Building trust online: how can newly developed e-commerce sites obtain great customer testimonials?

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In my last post, I spoke about how firms can build trust through customer testimonials. The conclusion was clear in that customer testimonials can help deliver social proof to build online trust, especially in newly developed e-commerce sites. That’s all good and well, however, how do we go about obtaining these customer testimonials? This post explores how you can do just that.

Customer satisfaction

Obtaining quality customer testimonials all starts with having a customer focus and fulfilling their needs, after all, who is going to provide a testimonial if they aren’t satisfied with their purchase? Sivadas & Baker-Prewitt (2000) suggest that service quality and satisfaction have a positive effect on consumers’ likelihood of recommending the store to others. In the digital world, you need to go further. If you are operating an e-commerce business, a key part of customer satisfaction will be the customer’s experience from product awareness through to product bonding (Roberts, 2013). Roberts’s outlines how by mapping the customer journey, you can use this information to improve the customer experience. More information can be found at Smart Insights.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

Okay, so you’ve nailed the customer experience and have an abundance of satisfied customers, now what? You need to start asking for feedback! Important note: ask for feedback, not testimonials. This will help add authenticity to your testimonials and provide you with useful information in the process! More on this here.

Wolosky (2003) suggests the importance of asking for testimonials and that clients will never say no and often ask you to draft up what you would like them to write. However, this needs to be considered critically, it is very possible that every customer will not write you a testimonial (even if you ask them to) and writing a testimonial on behalf of a customer can risk losing its authenticity. That said, the key message is true, you need to ask. Davis (2014) suggests that the best way to get reviews is to ask for them and the best time to ask is when you finish the job and are with them. However, in an online context, this might not be appropriate so we need to consider other alternatives.

Online customer surveys

Traditionally, as Andersson (2017) highlights in the Harvard Business Review, customer surveys have been approached with a pessimistic mindset which is focused on problems. However, it is important to ask your customers about the positives. Be careful not to avoid asking about negatives completely though as often highlighting an objection can add credibility. It is worth mentioning that if you are going to use feedback from a customer survey in a testimonial that you should request permission first. Aside from testimonials, customer surveys can get you great data.

Purchase follow up email

A great way for an e-commerce site to request feedback can be via email post-purchase. Moth (2013) at EConsultancy suggests a useful time can be a week to 10 days once the customer has received a product. You could start the email with something like “I hope you are enjoying your new product, we would love to hear your feedback”. Paypal (2017) suggest following up with shoppers and asking for their thoughts on key parts of the sale (the checkout, the product, the price, the delivery). Asking questions on specific parts of the sale will demonstrate you have delivered on the entire customer experience and thus alleviate prospects reservations about these different elements.


“You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”. This concept is embedded in psychology and the official term is ‘reciprocal altruism’. According to this theory, willingness to share resources (or to offer help in general) is directly proportional to his willingness to reciprocate (Osiński, 2009).  Although one might hope if you have offered an exceptional experience, your customers would be happy to provide a testimonial regardless, based on this psychological theory it can be useful to provide an incentive. Particularly for extrinsically motivated individuals (Ryan, R.M. and Deci, E.L. 2000).

This is a technique which was used in the pre-digital era as Reinartz (1996) suggested that firms might consider providing customers with a gift certificate or tickets for a local sporting event should they provide a testimonial. Reciprocal altruism can be translated into the digital world. The figure below by Volk, Pitzschel. & Mühlhäuser (2014) illustrates that receiving a reward can translate into more online reviews. Participants were asked for their level of consent towards each of the potential incentives in the figure below.


Volk., Pitzschel. & Mühlhäuser (2014) also highlight that incentivising through a reward can create a tendency towards a positive review. However, what the research fails to recognise is the quality of said reviews. This links back to the importance of authenticity highlighted in my previous post, if a customer is only writing positively due to an incentive, this might cause it to lack authenticity. Nevertheless, providing an incentive might be a useful way to obtain testimonials.



Customer testimonials can be important for building online trust, but you might not get them if you don’t ask! A great way to obtain authentic testimonials can be to ask for customer feedback and avoiding using the term testimonial. If you are an online business and don’t have face-to-face contact, you can do this through customer surveys or maybe ask direct via email following a purchase. You might consider offering rewards but not at the cost of losing authenticity! Don’t forget though, getting great customer testimonials boils down to providing a great customer experience in the first place!


*Note: this is a blog written by a University of Brighton student for a Business Management module.



Andersson, K. (2017) The Power of Positive Surveying. Harvard Business Review. [Online] [Accessed 02 May 2017].

Davis, J. (2014) How to Get Customers to Write Awesome Reviews for You. [Online] [Accessed 02 May 2017]

Jin, L. and Huang, Y., 2014. When giving money does not work: The differential effects of monetary versus in-kind rewards in referral reward programs. International Journal of Research in Marketing, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp.107-116.

Moth, D. (2013) 10 ways to encourage customer reviews online. Econsultancy. [Online] [Accessed 02 May 2017]

Osiński, J. (2009) Kin altruism, reciprocal altruism and social discounting. Personality and Individual Differences, Vol. 47, No. 4, pp.374-378.

Party Music Online (2017) Testimonial [image]. Available at: [Accessed 04 May 2017]

Paypal (2017) Establish trust in your online business [Online] [Accessed 03 May 2017]

Reinartz, R.D., (1996) Testimonial Ads Win Loyalty and Attract Customers. Bank Marketing, Vol. 28, No. 3 pp.25-31.

Roberts, J. (2013) Examples of customer journey mapping. 22nd October 2013. [Online] [Accessed 02 May 2017]

Ryan, R.M. and Deci, E.L. (2000) Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary educational psychology, Vol. 25, No. 1, pp.54-67.

Sivadas, E. and Baker-Prewitt, J.L. (2000) An examination of the relationship between service quality, customer satisfaction, and store loyalty. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 28, No. 2, pp.73-82.

Volk, F., Pitzschel, J. and Mühlhäuser, M. (2014) Making the Most of Customer Product Reviews. CENTRIC 2014: The Seventh International Conference on Advances in Human-oriented and Personalized Mechanisms, Technologies, and Services.

Wolosky, H. (2003) Targeted testimonials. The Practical accountant. Vol. 36, No.3, pp. 24-29.


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