.
So, it's really important. And then that tracking follows through all the way to the sale. So you're not only gonna see "Okay, I had X amount of visitors come from this specific shared review, but I also had Y amount of sales coming from that." Like I said, it's really important to see it because you wanna be able to attribute your successes to something and know "Okay, I need to be doing more of that."
Daniel: Interesting. So I guess there's probably different metrics for different areas of everything we've been talking about so it's not just always "How much money are we making from reviews?"
Talia: You can see there's different things you can track. You can track retention, you can track engagement, you can see the clicks on those emails. For example, I mentioned the clicks on the question and answer emails when you send somebody a question. We include upsells in those emails, and people click on those a lot. That's an important thing to look at.
Daniel: Have you ever seen or done any tests or have anything around when you're able to add the review information into the organic search results, how that might increase people's desire to click on your links as opposed to your competitors in the Google search results?
Talia: Actually, Google has done that study. I guess there's two different things here. There's the rich snippets, which is... stars and the ratings information to your organic search results. And I believe that's the one that Google said increases click-throughs by like 17% or something, which is really nice.
And then you can also see on your seller ratings, and that will be easier to track. If you're using adwords, you can get all sorts of neat metrics from there. But when you add those seller rating stars to your ads, seeing how that affects your click-throughs and also your cost-per-click and stuff on adwords.
Daniel: Okay, cool. Well look, I'm gonna look into that, because that's really interesting. I'm gonna try to find that, if they've released it. I'll try and find that, and also post it as a link at the bottom of this interview. I think we're gonna wrap it up there, because you've really given us a lot of meat and potatoes to think about.
Talia: I hope so.
Daniel: Yeah, I think a lot of people just see reviews as this thing "Ah, we run an e-commerce store and we gotta have reviews," but it's really much bigger than that. And I think you've done a really good job of opening the spectrum up and the picture up a little bit more to where the space is heading, the e-commerce space in general and how user-generated content and reviews really play a much bigger role than most people actually think as we evolve. Our phones are getting smarter; we're able to take probably videos and photos much more easier. Much more easier?
Talia: Much more easily.
Daniel: Much more easily, better. Whatever. Sorry, it's getting late over here. As that evolves as well, tools like YotPo are evolving and people's ability to communally congregate inside and around the e-commerce space is evolving as well. So, Talia, thanks so much for coming and sharing some of those ideas with us today.
Talia: Thank you so much for having me.
Daniel: Yeah. I'm not big on the sales stuff, but if you really are looking for a great review tool, I personally use YotPo and I think it's great. The companies we work with who use it are really happy, so you should definitely check YotPo out. We'll put some links to your site on the post as well. I'm sure if you've got any questions, feel free to comment in the section at the bottom of the post and Talia or I will try and answer them for you. So, thanks for joining us. And Talia, thanks for being here.
Talia: Thank you, Daniel.
Daniel: All right, we'll speak soon. Hey, that was pretty good.
Talia: Yeah, it was good.
Daniel: You like that?
Talia: That was fun.