5 tips for leveraging customer reviews in the holiday season

Holiday retail revenue represents more than just the ca. 25% of annual revenue it brings in. It’s also the chance to collect and use an immense amount of social proof in the form of customer reviews.

Every purchase and visit to your retail location – whether online or offline – stands for a chance to gather reviews. Every e-commerce mailing you send gives you a chance to optimize for conversions by featuring existing reviews. These chances come fast and furious during the holidays.

Email marketing is an excellent channel for making the most of those chances. Why? It’s your direct pipeline to your customers. Also, it’s their preferred way to hear from you.

50% of participants in a recent Adobe study cited a preference for receiving brand communications via email.

How can you best leverage your customer reviews – both gather and use them – during and after the holiday season with email marketing? We’ve got five tips for e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail alike.


How brick-and-mortars can drive local SEO with company reviews

It’s no secret company reviews boost local SEO.

A 2018 survey found that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses before visiting them.

With the high number of store visitors, the holiday season is an excellent time to rack up company reviews. This’ll boost your local SEO throughout the entire next year. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

There’s a flip side, though. The holiday stress. It can lead to temper flare-ups and communication breakdowns.

What do you have to know about holiday stress when it comes to company reviews?

Well, for one, consumers are more likely to write negative reviews than positive ones. Secondly, 57% of consumer complaints are about poor customer service.

In short, holiday foot traffic creates both potential and pitfalls.

In addition to averting negative reviews by doing the obvious and striving to deliver outstanding customer service, you can also use the holiday season to solicit honest reviews. Show you’re listening to your customers’ concerns. Incentivize your fans to become your promoters.

Our first two tips cover ways to request those reviews, both personally and digitally.

1.Convert email list subscribers to promoters.

Brick-and-mortars have come up with myriad ways to entice peple to sign up for their email lists. From asking customers at the register if they’d like to subscribe to planting self-subscribe kiosks on every floor of department stores. But there’s more you can do than just encourage subscriptions.

If you’re a walk-in store with an email list in place, you can use that to turn your subscribers into promoters. If someone signs up to receive your emails, chances are they like you. Maybe enough to write a review.

Establishing automated campaigns lets you catch subscribers at the right moment to write a review. For example, you can ask for reviews in your welcome email or after a customer makes a purchase.

Many companies also have success incentivizing the product review process. If you do so, stress that you want an honest review. Here are some techniques for incentivizing company reviews:


  • Give consumers an in-store discount on their next purchase for reviewing
  • Let a review count for one stamp on a loyalty card
  • Double the discount promised in the welcome email when customers also review
  • Partner with a local coffee shop and offer $10 gift cards for an honest review


Don’t have time to fiddle with subject lines for new automated campaigns? Check out our 10 subject line suggestions (all under 50 characters – mobile-friendly!)




2. Ask for reviews in person.

You can ask for things verbally, too, not just in an email! In-person communication can feel, well, more personal than an email request.

How to do it? Don’t lead with the big ask. Customers need to feel like their voices matter. In fact, that’s why they leave reviews! Because they want their opinions to have value.

Start by letting them know they will be heard. Train your retail staff to ask questions like “Did you find everything you needed today?” and mean it. These types of questions are par for the course in most U.S. retail environments. The trick is not to stop there!

If the customers answer positively, follow up with the bigger ask.

“Would you be willing to review us?” Or “it would be amazing if you could share that information in a review!”

Have a handy stack of business cards by the register. Make sure these include a QR code linking to your Google My Business listing.

Remember, the trick to getting good reviews is not only to be outstanding but also to show you want to address concerns that arise. This means being prepared to handle negative reviews with finesse.


How e-commerce can make the most of product reviews during the holiday season

E-commerce retailers probably have holiday emails series running by now. If not, check out our white paper Email Marketing in the 2018 Festive Season, chock full of campaign ideas.

But are you leveraging customer reviews fully in your holiday email marketing?


3.Lead with social proof in your holiday email marketing

Whenever you’re using email to sell a product, consider appending a product review.

Given that users trust customer reviews more than product descriptions, you should include top customer reviews in mailings. At the very least, you can include a link to product reviews in the form of the average stars a product has garnered.

One place where product reviews also serve well is abandoned cart emails and wishlist emails. If the product has a high review rating, use email personalization to mention it in the subject line or preview text. For example:


  • Do you know what people are saying about the coat you left in your cart?
  • Do you want to buy that 4.6-star book before it’s out of stock?


4.Run a post-Christmas review campaign

The buying frenzy happens before Christmas. Starting on Christmas morning, holiday stress begins to ease and people have free time again to enjoy gifts. Which is why post-Christmas is a perfect time to ask for reviews.

One suggestion is a 12 Days of Christmas Review Campaign. Why the 12 Days? Because it gives customers both a deadline as well as time to do it before work stress hits again.

Set up two email series: one for products purchased for oneself and one for gifts. Note that if your checkout process cannot differentiate between gifts and self-purchases, just run the campaign as if all sales are gifts. You won’t get reviews by spoiling the surprise if you ask the recipient to review something they don’t know they’re getting!

Both of these series are visualized in the infographic below.




Email series #1 “No, this is not a gift.”

Set up the following emails:

  1. Kick-off email. Start the campaign a few days after the sale. Craft an email requesting an honest review of the purchased item, and show you care what they have to say.
  2. Thank-you email. If they review it, excellent! Now, it’s time to thank them. Customized email blocks make it possible to craft a one-size-fits-all thank-you email. Thank negative reviewers for their honesty and indicate you want to improve in the future.
  3. Incentive email. Reveal an incentive they’ll receive for writing a review for you. This can be an in-store discount, a $10 gift card or a raffle ticket.
  4. Email that doubles the incentive after Christmas. Ramp up the pressure after Christmas. Double the incentive if the review posts before the 12th Day of Christmas.
  5. New incentive. If they fail to post a review by the 12th Day of Christmas, offer a consolation incentive, e.g., the original incentive.
  6. Reminder emails. Sprinkle these throughout.


Email series #2 “Yes, this is a gift”

Instead of upping the stakes by doubling the incentive, try offering the incentive to both reviewer (recipient) and purchaser. Reward both equally if a review is posted by the 12th Day of Christmas.

Set up the same email series as above, but address the gift giver. If you’re lucky enough to have the address of the recipient, address them in a separate email series.

Send your kick-off email on 26 Dec., right after Christmas. If you don’t have the gift recipient’s address, set up a customized link the gift-giver can forward.


5.Use overstock and returns for a product sampling campaign

Overstock and returned products are hallmarks of all retailers’ first quarter. There has been a lot of talk in e-commerce lately about how to manage this flood of returns.

Instead of liquidating stock outright, set up a product sampling campaign. Offer overstock and returns at reduced prices or at no cost in exchange for an honest review. It will cost time and money to manage, but product reviews will boost your overall sales.

To sum up, customer reviews are one of your biggest assets. Email marketing offers you numerous ways to tap into this resource to set you up for a happy new year!





Mara Taylor is an online marketing manager for English at Newsletter2Go, an email marketing tool built for SMEs but powerful enough for the big leagues. When she’s not at work blogging about nerdy marketing topics, she’s curled up at home reading a good fantasy novel.

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