The old saying, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is becoming even more important in the age of customer reviews. When you search for products or services online, you can’t help but notice the pages of reviews customer have created. Today’s businesses simply cannot escape from customer reviews.

The Power of Reviews: Gaining Credibility via Public Customer Reviews

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But do public customer reviews benefit a business or cause it more harm? This guide will look at the rise of customer reviews, the ways they can enhance customer trust and provide you tips on ways to harness customer reviews to benefit your business.

HOW REVIEWS BECAME IMPORTANT

It is fair to say reviews didn’t used to play such an important role in consumer decisions. People have, of course, been sharing their opinions and recommendations of products for a long time. But whilst you used to ‘review’ a product or service for only your inner circle of friends and family, you can now share the review with the rest of the world.

In fact, it’s also fair to say product and service reviews used to be the job of professionals. When it came to a new restaurant, movies and even household items, critics and newspaper reviewers had the only say.

The rise of technology has truly revolutionized and democratized the reviewing system. Internet has ensured you can share your views of a product or service with people from around the world and you don’t need to know the right connections in order to voice your opinions.

Websites such as Yelp and Google+ Business have offered everyone the option to give an opinion of a service they experience. Big retail websites, such as Amazon, also guarantee you don’t need to buy a product without reading a few reviews first.

Today’s business models have also changed the way we view reviews. Companies such as Uber and AirBnB have created a new type of economy, which is called the sharing economy. This shift towards businesses that rely on reviews has naturally enhanced the power and trust people put on reviews.

If you are old enough to look back in the 70s or 80s, it can be hard to imagine you would rent your home to a complete stranger. But technology and the sharing economy have made you trust in people you don’t even know – as long as you can read a bit about them online!

Stats to highlight the importance and power of reviews

Customer reviews might have increased, but does it mean they have any real power? This simple statistic alone should be enough to convince you of the power of reviews:

  • 61% of customers read online reviews prior to making a decision to buy: As we mentioned above, people don’t only trust their inner circle anymore. One study has found nearly 70% trust online reviews, even when they don’t know the person reviewing the product or the service. The change has been quick, as the number of people who trust online reviews has increased by 15% in just four years.

There are further stats to show you the effect of reviews, in case the above doesn’t quite convince you. The ratings & reviews service platform Reevoo has done extensive research on the topic. Their studies have found the following:

  • Product or service reviews can produce an average 18% uplift in sales.
  • If the product or service has more than 50 reviews, there can be a 4.6% increase in its conversion rates.

Furthermore, iPerception’s study in 2011 found 63% of consumers more likely to buy a product from websites and retailers that have public reviews.

Another point is that the importance of reviews is most likely only going to increase in the future. The increase in smart phones is a big part of this trend. Consider the fact that 60% of respondents in an On Device Research survey said they use mobile Internet in stores.

The crucial importance in terms of reviews is that people don’t just use the phone to check their Facebook. A study in the UK found 24% of smartphone users checking reviews while in-store buying products.

HOW CUSTOMER REVIEWS ENHANCE CREDIBILITY

Let’s turn the attention to looking more specifically, how customer reviews can boost credibility. This section together with the tips in the following section will help you make the most of public reviews.

Customers value transparency & they trust each other

Studies have repeatedly shown how customers value transparency. Since an increasing amount of shopping now happens online, customers have a limited ability to check the product or service prior to the buying decision. The ability to read real life experiences of the product will naturally provide the consumer a ‘second-hand’ experience and give valuable insight into the product.

As we mentioned above, above 60% of consumers prefer websites, which have customer reviews. Reviews aren’t only important in the retail business either. In a TripAdvisor study, over half of the respondents said they wouldn’t book a stay in a hotel with no reviews.

Websites that don’t show reviews are considered less informative. Simply by allowing reviews on the website, you can make your business image more transparent and therefore trustworthy.

Customers are also falling out of love with the traditional sales pitch. It’s much more effective to hear about the product and service from another consumer like them. It provides a more personal feel about the product and adds authenticity to the experience.

It is more convincing to hear about the positives of a certain beauty product from people who actually use the product rather than from someone who is paid for selling it, for example.

While suggestions from people the customer knows continue to remain the driving force behind the conversion, people’s social circles are also changing. The rise of social media has meant that people can connect more easily with like-minded people and this can be a great way to boost conversion rates.

Customer expectations increased & managed

Customer expectations have increased with the availability of products. People are becoming much savvier when they shop – reviews can help guarantee you don’t spend money on a bad product. Customers are becoming increasingly good at managing the expectations through customer reviews.

For example, consider you need a cake for a birthday. The bakeries will naturally market themselves as the best cake shops in the city and their marketing message will be based on positive, not realistic assumptions. Customers now are able to check around which marketing claims might actually be true and pick the one that most convinces them with realistic reviews.

The importance of customer reviews is especially important the pricier the product or service is. PowerReviews survey found that when shopping in pricier product categories such as electronics, appliances and computers, consumers were more likely to pay attention to reviews. In fact, around 80% of customers in all three categories consulted reviews before purchase decisions.

Interestingly, customers don’t simply trust all reviews. There are certain characteristics customers find important in order for the reviews to have a positive impact. These requirements include:

  • The number of reviews available – There isn’t an ideal number of reviews the business should obtain, although the majority of consumers reads between one to ten reviews before buying the product or service. If the product in question is something that has a lot of availability in different prices and functions, the more reviews, the better for conversion.
  • The quality of the review – As said earlier, customers are smart and they tend to analyze the quality of the review. Long reviews are often considered more trustworthy, perhaps because they often provide more detailed information.
  • The date of the review – The most relevant reviews are considered the best, especially for service sector reviews such as hotel or restaurant reviews.

Overall, it’s important to understand that when it comes to customer expectations, negative reviews can have a huge impact, and not necessarily in the ways you might expect. If the website is only full of positive reviews, customers tend to be slightly put off by it. The odd negative review can add more credibility for the business, as customers can get a real image of the business.

It’s also wrong to assume negative reviews would mean consumers skip the product or service. One study found consumers who take the time to read negative reviews convert 67% more than they convert consumers who don’t read them.

Customers find authentic content more valuable

Finally, it is possible to build more trust by using consumer reviews as content for the website. Customers find real consumer reviews, such as bloggers reviewing the product or service, much more engaging than typical marketing messages.

Even when the business provides the product or service free of charge for a blogger, these reviews are considered more authentic, especially if the details are transparent. This kind of content can also be easily sharable on social media, which in turn will boost conversion rates and help you speak to a wider audience.

Customers also enjoy reading information based on consumer reviews and customer surveys. It shows the customer your business cares about customer experiences and lets customers know more about the functionality of the product or service.

HARNESSING THE POWER OF REVIEWS

The previous section hopefully provided you with a few ideas and inspiration for harnessing customer reviews in order to gain credibility. Below you can find out about concrete ways to generate public reviews and ensure customers trust your business.

Ways to collect reviews

When it comes to obtaining more customer reviews, your business must have a proactive attitude rather than a reactive approach. Try to make sure you are actively engaging the customer with the opportunity to leave a review. The proactive approach to reviews is much more able to generate positive reviews. If you don’t care about reviews, you are more likely to attract them only when things go wrong.

It’s important to keep in mind that while most customers have been shown to read online reviews, only 42% of them are found to leave feedback. Therefore, you need to be actively reminding customers to leave a review, as well as make it as easy as possible.

If you have a website, make sure you mention about feedback early in the process. If you wait until the product has been delivered a long time ago, customers are unlikely going to remember to leave a remark.

Make sure to follow the rules of engagement and to keep the above point in mind. Don’t force customers to review or tell them what to say. Authentic and honest reviews are more likely to boost your ratings in the long-term. Different review sites also have different rules of engagement. For example, Yelp forbids incentivizing customers to leave a review and Google discounts reviews filled from an in-store computer. Always obey the rules!

You also want to make sure customers aren’t just encouraged to review your business on established sites such as Google, Yelp or your website’s shop. You should also actively engage with bloggers. Sending out products for bloggers to review is not a bad idea at all, as long as you are transparent about it to all of your customers.

Try to get these influencers to talk about the product or service in a wide range of mediums. You could seek for a written review or even a video review of the product. Furthermore, you can run fun campaigns on social media, where you ask people to upload photos of themselves and your product on Instagram, for example.

Using creative methods

The most important thing is to be creative with your approach to reviews. It is a good idea to partner up with other review sites, not simply have one on your website. Check out the website WhoIsHostingThis.com to find out the best host for your website.

Host programs might differ depending on your business’ needs, so it is a good idea to find the right partner. Certain platforms might not allow you to respond or control the reviews, so you want to opt for one that suits your need. It is also important to consider a platform that feeds the reviews to Google, as this can have benefits for your search engine optimization.

In addition, the software you choose can boost customer engagement by sending automatic requests. For example, Trustpilot’s Automatic Feedback Service triggers e-mails and review requests when the customer completes an online reservation.

You should also definitely consider in-store reviews as well. For example, allow customers to check-in online when they enter your store and when they do, remind them to leave a review.

As smartphone use becomes increasingly common, your business should take advantage of platforms specifically designed for phones. For example, the near-field communication (NFC) tags and QR codes can be extremely valuable and creative ways to harness customer reviews in your store.

Handling negative reviews

As mentioned above, negative reviews don’t need to mean the end for your business. Just like in life, it is hard to satisfy each customer 100% all the time. But you shouldn’t just let negative reviews happen. It is important to deal with them appropriately.

First, you don’t want to start deleting negative reviews. If the language is inappropriate, it is OK to blank certain words, for instance, as long as you explain your reasoning for this. But as customer surveys repeatedly show, negative reviews can improve the credibility of your business so don’t hide them.

Second, you should always try to respond to a negative review. If you do so, customer’s reading the review might well change their mind upon reading your response. Bazaarvoice’s research has shown around 71% of customers change their perception of a brand when they see a response to a negative review, for instance.

You can use the response as a way to increase customer trust and provide important information for other prospective clients. Not to mention, you might even salvage the situation with the customer and win them back to your business.

But of course, there are certain situations where you need to consider whether a response is appropriate. First, don’t ever respond to a client if you feel angry about the review. Snarky, sarcastic or mean responds won’t go down well. Wait until you’ve calmed down and can explain your side of the story without sounding condescending or angry.

Second, certain reviews are clearly trolls and you can usually spot one easily. Unless the troll is stating incorrect ‘facts’, don’t start feeding it.

Check out the video below for more tips on how to respond to bad reviews:

 

Putting the data to good use

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of harnessing customer reviews is to understand the benefits of the data. You shouldn’t simply encourage reviews and let them do their job on your website. There are many things you can achieve by using the data from enhancing customer experience and improving your business prospects.

First, of course, is the power of reviews in improving your business and its products. Make sure you read both the good and the negative reviews and learn from them. Both the negative and the positive reviews can teach a lot about what your business is doing right and the aspects it should focus on.

It is also a good idea to create data sets connecting users with their reviews and shopping patterns. This can provide you with a wealth of information that helps boost the overall customer experience and improve your conversion rates. It is important to learn from the reviews, as nearly 70% of consumers find quick resolutions to their problems as the most positive aspect of a brand experience.

Finally, as mentioned briefly before, customer reviews can have a positive effect on your search engine optimization. Search engine indexing can pick up reviews and utilize them as user generated content for your website. You can get started by using the schema.org’s standardized markup for reviews.

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