Review content is a very important part of ecommerce, as it adds a huge amount of value from both a UX perspective and an SEO perspective. Lots of retailers do have review functionality in place, but they don’t have a full strategy behind it or someone with knowledge and experience of getting the most from it.

In addition to just having the option to leave a review on a product page, requiring users to come back to the site to provide feedback on the product they’ve ordered, you should also be factoring UGC into your email strategy and you should be measuring and reporting on it on a weekly / monthly basis.

There are a huge amount of options that need to be considered in this area, such as the platform, the process behind the delivery of prompts, the timescales around prompts, the questions being asked, the way that the content is positioned, the type of content being obtained and much, much more. This piece will cover all of these areas and will also outline best practice for getting the most out of your UGC strategy.

The following tips are designed to help Magento merchants select the right platform and also generate the best possible return from their user-generated content strategy (UGC).

Choose the right review vendor

Choosing the right vendor is a fundamental element of the process, as the different platforms offer different functionality. I’ve worked with the following and would recommend them, dependant on what you’re looking for.

BazaarVoice

BazaarVoice isn’t cheap (monthly subscription), but it is an incredibly powerful platform that provides a lot of flexibility and options around obtaining and publishing review content. BazaarVoice is a managed platform, so they manage the moderation of reviews and also provide support. They also control and publish the reviews via their own servers, although this can make the SEO side of things very tricky – I wrote about this here.

Unless you integrate with your ESP, BazaarVoice also send out the review emails, which, although simplifies the process, prevents you from being able to track certain metrics as you would with your acquisition / CRM email marketing activity.

Whilst working in-house at Buyagift PLC, I line-managed the person responsible for our user-generated content strategy and he did an excellent job at optimising our processes with BazaarVoice. We performed various different tests around delivering the requests to customers, the encouragement we provided, the copy in the emails, the delivery of the emails and much more – which lead to a huge increase in our conversion rate for customer reviews.

BazaarVoice also allows you to be a bit more strategic with the type of questions you answer and also allows for video images and the attachment of different types of media.

If you have the budget, I’d definitely recommend BazaarVoice, just make sure you get the configuration right from an SEO perspective.

You can also use the BazaarVoice extension via Magento Connect.

Yotpo

Yotpo is a great review platform and it’s very easy to integrate with Magento. Unlike BazaarVoice, Yotpo can be configured from the Magento back-end and it’s also far less enterprise-level in terms of cost and it also has a free version.

Compared to BazaarVoice, Yotpo is fairly basic and it although it can send out prompts / reminders, it doesn’t have the same level of sophistication as BazaarVoice. You can achieve a lot of the same functionality, but you’d need to use the API, which appears to very good (BazaarVoice also has a very good API).

Yotpo offers a lot of great functionality for just $30 per month and there is an enterprise-level version, which could potentially compete with BazaarVoice’s hosted solution – but I don’t know very much about this.

You can install the Yotpo extension via Magento Connect.

Magento’s built-in functionality

Magento’s built-in review functionality is quite good, but the out of the box version doesn’t allow you to do anything too advanced without development resource, such as being able to send out and schedule email reminders for reviews. That said, as well as using developers, there are extensions (like this one) that can extend the functionality and help you get more from it

Although it’s fairly basic, the default reviews option is easy to manage and it’s fairly simple to build out – I’ve seen some very complex implementations in the past. One of the key benefits for merchants is that it’s a fairly good platform to build on – the retailer I worked with had a very slick process for obtaining reviews and they’d integrated the emails being sent out with their ESP, allowing them to monitor performance in detail.

I’d suggest that if you have complex requirements, you’re going to need a lot of development resource if you’re using the Magento option – although it will be very flexible. In contrast, Yotpo and BazaarVoice allow you to do a lot without having a team of developers.

From an SEO perspective, just make sure you block the /review/ pages, as the content is already featured on the product pages, making this duplicate content.

I’ve heard good things about the AheadWorks reviews module as well, but I haven’t actually used it yet.

Other considerations

Ask the right questions to get the right content

If you simply ask a user how they found the product they purchased, you’re unlikely to get anything too descriptive – however if you ask a series of tactical questions, you are far more likely to get more relevant, better content.

I’d suggest asking questions like what were your thoughts when you first received the product? Please describe your favourite features. This will encourage the user to provide more detail.

SEO configuration

Often, review vendors serve content from an external server and then either load it on a page via an iframe or pull it after the page itself has loaded. You need to ensure that the content is accessible to search engines, which would ideally mean that the content would be hosted natively on the page. This isn’t always possible (particularly with a hosted service like BazaarVoice), so you just need to make sure that Google and other search engines are able to see the content on the page.

You also need to ensure that you’re publishing as much content on the page as possible, as, if you’re paginting the reviews, you’re not going to get the full SEO benefit (if the URL changes and the content isn’t accessible to search engines). You could look at clever uses of JavaScript to help you get more on the page without impacting SEO, although Google doesn’t always like this route (they’ve also suggested that they’re going to stop reading content hidden using JS).

Get the ranking order right

I’d also suggest putting the right ranking algorithm in place, as this will dictate the quality and relevancy of content being published. I’d suggest combing relevancy, recency and usefulness (based on user feedback) to rank the reviews – this is a compromise from an SEO perspective and also for user experience.

Getting more volume

One of the key parts of a review strategy is how you encourage the user to complete a review once they’ve purchased – here are some tips:

  • Split test the post-order reviews – I’d suggest testing the language you’re using / messaging in order to improve your conversion rate. You should also be testing the timing of the email – some seem to get better results when sending out shortly after the recipient receives the product, some prefer to give them more time to use the product.
  • Follow up with a reminder – Reminders are good for increasing conversion rates – just make sure you’ve got an exception in place for users who have already completed a review.
  • Provide an incentive – I’d suggest offering a prize draw or a discount code for their next shop, just to make the proposition more enticing.
  • Make leaving a review easy – adding things like a mobile optimised form, having a low number of questions and generally making it a fast and easy process will help to improve your performance.

Measuring performance

Measuring the performance of your reviews is very important, in order to understand what’s working and what isn’t. Here are some key areas where you should be looking to measure and report.

  • Review vs order ratio
  • Email conversion rate
  • Product-level conversion rate
  • Product-level volume
  • Category-level conversion rate
  • Category-level volume
  • Average review rating (against categories and products)
  • Optimum timing of emails
  • Optimum email template
  • Best incentives
  • Email conversion rate for initial email vs follow up

These are just a few examples of metrics you could monitor, there are lots more. If you have any questions or think I’ve missed something – please feel free to leave a comment or email me (paulrogers21@gmail.com).