Customer reviews play an important role in the success of any company, making it important for business owners and entrepreneurs alike to create strategies for increasing their online engagement.
Think about the last time you looked at an online review. Maybe you were trying to decide on a movie or book, checking the ratings for a new restaurant, or considering different construction companies. Did what you see online help you make your choice? If the answer is yes, then you’re not alone; most people use reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. In fact, 88 percent of consumers consult online reviews before they buy from a local business. That’s because we tend to trust online reviews to give us unbiased and honest opinions of the value that a product or service can bring into our lives.
Given how heavily customers rely on online reviews and testimonials, every leader should prioritize increasing the number of positive ones for their business. But this won’t happen overnight—instead, you’ll have to find ways to actively seek them out.
A brief history
Though it may be hard to imagine a time before the existence of online reviews, they only began appearing in 1999. These were mostly limited to specific retailer sites, such as eBay, at first, but they soon shifted to others like Epinions and Deja. Consumers could post reviews of products and companies that other potential customers could then use to inform their own decisions. This review process quickly grew in popularity, which led to larger organizations taking notice. In 2002, Google acquired Deja and changed the name to Google Groups. And in 2003, DealTime took over Epinions but was later acquired by eBay in 2005.
Following the success of these platforms, other sites, including RateItAll, Yellow Pages, and City Search, entered the sphere, increasing the amount of information that consumers could consider before deciding to support a local business. As more sites appeared and the amount of data available grew, reviews became an intrinsic part of the customer experience.
Today, there are five major platforms for customer reviews—Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and Facebook—and there’s more information available to people than ever before. (Yelp alone has over 265 million reviews.) These sites all utilize a five-star rating system that allows consumers to assess businesses for themselves. And it’s been found that their standards are pretty high: people typically opt for products or services with at least a four-star rating. If others have had satisfactory experiences with the company, they can feel confident that they will as well.
Why reviews are important
When consumers peruse online reviews and testimonials, they are looking for clear evidence that a product or service is worth spending their money on. In addition to seeing how other people have used it and what they generally thought of it, they want to learn more about the business’s customer service and compare them with a competitor. And reading reviews is the best way to determine all of that.
As your business gains more reviews, your brand’s reach and visibility will subsequently increase. Potential customers will take notice if you have twenty, thirty, or even more five-star reviews. In fact, one study showed that products with just five reviews instead of zero are 270 percent more likely to sell. Search engines also tend to favor businesses with large numbers of positive ratings and feedback, allowing more people to discover your organization if you’re one of them.
Such positivity surrounding your company can also help develop your brand’s credibility by increasing trust in your product or service and showing potential customers that you know what you’re doing and will do all that you can to provide a satisfactory experience. After all, you’re likely boasting about your expertise in your marketing—and a high level of positive customer feedback will validate those claims.
How to get more reviews
You may think it’s challenging to obtain reviews, but it really comes down to one thing: requesting them. The reality is, unless their experience is horrible, many consumers don’t even think about leaving a review until they’re asked for feedback. So after you work with someone or sell them your product, don’t hesitate to ask them to review the items or services they received. Not every client will do it, but you can make the process easy for those who choose to by linking to your business’s Google, Facebook, or Yelp page on your website or in an email that automatically goes out to customers.
One way to really grow your reviews is through incentivization. Small discounts on future purchases or gift cards to other local businesses are great examples. It’s important to note, however, that you’re not trying to incentivize positive reviews only. By encouraging customers to review your business, you’re seeking honest feedback—which is what other potential customers want to read the most
Customer reviews play a significant role in the overall success of your business, helping it grow and creating more sales. If you’re not already seeking them out, make sure to put together a plan to ask for them in the future. You’ll also want to get in the habit of responding to the feedback you receive, further proving to others that your business is worth investing in.
Examine your organization’s current review strategies and find ways in which you can encourage more customers to leave feedback on your Google, Yelp, Facebook, or other review sites.