Doug Logan

Leveraging Ratings and
Reviews for Luxury Marketing

Think through your typical process for researching and investing in a new product or service. Where do you start? Chances are, once you have a basic idea of what you want to purchase (and why) you will feel compelled to analyze dozens of reviews. Yes, impulse shopping still happens from time to time — but when an item is at all meaningful, you're willing to put in the time and effort to ensure that you're investing in something you'll adore.

If you prioritize ratings and reviews, you're far from alone. This digital approach to consumer research dominates in nearly every sector imaginable — and in ways that we could have hardly anticipated during the early, practically quaint days of Consumer Reports. These days, we aren't willing to settle for word of mouth or even expert insights; it's the public's opinion we truly care about.

While this tendency exists with products from all categories and at all price points, it's especially evident with investment pieces. The more money we spend on an item — and the more meaningful we find it — the more likely we are to commit to learning as much as possible through the power of online reviews. We intrinsically understand that these represent a mere subset of consumer sentiment, and yet, we cannot help but be swayed by the opinions we encounter.

This reality may sometimes feel frustrating from the luxury brand's perspective, especially as reviews often reflect knee-jerk responses more than genuine assessments of an item's craftsmanship. Still, there lies great opportunity within this seemingly cutthroat world of consumer reviews. We delve into the often hidden possibilities below, highlighting what it takes to develop a positive brand perception by encouraging reviews and ratings.

Why Are Reviews And Ratings Important?

For years, leaders in luxury have assumed that a powerful reputation (paired with elevated marketing initiatives) should be more than enough to drive brand awareness, goodwill, and customer loyalty. Ratings and reviews, while largely regarded as valuable, were not always seen as essential. As consumer sentiments evolve, however, it is becoming increasingly evident that a review-centric marketing strategy cannot be avoided. We've highlighted the growing value of reviews below, especially as this feedback relates to the luxury market.

Establish Trust

Above all else, the purpose of the modern review or rating is to develop a sense of trust with discerning consumers. A wealth of research indicates that, not only do customers now prefer to look at reviews prior to making important purchases, many refuse to work with brands that lack sufficient reviews.

Ratings provide a baseline of trust, revealing that luxury brands are positively regarded by a variety of current and previous customers — and that these brands have nothing to hide. Trust, in turn, increases customers' willingness to spend, especially on luxury items. Customers want to feel confident that the quality of the product and experience will more than justify the premium they're asked to pay.

Insight Into the In-Store Experience

Retail traffic declines are an ongoing issue in many areas of the luxury business, and, while these issues are mitigated (to some extent) by a notable uptick in online retail, there remains cause for concern when customers fail to show up in person. After all, there is no denying the increased engagement that comes with a classic visit to a brick-and-mortar location.

Reviews can help to address or even reverse this problem. While these tend to focus primarily on specific products, exceptional customer service will ensure that reviewers also mention how they were treated along the way. Reviewers may detail powerful moments such as the initial appeal of entering retail locations — or the warm and inviting service they received as they explored this stunning space.

After reading about previous customers' experiences, luxury consumers may be more inclined to take the extra time and effort to follow in their footsteps, rather than exclusively making purchases online. In fact, some reviewers are so satisfied by their in-store experience, they will actively recommend that future customers visit in person, rather than exclusively make purchases online.

Higher Conversions and Spending Per Consumer

Beyond simply convincing consumers to invest in luxury items in the first place, reviews often encourage them to spend more per transaction. Reviewers may, for example, highlight similar (or complementary) products they found appealing — or services they relied on to make their shopping experience that much more enjoyable.

How this plays out will vary considerably between industries and niches, but a familiar example involves embroidery or engravings: fashion or jewelry customers may rave not only about how much they adore particular products, but also, how they were able to make these pieces more distinctive and memorable by investing in opportunities to get them personalized.

For other brands or product categories, reviews might drive customers towards digital add-ons (such as protection plans), which make their experience feel more convenient or trustworthy. Under this approach, customers may think they're getting a steal — but if the add-ons require little overhead on the brand's end, the return on investment can be considerable.

No matter the reason, the data makes it clear: customers spend more when they enjoy access to reviews. This is abundantly clear in results from the Medill Spiegel Research Center, which reveals that, for higher-priced product[s] the conversion rate increase[s] 380 percent when reviews are displayed.

How to Make the Most of Luxury Reviews

It's no secret that reviews are important, but obtaining and displaying them can feel overwhelming — and not just any review strategy will drive desired results. Make the most of this opportunity by following these suggestions:

Actively Encourage Clients and Customers
to Leave Reviews

The first step to boosting reviews and ratings? Acquiring them in the first place. This can be surprisingly difficult, as satisfied customers do not always think to discuss their positive experiences online. Often, the best solution simply involves providing easy access to reviewing mechanisms: a call to action within a marketing email, for example, or even a basic request on social media. Other options include push messages, invoice-based reminders, or even physical materials such as postcards. Not all customers will respond, but many will be happy to share feedback if reminded often enough.

Keep in mind that, as Harvard researchers caution, solicitations for reviews can drive responses into the extremes on either end: while a greater volume of reviews can be expected, more of these will be highly positive — and a few more negative reviews are also to be expected.

Many brands would argue, however, that social proof that comes with a high volume of reviews will exceed the potential downsides of the occasional negative response. Ultimately, however, the when of review solicitations has an outside impact. The good news? If reminders are sent shortly after purchases, they can promptly increase the total number of reviews while also reduce[ing] the share of extreme (very positive or very negative) rating scores.

Don't Forget Testimonials

Not to be confused with reviews, testimonials have a long history of success in the luxury market and can still be an important part of the social proof equation. Testimonials share many similarities with standard reviews but tend to be longer and more detailed. More important is their curated approach: they are carefully selected and displayed. Increasingly, brands are turning to video testimonials to provide a unique and highly memorable alternative to the text-based feedback of yesteryear.

Another oft-forgotten benefit of testimonials? They can have a major impact on the clients or customers who actually provide them. As the Forbes Coaches Council explains, Giving a testimonial increases your emotional bond...imagine the results of making every one of your clients feel appreciated. In other words, this is an easy way to turn thankful clients into loyal, raving fans while also reaping the rewards associated with positive reviews.

Prominently Display Reviews

Customers should easily be able to find and examine a wealth of reviews. The less time they need to spend searching for these, the better. Many brands rely on review badges to provide an instant and highly visual indication of social proof, but embedded reviews can also prove highly effective. These should be placed wherever they're most visible: one or two positive reviews in the header, for example, or several in an easy-to-navigate sidebar or carousel. Service and location pages also can benefit from targeted reviews, while some brands go all-out with dedicated review or testimonial pages.

Address Negative Feedback

Many brands embrace positive reviews while ignoring less-desired, negative feedback. Unfortunately, a growing body of research (not to mention, plenty of anecdotal stories) suggests that this approach is best avoided. For example, research from the journal Frontiers in Psychology reveals that customers' attention tends to be desperately directed towards negative reviews. As such, researchers highlight the need to pay particular attention to negative comments and resolve them promptly.

Reflecting this sentiment, marketing guru Neil Patel actually regards negative reviews as an opportunity to connect in a more meaningful manner with customers while addressing their core concerns. He believes that perfect reviews are not always necessary, adding that negative reviews can actually help your business in ways you may have never expected — perhaps by showing a more human element or even increasing loyalty among previously dissatisfied customers.

Harness the Power of
Social Proof

There is no escaping the need for social proof in our highly connected world. Whether we admit it or not, we are highly influenced by the thoughts and experiences of others, as expressed in ratings, reviews, and testimonials. With this demand comes a huge opportunity for luxury brands: to draw on a wealth of feedback to generate enthusiasm, excitement, and drive while making that critical transition from lead to committed customer.

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