eCommerce Insiders

Testimonials: Your Customer-Sourced Retailer Proof Of Concept

Before the age of online reviews, there were the days of the good-old-fashioned testimonial.

You probably remember those:

They were the little paragraphs that averaged 3-4 sentences long, unless you lucked out and managed to inspire a customer to write an letter-length testimonial.

Either way, testimonials were like gold to a business owner. They served as a barometer that measured a job well-done. They also inspired other readers of the testimonial to make buying decisions.

The reasoning at the time was that, if a member of one’s local community took the time to personally recommend a business’s product or service, this was often all that was needed for others in a community to make their buying decisions, too.

Consumers often thought that if someone seemingly reputable, like a community leader or even a concerned parent, took the time to write to a company and share their experiences regarding a product or service, then the testimonial must be trustworthy.

And although testimonials are often still used in the body of direct marketing media and inside the covers of books, today’s e-retailers rely upon the power of the online review.

Online Reviews are Sleek and Efficient

Online reviews are found in a variety of places. While they are commonly found on a company’s e-commerce site, they can also be found on:

  • Social media platforms
  • The comments section of blogs
  • Dedicated product review blogs
  • Forums

The social media platforms where online reviews are often found include the big guys: Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp. As a matter of fact, Sprout Social claims that online consumers count on platforms such as these because:

Research firm YouGov found 88% of consumers in the US trust reviews as much as they do personal recommendations made by friends and family…Influence Central data showed 90% of consumers think reviews are more important than any information provided by a salesperson.

Incidentally, because these type of social media posts are perceived to be crucial for consumers, they are often ranked at the top of SMO results. That means that anything good (or bad) that consumers are saying about your products or services will be one of the first things that others encounter as they peruse social media posts!

While consumers often like to randomly leave comments on product-related blogs, they especially love to leave comments about their user experiences on dedicated review blogs.

The internet is chocked-full of marketers who have figured out how to brand themselves as online personalities, earning advertising revenue and affiliate commissions by forming brand ambassador partnerships and volunteering themselves to review products which can be purchased online.

These are the types of bloggers (and vloggers) who amass followers in the thousands, and sometimes in the tens of thousands. While the followers will certainly purchase products on the recommendation of the bloggers/vloggers, they’ll often also purchase products on the recommendation of their online peers!

Online Reviews are Your Customer Service Report Card

Do you ever wonder why people keep shopping for your products and services, time after time? You might believe that you supply superior offerings that meet needs and resolve problems, and this might be very true.

But there’s one other reason that smart retailer pay attention to: excellent customer service.

While online shoppers like to discuss their end-user experiences, they love talking about excellent (or horrible) customer service. Back in the day of the old-fashioned testimonial, business owners and salespeople had to verbally urge shoppers to “Tell your friends and family about us!”

And before social media ruled the world, consumers actually had to verbally share their shopping experiences via telephone, or in person. This was highly effective, as it was also noted at the time that “Everyone knows at least five different people!”

But in today’s global village, it’s reasonable to say that everyone knows at least one person in five different regions of the world! What’s more, online reviews, today’s version of the testimonial, can be written, published, and reviewed 24/7, and there’s nothing that a retailer can do about it.

It’s crystal clear that the retailer needs to be at the top of their game regarding all aspects of the sales process, in addition to offering a superior product or service.

Bad Testimonials – Will They Ruin You?

No company wants to generate bad reviews, but it’s impossible to please everyone. However, taking a nonchalant approach to bad testimonials (or online reviews) will lead to a loss of revenue at the very least, and it could lead to having your company mentioned on sites that you don’t want to be affiliate with.

Here’s a quick samples of sites that highly disgruntled consumers post bad testimonials on:

  • Ripoff Report
  • Consumer Reports
  • Scambusters

These are simply some of the larger sites – this doesn’t include the exhaustive list of scam report/disgruntled blogs which are published to specifically tarnish your brand’s reputation, and demolish your market share!

All of this is to say that, while the occasional bad review won’t ruin you, you don’t want to make a habit of making your customers angry. At the very least, they’ll stop shopping with you, and many become very motivated to ruin your brand.

Your marketing team can pay thousands to hire the best marketing minds in order to collect data about your company’s success. However, it’s a lot more efficient to simply pay attention to the testimonials (online reviews) generated from your customers, for free!

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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