The good, the bad and the vital. The power of online reviews is inarguable. So how can businesses stay on top of the feedback game?
The burden of choice
Choice. It’s a fine thing. Yet have you ever gone online to find an electrician, carpet fitter or dog sitter and been overwhelmed by the number of options? Ever found yourself scanning the online review section, searching for those sacred five stars to help make your decision easier? Ever seen the word ‘terrible’ pop-up, and had another reviewer’s opinion cement your own?
The consumer pack mentality
We may like to think of ourselves as autonomous beings capable of making independent decisions. But the truth is, consumers have a pack mentality: we’re greatly influenced by our peers, especially in the face of choice overload. In a 2021 study, 87% of respondents admitted that they read at least one online review before visiting a local business, while as many as 94% said that a poor review had persuaded them to avoid engaging with that business at all. Reviews are a highly prized source of online information, twice as likely to influence customer decision-making than loyalty, and 7.4 times more likely than traditional marketing.
What’s more, consumers aren’t just using reviews at the point of online purchase. According to research, 82% of shoppers research products and read reviews on their mobile phones while looking at the same product in-store. Invaluable to customers, critical to businesses, reviews can make all the difference between an open wallet and a closed browser or shop door.
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In good feedback we trust
So, what wisdom should businesses take from these statistics? If glowing reviews of a service or product increase conversions and poor reviews drive potential customers away, then a good review must be considered a prized possession. As should positive feedback on social media. Even if that feedback doesn’t drive immediate sales, it can help to strengthen a company’s credibility and build lasting trust. The very process of reviewing allows businesses and customers to build a relationship with each other, and this reciprocity, in the long term, will lead to better business.
Celebrate the good. Respond to the bad.
This means that ignoring a good review, or not responding to a bad review, is missing a trick. Businesses should share praise and encourage positive interaction on social media, without gloating or overdoing it, while using negative reviews as a chance to show their attentivity and care. Remember, reviews are a two-way street. They ignite dialogue, generate attention, offer businesses the chance to adapt and improve themselves. All serving to not just engage customers, but ideally hang on to them too.
The star factor
So, what type of reviews should businesses be hoping for? And what differentiates a good review from an outstanding one, in terms of impact? There’s no denying that star ratings matter – an easy, visual way for consumers to make a confident and informed purchase. Customers look for a minimum of 3.4 stars before they’ll even consider engaging with a business, so the impact of a one-star review can be detrimental, especially if there’s not many reviews posted in the first place.
Frequency is key
This means that the quantity of reviews is equally important, if not more important, than the star factor. A study from Stanford University found that people choose products on Amazon with more reviews than competitors, even when the alternatives have higher average scores. More reviews also mean better SEO, with fresh feedback helping to drive the content machine and keep businesses on the algorithm radar.
Consistency and relevance
Consistency is also crucial for brands to build and maintain a good reputation. If one customer review waxes lyrical about a business, and the next tells others to avoid it like the plague, this leads to consumer uncertainty. But if a customer is greeted by a chorus of ‘superbs!’ and ‘terrifics!’, then they’re able to form an opinion quickly and take action confidently. The more recent the reviews are, too, the greater weight they carry. In fact, a recent study showed that 85% of consumers think that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. Five stars. Frequent. Consistent. Recent. Together these four things are your golden ticket when it comes to building a positive online presence.
Finally, there’s authenticity. Businesses can’t just display their positive reviews for all to see. They must ensure they’re authentic. According to a survey by TotalRetail, if shoppers suspect a product has fake reviews, 36% wouldn’t purchase the product, and 28% wouldn’t trust the brand again. Trust is fundamental to the success of all relationships, especially those between a business and its customers. So, keep it real.
Make it easy….
The internet has brought everything imaginable to our fingertips: organic grocery delivery, tele-health, a new car delivered to our door. But online reviews play a vital role in this buying process, and can impact everything from trust and loyalty, to sales and SEO. The power of online reviews is inarguable. But 20% of customers, despite often reading them, have still never written one.
… to spread the love
Research has shown that after having a good experience with a business, consumers are significantly more likely to leave feedback if they receive an invitation by text or email. So, businesses should define their review strategy and stay proactive – embracing the review system, encouraging more customers to give feedback, and making it easy for them to spread the love.