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by Michael P. Hill October 12, 2016

Adding product reviews to your Shopify theme is one the best ways to add a level of interactivity to your store that can also boost conversions and increase sales — but it’s a feature that’s not without challenges.

Reviews are a great way for customers to see “real life” examples of what other shoppers think of a product and learn more about the product and whether it’s right for them.

Reviews or not?

Keep in mind that adding reviews to your store requires commitment beyond just changing some settings. The stores that are most effective with product reviews have solid plans to encourage users to leave reviews, such as these ideas:

  • Follow up emails, whether automated or manual
  • Handwritten or printed notes in shipment boxes
  • Outreach via social media
  • Mentions in newsletters or other email marketing

It’s always worth giving reviews a try and seeing how much interaction you get. However, if your reviews don’t start filling up with meaningful reviews, you may want to consider removing the feature.

Having products with no or just a handful of reviews can often do more harm than good and make your store feel unused and stale.

Finally, avoid the temptation to add fake reviews or having friends and family fill in reviews. They almost always will turn out sounding staged and savvy online shoppers have quite a nose for sniffing out fake reviews.

Adding reviews

There are a wide variety of apps available to add reviews to Shopify themes, but the most popular is probably Shopify’s own free Product Reviews app.

Shopify product reviews app

In fact, the app is so popular that Out of the Sandbox has built in support for this app in our Turbo, Responsive and Mobilia Shopify themes — with the rest of our themes soon to follow suit.

For more details about installing and managing the Shopify Product Reviews app, visit the official Shopify documentation.

For older versions of our themes, consider upgrading using our new Shopify Theme Updater app, or you can manually install the app (or any other reviews app). There is one important layout issue to consider when installing your app manually, which is covered in depth here.

Encouraging reviews

Now that you have reviews added to your Shopify theme, it’s time to start getting customers to post reviews.

One of the most effective ways to encourage reviews is to ensure you have a complete and well thought out follow-up process.

The key strategy is to think about how to encourage customers you know are satisfied to post a thoughtful and accurate review of your products.

Email marketing is probably the most common way to gather reviews, so here are some tips on making the most out of this strategy:

  • Be sure to allow enough time: Don’t email your customers asking for reviews until you’re certain the order has arrived. Not only does that make you look a bit disjointed, it can be a bit of a turn off to the customer. If you’re automating the process, be sure to pad the time trigger a bit to allow for delivery delays or, if you notice a particular order hits a delivery snag, manually cancel the email request if possible.
  • Consider the timing: You’ll also want to consider that, depending on your product, customers may need anywhere from a few days to a few months to really get a feel for how well the item works and be able to provide a worthwhile review.
  • Be persistent but not annoying: It’s fine to be a little persistent when requesting customer reviews, but sending out blanket form emails every few days is just annoying. Instead, think of ways to combine “reach out” with another purpose. You could, for example, send users a link to a recent blog post with tips on how to use it along with the request for a review.
  • Remember the law: In many countries, there are laws and regulations about product reviews, especially ones that may have an incentive attached to leaving one. If you decide to incentivize customers for giving reviews, keep in mind you may need to have a disclaimer stating this next to your reviews.

Bad reviews

Of course, one of the challenges that make some store owners wary of implementing reviews on a Shopify theme is how to handle the inevitable bad review.

The first thing to keep in mind with bad reviews is to not take them too personally.

Often bad reviews are left when a customer has a particularly bad experience for any number of reasons, some of which may be outside of your control.

For example, if a lost or damaged package results in the order not being properly filled, there’s not much you can do to prevent that — and, unfortunately, people with bad experiences tend to be more likely to leave reviews than those who have had positive (or at least uneventful) experiences.

Customers who have bad experiences often feel the need to “vent” and a review form is a natural outlet for this.

When someone leaves a bad review, the best strategy is often to view it as an opportunity to interact with the customer and turn the negative into a positive.

You may even be able to nip a lot of these in the bud by disabling the auto-publish setting in your app; that way you can read all reviews before they appear in your shop, and deal with any negative reviews accordingly.

A good first step is to personally reach out to the customer who left the review and try to work with them to resolve the issue.

If the customer’s issue is resolved, then you can consider one of several options:

  • Remove the review altogether: If the issues brought up in the review were resolved, then you might be able to delete the review in good conscience. This, of course, is a personal decision and may vary on a case-by-case basis.
  • Respond to the review publicly: The Shopify Product Reviews app allows store owners to respond to a review. In your response, you can outline what was done to solve the problem and what the result was. It is, important, however, to keep the tone of your response as friendly and positive, rather than accusatory or negative.
  • Ask the customer to post a revised review: If you’ve worked out a solution with the customer and feel you’ve built a relationship of trust, you may want to consider asking them to leave a revised review. This could be in addition to a previous review left or you may opt to remove the outdated one.

There are also some cases when reviews can be safely removed without feeling guilty:

  • Reviews that are laced with profanity or other inappropriate language
  • Reviews that contain personal attacks on your business or others
  • If the review is blatantly inaccurate in describing your product or service
  • If the reviewer has obviously never purchased or used the product in question
  • If the review is obviously fake

Less than perfect reviews

Another point to consider is that many store owners consider anything less than a perfect five star review to be “bad.” This actually isn’t the case and there’s plenty of reason these reviews can be a good thing.

First, a store with a slate of perfect, gushing five star reviews can seem less credible. Think about it — most customers know that no business or product is perfect, so why would all the reviews be perfect?

Although it might seem strange to say so, a product with, say, a 4.5 review, might actually seem more authentic than one with a perfect 5. It’s a strange psychological phenomenon, but it ends up being true for most stores.

Less-than-perfect reviews are also a great way to both gather feedback for future product development and changes or a way to help new customers find answers to questions about your products.

For example, if reviewers are leaving four star reviews and mentioning that they wish a certain tote you carry was a bit larger to fit scrapbooking supplies, this is a great indicator that you may need to revisit your product design.

Not only that, it could help new customers gauge whether the bag is right for them.

This actually works both ways: A customer searching for a way to carry scrapbooking supplies might decide on another option, which could prevent a return (and the opportunity to sell them something else). Or, someone else looking for something to carry smaller items would be reassured that the tote is right for them.

Reviews in real life

For a good example of the Shopify Product Reviews app in action, check out the Out of the Sandbox store, which is running on Turbo, our latest Shopify theme.

The integration you see there was done without any custom coding or modifications — all that’s needed is the free Shopify Product Reviews app.

By the way, if you’re an Out of the Sandbox user, we always appreciate reviews about our themes. Not only is this a great way to give us feedback and give you the experience of leaving a review from a customer’s perspective, but it’s also one the first places we look for examples of stores using our themes, that we can spotlight in our “Featured Shops” lists.

To leave reviews about our Shopify themes, just pick your favorite theme from our main page and scroll down to the reviews section to leave your feedback.

Michael P. Hill
Michael P. Hill

Michael P. Hill is a Shopify, Shopify theme, content marketing, digital marketing and product management expert based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelphill or connect on LinkedIn.

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