We all do it. We look at the star ratings and read the online reviews before we buy. Of course, we do – it’s good. Helpful, even. But do you ever go back online to leave a review after buying and using it? Yeah, not so much. Me neither.
For brands, in today’s world, online reputation is important – fed by honest reviews of customers. Indeed, so important that reviews can be the greatest benefit or heaviest burden, no matter if you own a small, local or a big, global business.

So, how do brands get customers to help build a positive online reputation?

Increasing the number of online customer reviews and ratings
No matter what, and how strongly, people might think about your product, taking the extra effort of going online, typing a few words, and publishing a comment can pose a big hurdle. To help them overcome it pay attention to the following three areas.

1. Personal motivators

The strongest motivations for people to publish content online are:

  • 1. reputation
  • 2. sense of belonging
  • 3. enjoyment of helping

Why? Using review platforms and social media to portray ourselves as intelligent shoppers increases our positive self-image. We also have an innate urge to be part of social groups which means we obtain social benefits from contributing to virtual communities. Apart from that we are motivated to comment online out of partially altruistic reasons. We may feel obligated to give back valuable information we received from the community before, or we want to give others the feeling they owe us.

But how can you bring this to life? Simply adding a short sentence to your online product description could have a great impact. Take a look at the following examples playing on the motive of reputation:

  • “Be the one to tell others about Product X.”
  • “You are an important voice in…”
  • “As a user of Product X your opinion matters to others who’re choosing a new…”

Alternatively, if you want to create a call to action applying the need to belong, these suggestions might give you a good idea of what this could look like:

  • “Join Product X users in reviewing…”
  • Product X-ers are an important part of the millions of users across the world/country…”
  • “Help review Product X.”

2. Triggers

Independent of the motivational frame, different phrasings of the call to review can have very different effects. A ‘visualising-how’ wording would, for example, make people comment right away, whereas a ‘verbalising-why’ choice of words would rather push their actions to a later point in time. Which words trigger which actions and which action should be triggered at the different stages of the user experience pathway are beyond the scope of this post. If you want to know more, let us know. We’re happy to help you out.

3. Contextual mediators

Besides behavioural motivations, characteristics of the context influence the likelihood of customers to write an online review as well. Gender, brand involvement, negative reviews and product popularity, for example, have proven effects and have to be considered when creating a call to review.

If your customers show high brand involvement, meaning they focus their reviews on the brand rather than the specific product, they are more likely to comment online. Brand involvement is associated with stronger emotions than product involvement. Whenever people feel strong emotions (positive or negative) they get an urge to vent these in order to keep an internal balance and an online review platform provides a great space for that. This effect does not include rules about the content of reviews, though. Brand involvement specifically influences the number of online reviews. This does not necessarily provide an advantage on its own, it is generally difficult to influence brand involvement, but it is definitely an important contextual mediator to take into account when creating a strategy around online reviews.

Putting the pieces together
The critical step to successfully creating a positive online footprint is finding the matching pieces from the three areas we just discussed and correctly putting them together. Start by defining who your customers are, the time and place you ask them to review and how popular your product already is. Depending on the profile you end up with, the different kinds of motivations will have different effects.

  • Sense of belonging, for example, is mostly helpful if your product is popular and has lots of reviews already
  • Reputation works on every level of popularity
  • Enjoyment of helping is a much bigger motivation for women to comment online than it is for men

and so on.

Combining the right factors with the right conditions can be a bit complicated, but if you manage to figure it out the benefits will be worth it.

Cheung, C. M., & Lee, M. K. (2012). What drives consumers to spread electronic word of mouth in online consumer-opinion platforms. Decision support systems, 53(1), 218-225.
Dellarocas, C., Gao, G., & Narayan, R. (2010). Are consumers more likely to contribute online reviews for hit or niche products?. Journal of Management Information Systems, 27(2), 127-158.
Dellarocas, C., & Narayan, R. (2006). What motivates consumers to review a product online? A study of the product-specific antecedents of online movie reviews. In WISE (pp. 1-6).
Hennig-Thurau, T., Gwinner, K. P., Walsh, G., & Gremler, D. D. (2004). Electronic word-of-mouth via consumer-opinion platforms: what motivates consumers to articulate themselves on the internet?. Journal of interactive marketing, 18(1), 38-52.
Ketelaar, P. E., Willemsen, L. M., Sleven, L., & Kerkhof, P. (2015). The good, the bad, and the expert: How consumer expertise affects review valence effects on purchase intentions in online product reviews. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 20(6), 649-666.
Lee, J., Park, D. H., & Han, I. (2008). The effect of negative online consumer reviews on product attitude: An information processing view. Electronic commerce research and applications, 7(3), 341-352.
Trope, Y., Liberman, N., & Wakslak, C. (2007). Construal levels and psychological distance: Effects on representation, prediction, evaluation, and behavior. Journal of consumer psychology, 17(2), 83-95.
Wolny, J., & Mueller, C. (2013). Analysis of fashion consumers’ motives to engage in electronic word-of-mouth communication through social media platforms. Journal of marketing management, 29(5-6), 562-583.
Yoo, K. H., & Gretzel, U. (2008). What motivates consumers to write online travel reviews?. Information Technology & Tourism, 10(4), 283-295.

Image c/o traveltripper

For more on this speak with us

Also, as co-founders and supporters of the London Behavioural Economics Network, join the Meetup group and Facebook group for more details and events