Is your business listed on Yelp? How about Google+? Facebook? What these platforms have in common – other than being social networks – is that they all offer an opportunity for a customer to provide your business valuable feedback, in the form of a customer reviews.
On one hand, this is good for business because it creates a touch point between you and your customers, where you can learn how specifically to serve them better. On the other hand, and in a less obvious but increasingly more powerful way, customer reviews have become a pivotal factor in a customer’s decision to make a purchase.
Here are five stats that explain why:
85% of Consumers use Customer Reviews to Find Local Businesses
This statistic probably does not come as a shock to many by now, but it’s worth mentioning because it shows just how critical a tool the Internet has become for small, local businesses especially.
As the Yellow Pages go the way of most other printed material – that is, toward digital (YP now host an online business directory to complement their iconic print book) – online searches for businesses more and more often include a zip code or city name, as well.
Google, the most used search engine, now even allows those who use AdWords (Google’s search-based advertising service) to include a review snippet within the ad. These snippets are sourced from Google+, the search engine’s proprietary social network, which includes a customer review feature.
Which leads us to stat #2…
90% of Consumers Read Customer Reviews Before Visiting a Business
That’s not an exaggeration. According to one study, nine out of ten customers, before deciding which company will get their business, read online reviews first.
What’s more? According to the same study, 82% of consumers report that what they’ve read in those reviews had an impact on their decision.
79% of Consumers Trust Online Customer Reviews as Much as Personal Recommendations.
Since before “marketing” has existed as a discipline, word-of-mouth has been considered the #1 most effective way for a consumer to be referred to a business and converted into a customer. This makes sense: it stands to reason that you will favor a recommendation from someone you know and trust over an anonymous tip or an advertisement written by the company itself.
Research is now showing, however, that the power of word-of-mouth marketing is beginning to transfer from over the water cooler to the online review. Nearly 8 out of 10 consumers report putting just as much value in an online review as personal recommendations.
What’s more? 82% say they trust customer reviews over expert reviews (a.k.a. endorsements).
31%: How Much More a Customer is Likely to Spend on a Business with “Excellent” Reviews.
Not only do positive reviews make a consumer more likely to patronize your business, but will also increase the amount they’re willing to spend on your goods or services. This makes sense: positive reviews increase consumer trust in a business – at least that’s what 73% of consumers report.
Less than 5: How Many Reviews Read by the Average Consumer Before Making a Decision About a Business.
According to Search Engine Land, 67% of online consumers report reading 6 reviews or less before making a decision about that business (whether to patronize or not). More specifically, just over 30% report reading an average of 4-6 reviews before deciding, while almost 35% report reading just 2 or 3 reviews.
Why Do These Stats Matter?
For better or worse, the internet is becoming the forum in which customers interact with businesses, yes, but also with each other. Aside from wanting to make sure your business is getting reviewed online, you want to do everything you can to manage those reviews. While it can lend a bit to a business’s credibility to have one or two negative reviews (it shows you are a credible business that embraces honest feedback from customers), it’s also important to make sure you are responding to those negative reviews, esp. if they get ranked as helpful or useful.
Yelp, for instance, rarely allows business owners to delete negative reviews, but does give the option to respond publicly. If you respond to the customer’s negative review in a productive, gracious way, it will earn back some of the good will and trust otherwise stripped by the review.
- Make sure you are listed on: Yelp, Google+, and Facebook, and any industry-specific consumer review sites relevant to your business. This is especially true if you are a B2C company, but B2B should not ignore the power of the customer review.
- Do not fear the negative review! Instead, face it head-on, just like you would a face-to-face encounter with a dissatisfied customer in your store-front. Courteous, polite, and prompt. Do NOT ignore a negative review, or try to have it deleted, unless it is inflammatory or slanderous.
- Ask your most loyal customers to give you a review. Yelp and Facebook both actively discourage incentivizingreviews (makes the reviews less credible), but there’s nothing wrong with asking your customers for feedback in an online forum, especially when you have a long-standing, positive relationship with that customer. You’d be surprised how often a satisfied customer is willing to oblige this request.
- Provide space on your website for reviews. Whether it’s an actual form for customers to fill out, or a call-to-action button linking to your company’s Yelp or Google+ page, make sure your website is prompting your customers to review your work.