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Review tools need to easily capture and display your best customer reviews (and aggregated star counts, of course) to the next customer, typically on the product detail page, category page, homepage, and really anywhere else across the site, including as little "social proof" pop-ups that trigger based on time or action.
Review tools are one of those categories that often needs a lot of integrations. Does it integrate with your email service provider? SMS? Customer service platform? And of course you want it to easily display on the site without breaking things, which also makes page speed load time of the widget very important. A side note on this, most review tools load asynchronously and will take a little bit of time to populate compared to the rest of the page. This doesn't mean "Google is penalizing" you, as so many brands come to me concerned about... It simply means that that widget takes a little bit of time to load. At the end of the day, the widget is there to increase conversion rate, and while this differs from brand to brand, many studies show that conversion rate increases when you have social proof. So stop worrying about this, please! Or test it to confirm.
Another really important consideration for review tools are the channels: Does it send review requests on email, SMS, Messenger, passenger pigeon, what have you? This leads us to the review rate, the percentage of customers you can get to review you. This will vary by brand, but you want it as high as possible...
Which brings me to the importance of integrating reviews into loyalty programs, to further incentivize the review. Some of these tools are review and loyalty tools, others are standalone review tools with integrations. It really is up to you and your existing stack.
Finally, it's about the medium - text, image, video. Depending on your business, you may only need text, but the trend is moving more and more towards Instagram Story style videos - casual comments and rants typically done in a vertical frame from a wobbly hand. Don't underestimate the power of a low-production quality review. I've seen them make millions for brands, no joke.
And of course when you get those reviews, you want the consent and ability to push them off to your favorite ad platform so that you can turn them into award winning ads and make those millions for yourself.
Those are the basics when it comes to choosing a review platform.
Nearly all brands are going to find some benefit from a review platform. Highly visual and social brands typically benefit the most, and a review tool is integral to the growth rate of the business. Less talked about products, like adult products, hair wigs, and other such things, are typically less likely to get reviewed - simultaneously however, the reviews that you do get may be extremely valuable, so it can be a double-edged sword (double-edged in favor of having a review tool).
Brands that seek to engage and retain customers (hopefully that is all brands...) are going to benefit more from a review tool. Whereas brands that drive passthrough sales and one-time purchases will not need a tool as much.
Even, and especially, starting stores should be collecting reviews, especially because with no brand, you have to break through that trust barrier and really start proving to customers and prospective customers that you have a brand they should care about.
As you grow, you will be able to do cooler things with those reviews, like turning them into ads, customizing reviews for different product detail pages, or maybe even personalizing reviews, and review requests, based on your major customer segments.
For larger established brands, the question is typically: Should I switch my review platform? And the answer should be answered with data. You care about two main metrics:
Lifetime value of reviewers
If a tool positions their reviews better, or maybe has a dynamic "Insta-style" display that relates to your users (and for some reason you can't custom build that with your current solution), then yeah, you may want to switch.
If a tool can get you a higher review rate - the percentage of customers that leave you a review - maybe by offering a new channel like SMS built into the review tool, then yeah, you may want to switch, because typically increasing your review rate will increase your Lifetime Value (LTV) for more customers.
Typically a review platform is managed by the marketing team, head of marketing, or you as the solo founder.
It can take a couple hours to setup, and sometimes includes a little bit of development costs - depending on the platform, how you want it to look, your theme, and any custom code you may have that interferes with the plug-and-play setup that is available with most of the tools most of the time.
You'll want to pop into your review tool at least monthly to review and approve/deny reviews, move some things around, change your functionality or approach (like maybe asking for skin tone as a review field, as a random example), or changing email copy. And you'll want to really understand the analytics of the review tool, compare it with loyalty, retention, lifetime value, and really understand how this tool is changing the way customers interact with you, and how their transacting with you.
The first question is: Do you want reviews to be part of the functionality of this tool, or do you want a standalone review tool? If you don't know, you need to look at other gaps in your tech stack and really make a deep dive into the whole thing - CRM, email, SMS, loyalty, etc - to come to a firm conclusion.
Once you know that, I would start with medium - text, image, video - which one do you care about the most and who's the leader in that space? Some tools added photo and video later in their tech development and for that reason aren't as video-centric. Other tools were created specifically for video and may be a better fit for you. Or maybe something that is all around solid is fine.
Then it has to come down to integrations. Does the tool integrate with everything you need it to? From email to your progressive web app, you're going to need to check the integrations, and make sure they aren't surface level but fully enabling you to do what you need, such as pass a positive customer service review through to the review widget automatically, if that's what you want.
Next it is going to be channel - email, SMS, push, post-purchase landing page - how and where will the tool engage customers to get reviews? How will they verify reviews?
And then finally you may really care about the review experience - are they personalizing reviews? Does the out-of-the-box widget look good for your site? Do they allow for site reviews and product reviews? Do they use any AI to understand the sentiment of reviews? Do they automatically remove bad reviews from displaying on your product detail pages? Etc. etc.