customer reviews in B2B e-commerce
Opinions matter. Or do they? It’s common to hear from B2B e-commerce sellers that reviews aren’t as important as they are in the B2C space. I do not agree. Reviews have certainly proven to be a powerful tool in the B2C space. And research shows that social proof matters. I think this is a missed opportunity for B2B.
Review quantity is a key part of building credibility, so negative reviews will be weighted against the number of overall reviews you have.
Why are B2B merchants hesitant to set up reviews? And what is the solution and the path to effectively implement reviews for B2B?
Resistance to criticism
Businesses that sell to other businesses tend to be more reluctant to make customer feedback public. Business leaders worry about negative reviews, thinking, “What if people say bad things about our products or our company? Why would we allow this?
Additionally, many B2B merchants have a large number of SKUs, which increases the scope of the customer feedback publishing effort. In B2B, it’s also more common to have multiple variations of a product, which can add additional questions to the process of collecting and displaying reviews.
Additionally, many B2B companies still do most of their sales offline. We hear from our clients’ sellers that reviews are less important to their buyers than things like price, contract terms, product availability, etc. I think if your client is primarily concerned about these things, it’s probably because you, as an organization, have already addressed other elements of building trust and credibility with them.
Figure 1 CablesAndKits builds buyer confidence through reviews on their product page.
The case of critics
B2B and B2C are increasingly converging. B2C has led the way in many aspects of e-commerce, and reviews may be next. Reviews are meant to add credibility. This helps in giving confidence to new customers to place an order. Ultimately, you want your current customers to buy more products. You also want to win new customers through your digital platform. Evaluations can play an increasingly important role in achieving these goals.
“There is really no limit between B2B and B2C. It’s a continuum. You buy a pair of shoes. You are buying a pair of work boots. You buy boots for your team. You need to compare work boot A to work boot B. I implemented product reviews in a B2B organization and saw a clear benefit for organic SEO rankings, improved click through rates and conversions from reviews,” said Ted Fay, vice president of e-commerce and digital strategy, Crescent Electric Supply Co.
Figure 2 HomeDepot.com illustrates the continuum between consumers and professional buyers.
What about negative reviews? Experience has shown that the presence of negative reviews can increase the reliability of the overall product rating and can help users understand what the product is not suitable for. Review quantity is a key part of building credibility, so negative reviews will be weighted against the number of overall reviews you have.
“Having customer reviews on our website was one of the first things I wanted to implement when I came to JJ Keller. Sometimes organizations may fear that people will speak ill of products. But at JJ Keller, we view it as an opportunity to learn and improve,” says Adrienne Hartman, senior director of e-commerce and campaign sales at JJ Keller & Associates Inc., a provider of products and services designed to help companies manage workplace safety. and regulatory compliance.
Figure 3 JJ Keller values product reviews and uses reviews to learn from customer feedback.
Another benefit of allowing customers to write reviews is to collect valuable marketing and messaging information. “My team monitors product reviews very closely. We learn from reviews to create product content, to write about the problems our product solves, and to use the words our customers would use when talking about our products. Our customers know this better than anyone on our marketing team,” says Angela Farrell, Head of Conversion Rate Optimization at NewPig.com.
Figure 4 NewPig.com learns from reviews to gain new marketing insights.
Implementation of revisions
Depending on your e-commerce platform, the software for implementing reviews isn’t that complicated. It’s not the technical implementation that’s hard, but there are strategies to get customers to leave reviews and use reviews to increase sales.
Here are a few:
- The more friction you reduce by allowing people to leave reviews, the better! Allow anyone to write a review when they visit your site.
- Use email to prompt users to write a review after a certain amount of time has passed since they ordered their product.
- Consider incentivizing users to write a review: you can enter them into a prize draw for a gift card or offer perks through a loyalty program. Talk about this incentive in the email you send.
Once you have reviews, you can allow users to filter search results based on reviews or sort search results based on ratings. You can also consider featuring the products with the highest reviews on category pages or on your homepage.
Hesitant B2B companies may need to balance the online and offline aspects of reviews. Also consider collecting reviews or testimonials as part of the offline sales and customer service process. Email sequences can still be used even if the initial sale was made offline. It is also possible to collect reviews without publishing them, at least initially. It might not be as compelling for customers to want to participate if they don’t see reviews posted on the site, but it’s a start.
If it’s difficult to collect reviews on individual products due to the number of SKUs or customizations, consider implementing reviews on a subset of your products. Or you can start by focusing on getting users to review your entire site using services like ResellerRatings, TrustPilot, or Google Customer Reviews. You can display a star rating on pages showing your overall score.
Figure 5 XpressTags shows how to display reviews about the overall experience to build trust.
Add value. Build trust. Increase your income.
It is always helpful to ask your customers for feedback to build trust. It also helps you gain insights that can improve your marketing and drive your product strategy. Reviews are a powerful tool with untapped potential in the B2B space. It’s the kind of tool we evaluate with our Success Plan clients when looking for ongoing ways to drive better results on their sites. I think reviews can play an important role in acquiring new customers and increasing sales. If you’re not using reviews today, I recommend considering reviews as part of your strategy.
Lori McDonald is President and CEO of Brilliance Business Solutions, a digital agency she founded in 1998 for manufacturers and distributors, based in Milwaukee. In 2020, Brilliance was named to the Inc 5000 list of America’s fastest growing private companies. Prior to starting Brilliance, Lori worked at NASA-Johnson Space Center as a flight controller for the Space Shuttle program. Lori is a regular contributor to Digital Commerce 360 and other publications, and is a speaker at industry events including the Healthcare Industry Distributors Association Sales and Marketing Summit . In June, she will speak at EnvisionB2B.