It’s the most wonderful time of the year (not that one. The one with snow.)! Or it’s at least the most hyped time of the year. It’s when your customers are most primed to open up their wallets and use “the holidays” as their excuse to spend obscene amounts of money. To lend credence to this, the stats are in for Cyber Monday (PDF) and show sales up 13.7 percent from last year with the average dollar amount spent up nearly 40 percent. People. Are. Buying. Why not use that momentum to help you boost customer reviews and site testimonials over the next two months? It’ll give you something to be jolly about long after the holidays have passed and the shiny trees have been taken down.
How can you use the holidays to prime your customer reviews and testimonials for 2010? Here are a few suggestions.
Hold an In-Store Holiday Event
The holidays are nothing if not an excuse to party. Spruce up those testimonials for the New Year by holding an event now that’s dedicated to celebrating your love for your best and most loyal customers AND encouraging them to share their love for you. Promote the event as a holiday bash and let invited guests know they’ll also be featured in promotional materials for their site. Once they’re there, take lots of photos that you can use for testimonials, get video interviews of people saying how much they love your company (you’d be surprised how much people love you when you’ve just sponsored a free party), and encourage them to Yelp their experiences with a free Internet station. Is it the most subtle way of getting testimonials and reviews? No, it’s really not. Will your customers care after you’ve just given them a free meal and an excuse to get all dolled up? No, they really won’t.
Offer Free Expedited Shipping
People go insane over shipping during the holidays. Like, literally insane. Monitor Twitter and blogs for people complaining about your competitors’ annoying or frustrating shipping options and then jump in and offer to upgrade their shipping at no cost if they come and make their purchase with you. Once they do, get creative and send them a one, two punch to encourage them to come and leave reviews. It really is all of the little things that make your customers fall in love with you; it’s not the fancy features. If you can find simple ways to make your customers’ lives easier and offer them up without hassle, you’re going to win over a lot of frustrated shoppers. Feed them warm and fuzzy and you’ll get warm, fuzzy and good reviews right back.
Offer holiday incentives for customers who have left reviews
Do not offer people discounts for good reviews. I’m pretty sure Matt Cutts would have my head if I advised this. However, you can use discounts, offers and other incentives to encourage people to provide feedback. For example, if you’re looking to get reviews or testimonials for your site, why not throw a comment card in with your customers’ orders and offer them 10 percent off or a free sample when they bring it back filled out with their critique of your service? Don’t ask for positive reviews, just ask them for their honest opinions. If they really hate you, they’re probably just going to toss the card the minute they walk out of the store. And if not, then they probably would have looked you up on Yelp and blasted you anyway. At least this way you also remind the people who love you. ;)
I know, the horror, right? But “asking” your customers to leave reviews doesn’t have to mean “begging them” to leave reviews. As we saw up above in the “one, two punch” link, sometimes throwing in a simple “thanks” card and asking happy customers to leave reviews is a really powerful action. Why? Because happy customers often don’t think to leave reviews. The people who have an axe to grind and a mission to ruin your online reputation will take the time to seek you out on review sites and leave something scathing. The happy people usually just go on with their day. You’re probably going to be sending a lot of emails and mailings over the new few weeks. Why not throw in a quick card, flyer or a text box inside an email newsletter to remind customers of how they can do their part to support your business? Distilled’s Tom Critchlow posted some interesting local search data yesterday which suggested that Google was looking at actual review star ratings when determining relevance to a query. Do yourself a favor and find ways to naturally collect reviews from happy customers, clients, and partners.
Create a post-holiday contest
The best customer testimonials show people actually using and enjoying your product. Think about it: What was a bigger selling point for the BlendTec blenders – the copy on the Web site or the videos of them mashing crap up? It’s the videos! Because they allow you to see the blender in action. Reviews and testimonials work the same way. Use the excitement associated with the holiday season to also take advantage of people’s love of user-generated content. Hold a post-holiday content asking your customers to submit video, audio, images, mashups, whatever, or of themselves enjoying your product. Maybe it’s a kid opening up that bike for Christmas or photos of his dad teaching him how to ride it and showing Bobby all decked out in his helmet and elbow pads. Not only will you get some incredible testimonials to use on your site, you’re also engaging the people who already love you and showing new customers how beloved you are in the community. You’re creating buzz around your brand.
Things like local citations and customer reviews are being increasingly important in helping the search engines determine who should ranking where and acting as social proof for customers still on the fence. Now that the holiday season is upon us, people are overly excited to buy. Do your part and get them excited to review, as well. It’s one way you can start 2010 off with a bang.