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Your online presence is a key part of your business’ future, and without a strong one it is likely that you will end up struggling to stay relevant in a constantly changing landscape. But what most fail to realize is that your online reviews are one of the determining factors between whether or not a customer chooses to use your business or decides to turn to someone else.

Studies have found that 97% of millennials read online reviews before they choose a business. Eight out of ten millennials never make a purchase without reading a review first. And it’s not just millennials. Only 6% of those aged 35-54 don’t trust reviews. But the numbers show that you need much more than just some reviews – you need recent ones. Consider the numbers:

  • 85% of online consumers ignore reviews that are more than three months old.
  • Customers read an average of 10 reviews before they begin to trust a business.
  • 56% of consumers pay attention to average star ratings.
  • Consumers average 40 review reads before they actually trust that star rating.
  • 40% of online users only trust reviews that are within the previous two weeks.

So just how do you go about increasing the number of reviews that your business gets? The easy answer is to just ask. Many businesses solicit reviews, and today roughly 74% of people are asked to leave a review after making a transaction with a company of any kind.

One thing that is vital to remember is that you should never try to upload fake reviews or to use a software tool that filters negative reviews out and leaves only positives. Instead, you’ll need to organically generate your reviews in the best way you can. There are multiple options here, and figuring out the right ones is important. With that in mind, here are 12 of the best ways to increase your online reviews.

One – Ask In Person
This is widely regarded as the gold-standard. Start by identifying which of your team members have contact with your customers. Then, train them on how to bring up the topic of leaving a review with a customer. Every request for a review will end up being different depending on the situation and on the business. But at the heart of everything is the fact that when your team member asks for a review directly, they’re much more likely to get one.

Two – Request Reviews On Your Website
It only takes a few short changes on a website to have it set up to request reviews. You don’t want something obnoxious here – instead you should try to take steps that encourage reviews. Some options include:

  • Include a review request on the confirmation page of their order screen when checking out.
  • Use widgets that link back to your profile on a review platform and encourage reviews.
  • Display reviews on your website to showcase your positive reviews and then encourage reviews from new customers

Setting up your site the right way can be a simple way to get reviews without much effort from your team.

Three – Ask Via Email
Businesses have been using follow up emails for years. But now, following up with a thank you and a request for a review has become standard practice. It’s important to find out more about the rules of your chosen platform – some sites forbid requesting reviews while others are fine with it.

If you can, try to keep the email short and sweet, with a little personalization and a thank you message before asking for the review. Don’t sound desperate, but let them know how much you would value a review.

Four – Ask Via SMS
Yes, SMS. It might surprise you, but more businesses are now starting to use messaging services to send out short requests for a review. As with the email, you’ll want a thank you message followed by a request for a review and a link to the website you want the review on. But with messaging, you’ll want to keep things even shorter than in an email.

Five – In Store Kiosk
Place a kiosk in your store that lets customers leave a review. A simple tablet stands beside the register that has your review platform loaded up and ready to go is enough. You can always get creative with it – but be sure that you leave a sign telling customers just what it is.

Six – As Via Live Chat
Any website with a live chat function could be used to request reviews. If you add a review request into your standard procedures, your team or chatbot will be able to end every live chat conversation with a request for a review.

Seven – Use Your Business Card
Business cards have plenty of contact info on them. But what about a quick invitation for the reader to visit a review platform and leave a review? If you’re handing out many cards each week this could be a great opportunity.

Eight – Print It On Receipts
Plenty of stores ask for surveys on their receipts. But now it’s common to use those receipts to request a review. It works for paper and print receipts and can often entice them to leave a quick review for your business.

Nine – In Store Messages
You can also put up signs and requests to leave a review. Just a couple of signs or a scrolling reminder on a branded screen to leave behind a review can often be enough to get great results from your efforts.

Ten –  Use Your Booking System
Keep in mind that any time you interact with customers, it’s a chance to ask for a review. If you use a booking system, include a message on the screen requesting a review. You can also add it to the email confirmation that your customer gest after booking, or include it on all vouchers and e-tickets.

Eleven – Include A Note!
If you’re shipping out products, why not tuck a little card or note inside each shipment that requests a review from the user. Thank them for their purchase, tell them you hope they enjoy it, and then mention that leaving a review would really help your business grow.

Twelve – Use the NFC Box
Using the NFC for wireless data transfer is now becoming standard. Contactless payment systems like Apple Pay are gaining popularity. If you use NFC at your location, pair it with a link or a QR code that allows visitors to get a discount coupon – and to leave behind a review.

These simple steps can give you a big boost to your online reviews and start moving your business forward in a meaningful way. Don’t beg or plead, but get creative. You may find that you have more opportunities than you realized when it comes to generating online reviews.