8 Out-Of-The-Box Ideas to Attract Customer Reviews

The conventional way to attract customer reviews = do nothing.


Beyond that, some retailers do follow up after purchases and ask for a review like BlueNile:

Or ask email subscribers to enter a contest like Orvis:

Good ideas, but limited to those who have made a purchase from you (and actually read your follow-up emails) or have subscribed to your email list. That leaves a big pool of potential reviewers, for example:

1. Online shoppers who have seen/handled the product and not bought, or bought from another retailer.
2. Online or offline shoppers who have not seen/handled the products.

Here are some ways to rally these potential reviewers:

1. Provide incentives on product pages. Macy’s asks for a review right on the product page (for a chance to win):

The downside is customers who already own a product, or have experienced the product but decided not to purchase likely aren’t viewing these products again online.

2. Surprise with free samples. Depending on what you’re selling online, you may be able to slip in a free sample into a package. For example, Lush Cosmetics throws in a couple soap samples. Unfortunately, Lush didn’t close the loop by asking for an online review.

3. Use packing inserts. Even if you don’t put in a sample, do slip a packing insert asking for reviews – don’t rely on just follow-up emails. Famous Footwear tried this for their in-store purchases and claim it drove more review participation than any other marketing activity. And that was just for in-store, imagine if online orders were included.

4. Provide in-store access. If you have retail stores – why not set up a kiosk or even just a laptop and ask customers to review products right in the store? And give them access to others’ customer reviews online to help them make purchase decisions in your store.

5. Explore multi-media You could even get creative and allow in-store customers to record their own audio or video reviews for playback on your site. There are services that will also transcribe audio.

6. Throw a customer appreciation party. Why not throw a special customer appreciation party, inviting customers to come to eat good food, try products, write reviews, receive freebies and enter to win a big prize? This could work very well for children’s clothing, footwear, cosmetics stores and specialty food / wine sellers.

7. Recruit sampling teams.

You could offer passionate customers access to an exclusive “review team.” One approach would be to offer customers samples on a regular basis in exchange for reviews. If, like Lush Cosmetics, you frequently add new products to your offering, sending advance samples help you launch the product with customer reviews already submitted. Advance samples also make the reviewer feel part of an exclusive club, which could increase loyalty and evangelism. Naturally, this wouldn’t work for every e-tail category.

8. Free return shipping with conditions

I expect this to be controversial — but you may consider offering free return shipping as a courtesy for helping customers like them understand the shortcomings of the product. You’ll need to be sensitive how you word it on your Returns Policy page.


  • Greater transparency means greater trust with your e-store
  • Will reduce future returns for that item if customers understand why an item is returned (shoe fits short, had to exchange for larger size or product irritated sensitive skin)
  • Gives you backup if you want to return your stock to the manufacturer (customer testimonials the product is poor quality or has common bugs)


  • Adds to negative review pool for a product, may make this product harder to sell
  • May not be received favorably by customers (they may assume they’re entitled to free return shipping, especially if your competitors also offer it

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on any of these ideas, especially #8.

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20 Responses to “8 Out-Of-The-Box Ideas to Attract Customer Reviews”

  1. Great tips, thanks for sharing.

  2. Rachel says:

    I think there are a lot of rules, lists and ways that companies can go about finding a feedback system that works. As a consumer, I would honestly say that simplicity is the most likely factor to get me to complete a survey or response after making a purchase or otherwise taking an action online. Your first example would be more likely to get me to leave feedback than the second. The first is direct, upfront and honest. It is simple and addresses the consumer by name. I would feel comfortable responding to this because I get the feeling there are no gimmicks. The second one looks more like an advertisement, which I would be wary of. I really believe simplicity and sincerity is the best way to go about generating feedback.

  3. I really only want someone who has the product and purchased it doing a review. If people want to give their opinion on a product they have never used then there may be a forum for that, but I don’t think a product review is that forum.

  4. I tend to agree with Kevin. If word got out that you were posting reviews from people who’d never actually tried your products, the credibility of all your reviews would be shot.

    In fact, the whole idea of compensating customers for reviews is quite delicate. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, just that we should be careful. For example, make it very clear that the review needn’t be positive.

    I especially like the package insert idea.

    • @Kevin and Michael, reviews would always be from people who have experienced the product – whether seeing it in a store and evaluating the purchase (I might have tried on a particular sweater at the GAP and found it fit large for its size or that the fabric was scratchy so I didn’t buy it, but my feedback is valuable to others) or by sampling (receive sample, review product without purchase). Not sure if I made that clear.

  5. BELEN says:

    This article is interesting; because the trader is important to review the client, but it is necessary to analyze the comments it may well be people who only bother to comment and may not buy.
    Item eight is a good idea to comment but it is risky, because sometimes the buyers to know that you can return any pretest might seek to do so, I think maybe putting an official specific and strict rules in order to have the option to return a product, and also depending on the product.

  6. BELEN says:

    I’m sorry the previous cometary write me wrong, it is …because sometimes the buyers to know that you can return could find any pretext to do so…
    I don’t write in english very well.

  7. While we are not in retail, our site relies heavily on user-generated reviews. The difficulty with offering incentives can be that some users will post just because they want the prize, and the quality goes down.

    I suppose something is better than nothing, but having detailed well-thought out reviews is certainly best.

  8. Vijay R says:

    A few more ideas to solicit reviews – assuming customers are ok with it, call up a few of them who bought the product, and ask them to write a review. One can also use this opportunity to make this a “customer satisfaction” survey call, so that you provide a good touch point to the customer, and hopefully get some valuable info about the shopping experience as well.

    Another idea could be to send emails to the customer soliciting their review when certain events are triggered. For instance, events could be “be the first to review”, or “someone reviewed this product you bought, do you agree with what they said?”

    The review system should also make it really easy and quick to write a review. Yahoo does this well – if all you want to do is to rate a movie, it is simple to do – writing a review is optional. And, where applicable, guide the customer to rate various aspects of the product – again, look at how Yahoo autos or shopping solicit reviews.

    Of course, you can skip all this hard work and just use WisdomTap’s product! :)

  9. Another pool of verified buyers is a loyalty program. If you can tie your customer’s in-store purchases to their loyalty card and an email address then you have a great order history. An integrated channel approach to reviews is a great strategy for anybody who can pull the data together.

    Not as good for smaller retailers but if you collect shipping emails for people in a UPS database you could do a similar thing. Quantum View software should allow you to dump the data if you tied boxes to actual product ids.

  10. do nothing. is it true? confused.

  11. [...] it’s tough to attract customer reviews, shoppers trust the opinion of “people like them” far more than your slickest sales [...]

  12. Ed Fry says:

    Great article and great posts. I will be sharing this!

    I like suggestion #5 – implementing it online perhaps could be tricky. Live webcam reviews anyone?:p

  13. [...] 8 out of the box ideas to attract customer reviews [...]

  14. I added product reviews, months back. I think they are having a positive effect on sales. I email customers monthly to request reviews, I think it has been a positive situation for both me and the people interested in an Audio Bible.

  15. [...] trouble attracting customer reviews? Recruit your expert staff, but make sure you disclose they’re on your [...]

  16. Daman says:

    These are applicable for stores selling products like garments, electronics and other consumer items. What about websites selling gifts/flowers (most customers order flowers for other).

  17. Daman says:

    These are applicable for online garment stores electronic stores. These can not be applicable for gifting and flowers website (a customer send flowers to others).

  18. Retha Steff says:

    Comment writing is something of a new art form, and as many people who get comments will tell you, some are great and some are horrible. In fact, I’ve embedded a hilarious video at the bottom of this article of some girls from YouTube doing a rap song about the awful comments they get on their videos. It’s called “Yo Comments are Whack,” and it’s worth the time. It’s good to know your blog is much better than these and will never end up being made fun of.

  19. Ray Stump says:

    But the client could easily be updated (and the terms of service, too) to capture passwords, without informing anybody.

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