How Important are Online Reviews?

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Research shows that 93% of consumers look for online reviews before purchasing a product.  This shows just how important online reviews are in this digital age.  Whether you like it or not, your customers are talking about you online and the nature of these reviews can have a big impact on your business.

Why are online reviews important?

With so much choice online, consumers are increasingly seeking reassurance that the product they are buying is what it says it is.  Online review sites like Yelp, Revoo and Google Maps make researching a product simple.  And of course online marketplaces like Amazon and ebay all contain many reviews for different products.

How influential is this on customer purchasing decisions? The answer is very influential. 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation, and 93% of consumers report that online reviews affected their buying habits.

The problem of fake reviews

But not all reviews are genuine.  Amazon has suffered from a problem with fake reviews for several years.  Although they put safeguards in place to ensure that reviews can only be left for actual purchases, this hasn’t stopped unscrupulous sellers from exploiting the marketplace to obtain the all-important 5 star reviews.

Research by Which? found a number of Facebook groups seeking 5 star reviews on Amazon in exchange for refunds on purchases.  They contacted the agents involved and were told to buy certain products, then once they had left a 5 star review they would receive their money back.  The organisation left genuine 2-3 star reviews for the products they purchased and received a lot of pressure from the agents to delete these reviews and leave a 5 star one instead.  No refunds were issued unless a 5 star review was left.

Amazon and Facebook are trying to crack down on these groups, but they just reappear under a different name.

How to spot a fake review

Don’t just look at the overall star score, actually read the reviews.  Do they seem over the top in their praise?  It is unlikely that all purchasers found the product to be ‘perfect’.  Do the reviews contain information about the specifics of the product?  Genuine reviews are likely to go into more detail about the experience with the product.  Are there a lot of 5 star reviews posted at the same time?  This could be an indication of fake reviews.  If it is a brand you don’t recognise, be wary, check to see if they have a website and are easy to contact.

Malicious fake reviews can be very damaging to a brand.  These will be evident if:

  • The reviewer doesn’t leave profile information and has inconsistent reviews – a lot or none at all.
  • There may be links to other websites, trying to draw the consumer away.
  • The review messages will be repeated for other products and will be very generic.

You can report suspected fake reviews to the platform administrators who should be able to remove them.

The benefits of positive reviews

  • Positive reviews mean that consumers are more likely to buy from you.
  • Gain consumer trust – 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase after reading a trusted review.
  • Communicate with customers – reviews give you useful feedback, on most sites you can respond to a review, giving you a way of communicating with customers and resolving any issues.
  • Appear higher in search engine rankings – ‘Negative Sentiment in Google Reviews’ is a negative ranking factor.

Tips for getting good reviews

  • Deliver on promises

It goes without saying that in order to get positive reviews you have to deserve them.  Make sure you are providing the best possible customer service.  Ensure that your product delivers on the promises you make, it must meet customer expectations.  Make sure the price reflects the quality of the product, people want to feel they are getting value for money.  Have quality inspections at every stage of the production process to ensure standards are being met.

  • Claim ownership

If you don’t set up profiles and claim ownership on review sites someone else will no doubt do it for you which can lead to inaccuracies and misinformation.  Monitor the sites regularly to check reviews and make sure you respond to them.  Consumers respond more favourably to businesses that listen to their reviews and take action.

  • Ask your customers for reviews

Ask customers that you know are happy if they’d mind leaving you a review, explain the benefits for you to them.  Many will oblige if asked.  You could either do this just after they purchase, or conduct an online survey.

  • Be transparent

Demonstrate that you are focused on customer satisfaction by sharing all your reviews on your website and responding to them.  Some companies display their Trustpilot and Revoo ratings on their websites with links to them.  A company that is open about their reviews indicates that it is trustworthy and provides good value for money.  One such company is exhibition stand contractor Quadrant2Design.  MD Alan Jenkins said ‘We share all our reviews as they are written, even if they contain spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.  We are confident in the quality of our products and our customer service and have many good reviews and repeat customers.’

  • Thank those who leave you reviews

Respond to each review thanking the customer for taking the time to leave you a review.  Showing gratitude and responding publicly will encourage others to leave reviews.  If you get a particularly good review contact the customer by phone, keeping the relationship going is the way to get repeat business.  The best way to get more customers is through word-of-mouth so keeping your company fresh in the mind of happy customers means they are more likely to recommend you to others.

Conclusion

Online reviews are going to happen whether you like it or not, so the best strategy is to keep tabs on them and control them as much as possible.  Positive reviews will bring your business many benefits and negative reviews will damage it.  The best way to get good reviews is to provide a top quality product at a reasonable price, then follow it up with good customer service.  Keeping an eye on your reviews and responding will enable you to sort out any issues and will demonstrate that you are a transparent and trustworthy company.

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