7 lessons that I have learned from online reviews in eCommerce

Retail is a fickle business. Buying and selling things online is even more fickle. In ecommerce especially it takes but a moment to leave a review, voice an opinion or share a story about an experience with a company or brands products online. I’ve been involved in online reviews for a fair while now, and there are some things that I’ve learned over this period that I thought I’d share with you . . .


1) Complaints are the best way to learn – No one likes to hear criticisms, but honestly it’s negative reviews that actually teach you stuff. The same applies out of the review context. If you are tasked with doing any job, and you do it well that’s great, but you’ve only learned one way to do it, however, buy failing and making mistakes you can improve, and actually achieve a better overall outcome.

Negative comments for the most part are people having genuine complaints or grievances. These comments are your area to improve as a business or even as a person. Even small issues, which may seem trivial to you are important, as solving a few of those can equal a drop in the number of complaints.


2) A four star rating feels like a failure, especially when no reason is given for the loss of the star. For me getting 4 out of 5 stars is the equivalent of coming fourth in the Olympics and missing out on a medal all together. To me four star means average. Four star means the customer is content, not happy. I see a three star review as an opportunity to improve as to me that says something was not right with the service, but four stars I just feel is a bit non-descript. The feeling is exacerbated further when the reviewer leaves no clues as to why they were only content. To most people 4 star would seem a good rating, but for me it’s a so close yet so far sort of feeling, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one who feels like this.

3) Humour. People like to laugh. Laughter diffuses tension and builds relationships. Laughter and humour makes you and your brand more relatable. If you can make your customers laugh and hit their sweet sport with a little humour you are onto winner!

However, as you can probably guess there are some very good examples and some horrendous ones. Because naturally when humour goes wrong, people don’t just find it unfunny, they can often get a little insulted. There is a fine line between humour and insults, just make sure you are right side of it. That is unless you are a company that thrives on insulting its customers.


4) Compassion, sincerity and an apology are three ways in which you can turn a customers frown upside down. In my experience, the way you speak to someone is a huge part of customer service and the customer experience. You could have two people give you the exact same piece of information, but the way in which they say it can mean you either take the info one way or another. When an employee, no matter where they sit in the hierarchy treats a customer with respect, compassion, sincerity and apologises if necessary then a huge number of issues can be solved pretty sharpish. Putting the blame on the customer (even if you think they are in the wrong) will do nothing to help the situation. Staying calm, apologising and attempting to rectify the problem with compassion and sincerity often does the trick.


5) Asking for reviews is not a bad thing. I have read hundreds of articles and blog posts which ask about whether as business you should ask for reviews. My answer, whether you choose to listen or not is yes. However, do not whatever you do try to bribe them. Incentives are fine, such as saying leave a review to be in with a chance of winning (x), but please, please do not do something like leave us a 5 star review or this and we will give you (x). This will not only devalue the reviews on your site, but will also mean less honesty is put into reviews.

Another reason why I believe asking for reviews is a good thing is because it keeps reviews fresh, it encourages more reviews, more often. This looks better from an SEO standpoint, it looks better to prospective customers and it gives the brand a bigger base of recent, honest reviews. All good reasons to ask for reviews I think!


6) People complain about some weird stuff. I mean, I’ve seen some really odd reviews, both good and bad! I’ve seen people complain about products being delivered too fast and they weren’t expecting it. I’ve seen people complain about items being too well packaged, and people complaining about strawberry soap not actually tasting like strawberry.

To the average person, these may seem mad, and frankly they could be. But, if someone has taken the time to complain about it, then I highly recommend you take the time to reply. It may sound ridiculous, but you never know!


7) You will never please everyone, but that shouldn’t stop you trying. In my view, there is no excuse for not even trying to answer, respond to or solve a complaint. You will never please everyone though. You can apologise, you can beg, you can offer whatever you like some people will just be unhappy. Those people also likely will never be won over. However, as long as you respond, put your best foot forward and don’t get into a war of words then you’ll be doing yourself and your brand a service.


I’m sure there are more lessons I’ve learnt over my time looking at online reviews, and I’m sure your experiences will have taught you something too, and I’d love to hear them in the comments below