Online reviews are a boon to some and a bane to others, but either way, they’re here to stay. Studies show that an increasing majority of customers (upward of 60%) turn to online reviews when they are researching new products, services, or restaurants.
Why does it matter?
Online reviews help customers make choices by offering a kind of credibility through a concept called “social proof.” Social proof is just a fancy way of saying that humans look to others to inform and validate their decisions. Online reviews are perceived by potential customers as unbiased information from others who have experienced your product.
Major online review sites like Amazon, Angie’s List, Consumer Reports, and Yelp, or industry-specific sites like Capterra, Influenster, and TripAdvisor can be places where potential customers search for the feedback prior customers have shared.
As a small to medium-sized business, you may feel overwhelmed at the thought of one more thing to track and manage, but don’t turn away. Online reviews are here to stay, and in this case ignorance isn’t bliss. It can be difficult to keep up with the various online megaphones people use, but the fact that so many turn to these tools when making decisions means they have a real impact on a business’s reputation, and owners must take them seriously.
Tips for making reviews work for you:
No one wants to see negative reviews, but they can be used to your advantage if you respond in a timely, constructive, and helpful way. Reach out with an apology, relevant information, and an offer to follow up with the customer offline. This strategy can even build greater trust with potential customers, as it shows you are paying attention and willing to work with folks.
When asking customers to write reviews, emphasize quality. Give them opportunities to weigh in with more than stars to rate their experience. Ask them to share a bit about how you helped solve a problem, or why their experience was excellent. Human brains are designed to learn through stories. We naturally remember stories much better than facts or statistics. In this way, real positive anecdotes written by customers are more meaningful and relevant than stars in a review.
The more reviews, the better. When potential customers see that many others have used your services, it adds greater social proof. If you’re starting from zero, set some milestones for yourself along the way as you build numbers of reviews. Research seems to show that you can track a measurable increase in business once you hit 50, provided they are mostly positive.
Here are a few ways to encourage people to leave reviews:
Invite them to do so, either in person at the end of a transaction, as post to social media, or in an email follow up
Make it easy! If you have an e-commerce site, include a review at the conclusion of a sale, or send a note with a link 7 – 10 days after your customer receives your product
Incentivize reviews by providing coupon codes, drawings, or giveaways
Be sure you are “mobile friendly”—most people are doing research and reviews on their phone these days
When people email you thanks, anecdotes, or useful feedback, ask their permission to use the testimonial on your website, either anonymously or with their name associated
If you’re already tracking online reviews, have you noticed an impact on your business?
If you’re preparing to begin using online reviews as part of your overall marketing strategy, what is the first step you will take? We’d love to hear!
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