February 24th, 2009 | 3 MIN READ

8 Out-Of-The-Box Ideas to Attract Customer Reviews

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

The conventional way to attract customer reviews = do nothing.


Beyond that, some retailers do follow up after purchases and ask for a review like BlueNile:

Or ask email subscribers to enter a contest like Orvis:

Good ideas, but limited to those who have made a purchase from you (and actually read your follow-up emails) or have subscribed to your email list. That leaves a big pool of potential reviewers, for example:

1. Online shoppers who have seen/handled the product and not bought, or bought from another retailer.
2. Online or offline shoppers who have not seen/handled the products.

Here are some ways to rally these potential reviewers:

1. Provide incentives on product pages. Macy's asks for a review right on the product page (for a chance to win):

The downside is customers who already own a product, or have experienced the product but decided not to purchase likely aren't viewing these products again online.

2. Surprise with free samples. Depending on what you're selling online, you may be able to slip in a free sample into a package. For example, Lush Cosmetics throws in a couple soap samples. Unfortunately, Lush didn't close the loop by asking for an online review.

3. Use packing inserts. Even if you don't put in a sample, do slip a packing insert asking for reviews - don't rely on just follow-up emails. Famous Footwear tried this for their in-store purchases and claim it drove more review participation than any other marketing activity. And that was just for in-store, imagine if online orders were included.

4. Provide in-store access. If you have retail stores - why not set up a kiosk or even just a laptop and ask customers to review products right in the store? And give them access to others' customer reviews online to help them make purchase decisions in your store.

5. Explore multi-media You could even get creative and allow in-store customers to record their own audio or video reviews for playback on your site. There are services that will also transcribe audio.

6. Throw a customer appreciation party. Why not throw a special customer appreciation party, inviting customers to come to eat good food, try products, write reviews, receive freebies and enter to win a big prize? This could work very well for children's clothing, footwear, cosmetics stores and specialty food / wine sellers.

7. Recruit sampling teams.

You could offer passionate customers access to an exclusive "review team." One approach would be to offer customers samples on a regular basis in exchange for reviews. If, like Lush Cosmetics, you frequently add new products to your offering, sending advance samples help you launch the product with customer reviews already submitted. Advance samples also make the reviewer feel part of an exclusive club, which could increase loyalty and evangelism. Naturally, this wouldn't work for every e-tail category.

8. Free return shipping with conditions

I expect this to be controversial -- but you may consider offering free return shipping as a courtesy for helping customers like them understand the shortcomings of the product. You'll need to be sensitive how you word it on your Returns Policy page.


  • Greater transparency means greater trust with your e-store
  • Will reduce future returns for that item if customers understand why an item is returned (shoe fits short, had to exchange for larger size or product irritated sensitive skin)
  • Gives you backup if you want to return your stock to the manufacturer (customer testimonials the product is poor quality or has common bugs)


  • Adds to negative review pool for a product, may make this product harder to sell
  • May not be received favorably by customers (they may assume they're entitled to free return shipping, especially if your competitors also offer it

Would be interested in hearing your thoughts on any of these ideas, especially #8.

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