Online peer-to-peer customer reviews are a powerful and long-lasting advertising tool. Make the most of your request by asking at the opportune time for your business.

Take a minute to think about how your shopping habits have changed over the past decade. Have you decided against making a purchase based solely on negative reviews from strangers? It’s hard to deny that consumers today have more power than ever. Society has grown weary of traditional marketing tactics and people are turning to their peers.

The evolution in consumer behavior sparked the rising trend in customer reviews.

Today, reviews are an influential commodity in the business world. As consumers, we’ve become accustomed to being asked for a review any time we spend money.

The transcendence of word-of-mouth advertising triggered companies to develop a brand reputation strategy. Creating an effective review collection plan can be daunting. You’re constantly trying to find the balance between asking too much or not enough, and being cautious of turning customers off.

If you’ve ever felt like that, you’re certainly not alone. In my role as a Client Success Manager, I’m often asked for feedback on review collection tactics - is there a best time or approach to achieve the best results. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution, but the “secret” is timing. Review conversion rates also depend a great deal on the industry, product or service.

Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes: If you buy something online and six months later receive a request to leave a review, how likely are you to do it? Presumably not very high. On the other hand, if you joined a boutique matchmaking service and are immediately asked for a review, you haven't had time to meet someone and benefit from their service.

As you can see, review collection methods for online shopping industries versus matchmaking services will look dramatically different. Evaluate the customer journey for your business and decide which touch points make the most sense to request a review. Below are a few tips:

  • Ensure your requests are made at different points during the purchasing cycle to avoid similar reviews. Potential consumers will also gain valuable insight into the customer experience as a whole.
  • In the service and online shopping industries, suggests asking for a review immediately after a service is provided or a product is purchased. Consider creating a review card to include in the package, or to accompany a receipt.
  • In-person requests are incredibly powerful. Think of sales associates or real estate agents - a lot of time is spent with clients. According to Marketing Land, those customers are seven to eight times more likely to leave a review if asked in person. Have a tablet handy with a review form to collect feedback on-site.
  • After a customer interacts with customer service, have an email or review form link ready to send off.
  • For membership programs, upgrades are a great time to ask for a review. This customer is your ideal brand ambassador.
  • Milestones indicate a customer likes your company, a lot, according to Kissmetrics. Think of applicable milestones for your business to request feedback. For example, five or more purchases, spending over $300, logging in 100 hours of exercise, or checking in a certain number of times.
  • Take advantage of social media likes and mentions. If a customer is taking the first step and sharing their positive experience, ask them to write a review.

Avoid these pitfalls as well:

  • For online purchases or subscription boxes, it’s paramount to consider when the customer will receive their purchase. Asking for feedback at checkout or before delivery will result in a lackluster testimonial.
  • If your industry is claims-based, like warranty services or insurance, don’t ask for a review if they haven’t submitted a claim.
  • Be mindful when pulling customer export lists and avoid duplicate requests.
  • Ensure the person being asked for a review is relevant.
  • The FTC has strict regulations around incentivizing reviews. Never ask for reviews as part of a promotion or contest. Check the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines to ensure you are not in violation.

Unresponsive clients can be discouraging. Don't be afraid to follow up on the request. Recent research from found that asking twice more several days apart improved success rates by up to 60 percent. You should also assess the review collection process and ensure it is as simple and easy as possible for the customer. Any friction will decrease the likelihood of a review. Businesses can also take advantage of third-party partners, like ConsumerAffairs for Brands, to streamline this process.

Ultimately, there are two things to keep in mind when thinking about review collection: timing and substance. Don’t fixate on the rating, focus on the content. At the end of the day, you want a high-quality, detailed story being shared. Don’t forget: you’re one great review away from the next purchase.