Trendy shoe brand Skechers will soon launch a rewards loyalty program to incentivize customers to write reviews in exchange for points, which can then be redeemed as discounts on future purchases. This new initiative, set to roll out in a couple of months, is an extension of its current loyalty program Skechers Elite, which rewards customers for making purchases.

Skechers already has in excess of 60,000 product reviews on the site and another 32,500 questions and answers. With that degree of participation, why would the company need to add margin-cutting incentives? It’s all about CRM says Tim Lakin, e-commerce merchandising manager at Skechers. “If you have a CRM in place, you need to develop different ways of getting people interested and participating,” he stated.

The power of consumer ratings and reviews cannot be overstated. For example, a 2009 survey by Nielsen said that 70% of consumers trust consumer opinions posted online (That’s second only to trust placed in recommendations from people we know, which came in at 90%.)

However, social commerce adds a new dimension to the loyalty equation. In his post last Friday – Is Social Loyalty the Next Big Thing in Social Commerce? – SCT editor Dr. Paul Marsden said that social loyalty could represent the next phase of social commerce. “Social commerce with a loyalty focus is all about driving total customer value over time, purchase value plus referral value. It’s about relationship value, not transaction value,” remarked Dr. Marsden.

It’s no small thing that Skechers is working with PowerReviews, the company that provides rating and review software currently in use by the brand. PowerReviews has positioned itself as a social commerce company and its Essential Social Suite, which is made up of three components – social content, social engagement and social measurement – is the mainstay of the company’s product lineup. Doubtless, Skechers will make ample use of its benefits in this new version of its loyalty program.

The use of incentivized ratings and reviews combined with the relational qualities that social media brings to the table is, I’m certain, what Skechers is banking on to drive sales to even greater heights.