Online customer reviews–both positive and negative–have a huge influence on consumer buying decisions. Research has shown that 97% of consumers consult product reviews when making purchase decisions. Of those shoppers, more than a quarter consult reviews for every purchase they make online. That number jumps even higher for consumers age 18–44.
More than "Nice to Have"
Customer reviews on your website are no longer nice to have — they're essential. Businesses that don’t have reviews online risk losing sales to businesses that do.
Reviews Get Your Business Found on Google
Online reviews do more than influence consumer buying decisions. They create visibility for your business on Google and prove that you're legitimate. Having online reviews is an effective SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactic.
Reviews on a respected third-party site, on your own website, on Facebook and on Google My Business send signals to Google that your business is active and "for real". The more reviews you have, the more visible your business will be in search engine results.
Harness the Power of eWOM
If you’re looking to increase your business’s online visibility, you need “electronic Word of Mouth” (eWOM). eWOM is a term that includes online reviews and social media. Facebook and Twitter have given customers a platform to rave or complain about your company. While social media can drive sales, companies that are ill equipped to market and engage effectively in these platforms risk being left out of the conversation.
Who uses eWOM? “Empowered consumers”, that’s who.
The Age of the "Empowered Consumer"
Empowered consumers live on their smart phones. It’s their constant digital companion. Smart phones have changed how they shop, from the way they evaluate products to the way they actually purchase them. Mobile technology puts content and convenience in your prospects' hands, allowing them to compare prices and product features on their digital devices. The Empowered Consumer is going to check sources before making a decision. Connected devices give people personalized information, helping them make more informed decisions on what they buy.
Empowered consumers are demanding. They know what they want and they don’t want to wait for it. Thanks to constant tv commercials and over-hyped products on the web, consumers don’t trust what you say about your products and services, and they don’t trust ads.
But it appears that they do trust online reviews. Because customer reviews are written by “real people”.
People who read and post online reviews tend to be younger, wealthier and more in tune with technology – an attractive demographic for any business.
Beliefs and Truths About Online Reviews
If you’re still not convinced about the power of online reviews, let’s look at some myths and truths about reviews that might change your mind if you’re skeptical.
1. Belief: Only unhappy customers write reviews.
Truth: The majority of online reviews are positive. However, unhappy customers do seem to have the urge to write bad things about a business online. By complaining publicly, these people create attention for themselves and bring pain to the business they are complaining about.
Potential buyers don’t usually pay too much attention to reviews that complain about poor customer service because this type of complaint is seen as unhelpful in evaluating the products. If a business gets more than one or two complaints about their customer service, then it’s an issue.
2. Belief: Customers only care about the number of stars in a review.
Truth: Consumers consider star ratings in context with all the reviews a business has. People who look at reviews actually read the reviews. They are suspicious of both positive and negative reviews. Fake reviews are common and people know it. Buyers require an average 40 online reviews before believing a business’s star rating is accurate
3. Belief: Good reviews make good reputations; bad ones create bad reputations.
Truth: It seems logical that negative reviews would hurt a business’s reputation. But all reviews can help a business’s reputation. It’s the mix of opinions that create authenticity in a business’s online reputation. While it may seem counterintuitive, negative reviews can have a positive impact because they establish credibility and authenticity.
Research has shown that readers form more positive opinions of a business that has mixed reviews than those with only positive reviews. Nobody’s perfect, and real reviews by real people are what prospects are looking for.
Negative reviews contribute to building your reputation more than they ruin it. Unless of course they completely overwhelm the conversation about your business. Then you have bigger problems than how many reviews you have.
4. Belief: The more positive the review, the better. A business shouldn’t want anything other than praise in its customer reviews.
Truth: To be meaningful, a review should describe how real customers experienced a product or service so that other real customers can decide whether that product or service is a good fit for them, too.
According to research, five stars is “too good to be true” in the eyes of consumers. It was determined that the likelihood of making a purchase peaks at ratings in the 4.0 - 4.7 stars range, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0.
5. Belief:: Your reputation will take care of itself. A small business should focus on its products and services, and let its reputation take care of itself.
Truth: Be proactive in getting customer reviews and being responsive to the reviews you do get. You have to be proactive to get reviews. Customers who have good intentions to write a review won’t do it if they forget, or it’s too hard, or they’re too busy. Your job is to invite each customer to write a review and make the process easy for them.
Honesty is the best approach to use when asking for reviews. Invite customers using a simple, sincere, no-stress invitation to give feedback. Keep the request “soft”. You “invite”, you don’t “ask.” You “remind”, you don’t “nag.” Email, thank you cards, a printed card with an invitation to review are all good ideas.
To Incentivize or Not
Offer an incentive to review or not? Incentivizing is an easy way to get them to write a review. Incentives that businesses have used include:
- Discounts on future purchases
- Gift cards
- Donations to charitable donations
Get Customers into Your Review Funnel
The marketing team at DigitalMX Online will work with you to get your customers into what is called a “review funnel”. The marketing experts at Kitchen Design Partner knows what motivates customers to write a review, and using this knowledge, they “funnel” your customers from their experience with you, all the way through completing a review.
After your customers are in the funnel, they will get guided to the sites – like Angie’s List and Yelp – where potential customers discover, evaluate and compare businesses, products and services.
eWOM is all about your reputation, both online and in the “real world”. When you consider the influence consumer opinions carry, getting your business into this person-to-person conversation can have a greater marketing impact at a lower cost than most any paid advertising.
Former clients will lead you to future customers; all you have to do is “invite” them to tell others about their experience with you.