Whatever you’re planning on buying, chances are you’re going to check online reviews before making a decision. 93% of buyers do exactly that!
On one hand, customers want to see a lot of online reviews from previous buyers, while companies, on the other hand, are not even sure how to approach online reviews.
Some companies block online reviews, some actively encourage their customers to leave reviews, others don’t even care. In theory, there’s a consensus that online reviews can be a great opportunity for businesses to establish relationships with their customers. But in practice, many do exactly the opposite.
Because of that, we decided to create a comprehensive guide that will help businesses (and customers) navigate through this topic.
What are online reviews?
Online reviews are a form of customer feedback on a specific product or service that the customer purchased and/or used.
Before it became mainstream to leave reviews on the internet, customers usually expressed their opinions by sending letters, calling customer service, etc. The problem was that other customers could not see or hear these reviews, so companies could easily ignore them, and continue with their business as usual.
Nowadays, one negative review can start an avalanche of negative reviews in a matter of minutes. When it comes to negative reviews, the old saying is true – good news spreads fast, but bad news spreads faster.
Still, you don’t have to panic if you receive a negative review. Believe it or not, negative reviews can sometimes build your credibility with potential customers and increase conversion by up to 85%. Let’s face it, nothing is ever perfect, and when potential customers see a perfect score they might get a bit suspicious.
Are online reviews important?
Online reviews are especially important for small businesses that are trying to build up momentum for themselves. Forbes even published an article titled Online Reviews Are The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Small Businesses.
Small businesses are more vulnerable to negative reviews than bigger, established companies. But sometimes it’s not necessarily about what is written in the review, it’s about how you respond. We’ll cover this topic more in the upcoming chapter.
Here are some of the reasons why online reviews are important in general:
1. Attracting new customers
If you’re checking out a specific product or a service and notice that there are no reviews from previous customers, you might get a bit hesitant to make a purchase. 35% of customers say that they are less likely to buy a product or a service if there are no reviews. reviews can have a major influence on their decision, especially if the product is higher-priced.
Having at least some online reviews of your product or service can have a much more positive impact on customers than having none. This is one of the reasons why you should be proactive in asking your customer to provide honest reviews after trying out your product or service.
2. Modern “word of mouth” version
Word of mouth is crucial for any business. When someone close to us recommends something, it has great value. In the past, word of mouth recommendations was the only way you could get more information about a certain product or a service, or even know that they exist.
Nowadays, online reviews almost have a word of mouth quality because, even though we don’t necessarily know the people who wrote the reviews, we still feel like we’re in the same boat. The problem is that people are still hesitant to completely trust online reviews because some can still be fake and unreliable.
Make sure your online reviews are authentic. Meaning, don’t create multiple accounts and post fake reviews. Also, if someone left you a fake review, make sure you point that out so the future customers know. We talk more about this in the upcoming chapter.
3. Sales boosters
Reviews influence sales. 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase after reading a trusted review. If they can’t decide between two products, they’ll ultimately go with the one with more reviews.
4. Get to know your customers
Online reviews provide great insight into your customers’ wants and needs. By carefully tracking and analyzing reviews, you have an opportunity to improve your product/service according to customers’ wishes and delight them even more.
Your customers will be that you listened to their suggestions, and you’ll have the opportunity to turn a one time customer into a lifetime customer. Nowadays, the competition is huge, but this strategy will improve your chances of always being one step ahead of your competitors.
5. Brand reputation and brand awareness
Last, but not least, online reviews can help you with your online reputation strategy!
Also, online reviews can help your SEO too! The more information Google has about your business, the better your rankings will be. The study by BrightLocal shows that review ratings are the biggest driver of clicks in local SERPs.
Suggested read: Brand Reputation 101: Monitoring, Analysis, and Management Tools
How to deal with fake online reviews?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake online reviews out there. Whether it’s businesses leaving positive fake reviews on their pages, or fake customers leaving negative reviews on businesses they’ve never used or purchased from.
But, how to know which reviews are genuine, and which are not?
Fake negative reviews, often have general criticism rather than a specific one. Plus, the tone is usually aggressive. You can often know that the review is fake by looking at the reviewer’s profile – unverified account, few details about the reviewer, previous reviews…
The Conversation created a helpful illustration that shows you differences between fake reviews and genuine ones.
If your business received a negative review, there are two things you should do. First, report the review, and second, respond to it.
“Why should I waste my time responding to fake reviews?”, you might ask.
You should respond because other customers will see the review, and might not know it’s fake without your clarification. In your response, you should point out that what is said is false, why it’s false, and that you reported the review.
When it comes to fake positive reviews, much of the previously mentioned signs can apply here, as well. The only difference being is that the tone will probably be over-the-top positive.
“A safe bet when looking for genuine reviews is to check the ones rated between two and four stars.”
How to track online reviews?
There are a couple of ways you can track your online reviews. Besides your social media and official website, you can use other sites and tools to check what customers are saying about your brand.
Let’s check out a few of them here.
Google my Business
Google my Business is a great way to manage and track your online reviews, while also providing up-to-date information to your (potential) customers and promoting your business. You can set up a free account and make it easier for customers to find your business and get all the relevant information they need.
Customers can leave online reviews for your business on the site, but you can also proactively send them a link to your Business profile and ask them to write a review. Make sure you verify your business so you can reply to the reviews.
Google advises that you should not offer incentives to customers in exchange for reviews.
Similar to Google my Business, Trustpilot is, according to their own words, bringing consumers and companies together to continuously share, collaborate, and improve.
Trustpilot has free and paid plans for businesses. The price of paid plans starts from $199 per month.
Niche reviewing websites
While Google my Business and TrustPilot are great for all businesses no matter the industry, there are also reviewing sites specialized for individual industries.
You should consider creating and updating your business account there as well because people will often look for reviews in multiple different sources. These sites are also great for managing and tracking reviews and provide you with opportunities to respond to your customers and build relationships.
BrightLocal compiled a list of various reviewing sites for 30 industries – from finance, restaurants, and real estate to software, medical and legal.
Mediatoolkit is an award-winning media monitoring and social listening tool that notifies its users immediately when their company, products, or services are mentioned in any language across 100+ million online sources.
Whether it’s a web article, social media post, forum post, or blog comment, businesses of all sizes can track brand mentions and build their strategy on valuable audience insights. Plus, you’ll never miss an online review again.
The tool makes it easier for you to track your own and your competitors’ online reviews all over the internet. These insights can help you improve your product and track whether customers recognize and appreciate your effort.
The number of users, keywords, and brand reports are unlimited on all paid plans. You can sign up for the free trial and test out the full suite of features.
How to manage online reviews?
As we previously mentioned, it’s all about how you handle online reviews. Besides reviews themselves, they will pay attention to your communication style as well. If you handle all types of reviews gracefully, customers will trust you more.
This is especially true if your company is new.
The worst thing you can do is removing the option for customers to leave reviews or censoring reviews. According to Oberlo, 62% of customers say that they won’t buy from brands that censor reviews.
If the review is positive
Many pay attention and respond only to negative reviews while leaving positive reviews unanswered. You don’t have to reply to all of them, but you shouldn’t ignore them just because they’re already in your favour.
- thank the customer for their kind words,
- reflect on what they wrote,
- and ask them if you can use their review for your promotional activities.
If the review is negative
If you received a negative review, you should:
- thank the customer for their feedback and address the issue,
- analyze the situation,
- apologize for the inconvenience,
- and try solving the issue as quickly as possible and/or offer compensation.
If the conversation continues, you might want to ask the customer to move the conversation to email or some other more private option.
Suggested read: 10 steps to manage negative online reviews.
How to get more online reviews?
Now that we went through all the ins and outs of online reviews, let’s see how to motivate your customers to leave online reviews for your business. We already mentioned that you should be proactive, but let’s see what that means in practice.
1. Ask every customer for a review
Don’t be afraid to ask all of your customers to leave you online reviews. Sure, not all reviews will be positive, but you shouldn’t hesitate to get more reviews because of the fear of getting a few bad ones. Remember what we said about negative reviews increasing conversion rates and trust at the beginning of the blog?
Even if you get a few negative reviews, take that as a guide for improving your product or service.
One of the best ways to ask customers to leave you a review is by sending a personalized email campaign to customers not long after they’ve purchased something. The email should include a link that leads to your site, social media, or some third party website for reviews.
2. Make it easy
Make it easy for your customers to leave reviews. No one has the time nor the will to jump hurdles to leave you reviews (even if they’re your biggest fan). Make sure your website is user-friendly or use some of the previously mentioned websites such as Google my Business.
3. Remind customers to leave reviews
If customers don’t leave you a review the first time you’ve asked, try again! Maybe they’ve forgotten or were busy at the time.
There are various ways you can do that:
- On social media
- through email campaigns
- In-app messages
- On your website
- When sending a receipt
To sum up
Online reviews are something that is often overlooked but can have a great impact on your business. Make sure you’re paying attention to what people are saying about your brand and take action if necessary.
Also, try to respond to your customer’s reviews as much as possible because it’s a great way to establish great relationships that will benefit your business in the long term.
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