Announcing the end of the Yotpo Reviews experiment
Are you willing to give up your sales data for higher conversion rates? How much do you value your customers privacy? Last week I experimented with a new review service called Yotpo.
If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a neat e-commerce plug-in that takes care about collecting and publishing product reviews in a variety of ways. Read more to see the results of the experiment and to find out if I decided to use the plug-in in my shop or not.
In their own words, “Yotpo is a plug and play social reviews solution for e-commerce websites”. With the Yotpo plug-in installed, shoppers can read and write product reviews, get automatic reminders to write reviews after the purchase and even have an automatic review loyalty program. To the Web site owner, Yotpo offers reports and analytics providing insight to tweak the merchandising strategy.
Under the hood
It must be said from the start that Yotpo is the service, and not a typical plugin. That is, all the data, the reviews, the ratings, the emails, and all the social interaction reside and managed outside of your Web shop. The reviews and ratings are stored on Yotpo servers and making changes and tweaks require logging to Yotpo’s Web site.
The basic service is free and what you get is impressive. The main features include: automated purchase follow-up emails asking customers to review their transactions, review widget, site review tab, and reviews tab for Facebook.
The reviewers can instantly share their reviews with their followers on Facebook and Twitter.
The plug-in gives Web owners an option to ask for storewide reviews, not related to a particular product.
Yotpo gives Web masters an option to create the “reviews” mini-site to boost site’s ratings in search engines (or so they say).
Web shop owners can send targeted review requests to an arbitrary list of customers.
Web masters can push new reviews to their social accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
Yotpo offers functionality to reward reviewers with coupons, however, I did not test this personally.
Since it’s a service, you don’t have to worry much about the maintenance, security, and spam as you would do with the local review system.
I sent a question to support and got the response within 24h. Considering the time difference (Yotpo is based in Tel Aviv) that was reasonable.
As stated above, the reviews reside elsewhere and rendered on the site via widget. While, it’s not a deal breaker by itself, it may become an issue should Yotpo decide to pursue a different business strategy (like discontinuing the free service, for instance).
Yotpo gives your very limited control over the content of the reviews. Basically you only have a choice between publishing or “archiving” the review. It’s not entirely clear what happens with archived reviews.
Replying to reviews is a premium feature and requires paid account. Well, maybe I shouldn’t call it “bad”, as every company needs to make money, but ability to reply and to maintain the dialog with my customers was essential to me, so I was surprised it was absent.
Yotpo provides functionality to customize the emails it sends to customers on your behalf, however, I found the customization options somewhat limited and wasn’t able to match my store’s email template.
The last but not least, showing the reviews via widgets raises all kinds of questions how this works with search engines and how it helps your ranking. I wouldn’t call myself a SEO expert, so I may be off here, but I would very much prefer the reviews being the integral part of my product page loading at the same time as the rest of the content and without any delays.
And here comes one thing that eventually tipped the scales and made me remove the plug-in for good.
While testing the plug-in I noticed a PHP code warning on the checkout page which prompted me to dig deeper into the plug-in code. While getting rid of the warning was easy enough, another thing made me deeply concerned.
Your every sale is reported to Yotpo. Yes, you heard me right. The sales records along with your customers personal details are sent straight to Yotpo and (supposedly) remain there indefinitely.
In particular: customer email, customer billing name, order date, order ID, order currency, the products included with the order, and more.
You don’t have to be a marketing genius to realize that’s powerful data. Basically, now the company knows who buys what and when and for how much, which makes this quite valuable if you want to market to these people or to do a marketing research.
That’s the smart strategy, no doubt, but didn’t quite sit well with my understanding of privacy and my obligations as the store owner to keep my customers data safe. After a bit of deliberation, I decided not to use the plug-in any further.
Please note that the above applies to the plug-in version 1.08 (the most recent version at the time of the writing) and may or may not apply to the earlier or the subsequent versions.
Conclusion or to Yotpo or not to Yotpo?
Just to be clear, I didn’t write this to badmouth Yotpo. It’s a great service and they do terrific job. However, as with most free services, in order to gain something you need to give something up. In this case, you are giving up your data.
As a Web shop owner, I certainly want to employ the best merchandizing practices to improve my customers experience and to increase my sales. However, if you are considering implementing Yotpo in your Web shop, the question you need to ask yourself is:
How much do you value your customers privacy?
If you do, you may not feel at ease with sharing your clients personal and transactional info with the third party companies, and especially the foreign ones, since they may be operating under totally different privacy laws. It also may happen that the laws in their jurisdictions are much more lax when it comes to data privacy, so they are not under the same obligation to guard this information as you do.