While shopping in-person, you might turn to your friend and say, “have you tried this before?” to get an authentic review of the product.
In the modern world, however, we’re shopping alone more than ever. Online shopping was already growing in popularity and the early-2020 shutdowns pushed even more people to shop online.
Whether they are looking for services or products, shoppers now use the internet equivalent of a friend or family member recommendation. They turn to online reviewing sites and check the star ratings and comments to get an understanding of the product.
At this point, nearly every business has the potential to receive online reviews, but some business owners don’t realize their power. You may also not realize how much you can influence online reviews in a positive way that promotes your business over time.
What’s The Importance of Online Reviews?
Most shoppers may check reviews unconsciously at this point: they compare the number of star ratings on average between products on a large department store’s website.
Maybe they look for the “most helpful comment”, or a few negative comments to make sure they can live with whatever bothered those reviewers.
At this point, online reviews may be the first real introduction that your customers get to the customer experience. A large amount of positive reviews are a version of ” word of mouth” advertising, where people are raving to each other about how good your product is.
After all, with new brands appearing on the scene all the time, customers need a reason to spend money with your brand rather than with your competition.
When you’re seeing a consistent string of positive reviews over time, you know that you’ve found a sweet spot with your customer base.
How Reviews Can Play a Role In Your Company’s Success
Your website, ideally, will draw in some customers first, but many who like what they see will then want to know what people think of the products and turn to reviews immediately.
Whether reviews are what your customers see first or what they go looking for after their interest is piqued, you want to have a good idea what reviews are out there. You can also have a part in soliciting more reviews from satisfied customers.
There are two valuable sources of reviews for your company: third-party reviews that appear on a variety of review sites around the internet, and first-party reviews, or those that appear on your own website.
While first-party reviews may be seen as more ‘curated’ than those on independent sites, they are also important. Shoppers won’t always navigate away from your website to see reviews on other sites. Having authentic, if positive, reviews on your site are also valuable.
Getting to Know the Options When It Comes to Site Reviews
Many businesses will first turn to the reviews section on Google. With a Google My Business profile, you’ll find that your reviews are featured prominently, so if you’re only focusing on online reviews in one place, do it on Google.
Depending on your industry, however, you should be able to find review sites that are tailored to your customers’ needs. If you can’t find many online reviews when you google your own business name, consider your competition. Where are their reviews appearing?
There may be specialized sites that review products and services in-depth, but bigger aggregators, such as travel agency sites for hotel businesses or restaurant review sites (if you’re a food service business), tend to appear very highly in search results.
A great strategy, if you want to know how your customers experience your business’s online reviews, is to ask friends or family to test your web presence. Tell them the scenario — you’re considering my product and want to read some reviews.
Then, watch what they look for, what they search for in search engines, and which sites they ultimately visit.
You can even use a screenshot video program to record this experience for a few different people to see more of the review sites they find.
What’s the Value That Online Reviews Add to a Business?
You’ve found where these online reviews exist, and you’ve probably spent some time reading them. So, why are having these reviews worthwhile? You may want to know the point of encouraging reviews online and keeping an eye on them.
Improve Your Products and Services
It’s hard to hear, but impartial feedback is one of the most effective ways to actually grow as a business. Outside perspectives on the product or service may seem harsh, but they actually give you options for how to grow.
Of course, there will be reviews that are clearly motivated by someone having a bad day, not genuine issues with your product. However, real feedback can be the inspiration for a big, valuable change in your product or service that benefits everyone involved.
When you review your online reviews, keep in mind that these reviews represent a chance to do things differently in the future, whether that involves coaching an employee to offer stronger customer service or adding particularly descriptive language to packaging for a product.
Understand Your Brand’s Reputation
If you’ve seen market share shifting to another competitor, you may feel like you’re flying blind. After all, the customers who are loyal to you may only say positive things when you talk to them informally in the store.
However, reading online reviews of both your own product and its near competitors can really help see where you are in the competition. Many people will reference why they picked a product over its competitors. This access is so valuable!
While it’s clear that you can make changes if you receive negative feedback in reviews, if your reputation is positive, you can leverage that reputation, too.
If you’re known through reviews as the high-quality bargain of the field of competitors, or as the luxury splurge that people should get because it’s truly effective, you can factor that reputation into future marketing.
When people see marketing materials that are attuned to the attitude people already have about your product, you seem more attuned to the sales environment.
Highlighted Positive Experiences Share Well on Social Media
When you get a particularly good third-party review, it can be great fodder for social media. While social media followers often are already loyal to your brand, you can bring in repeat customers and long-term advocates when they continually see those positive reviews.
If you are featured on multiple review websites but have different ratings on each one, social media can be a way to send people to the most positive review site. It’s a chance to shine the spotlight on the happiest of your customers.
Lastly, many business pages on social media sites like Facebook have their own review sections. Encouraging people who follow your business to leave a review is a great way to boost the amount of reviews you have while also mostly getting sympathetic, positive reviews.
After all, they are already following you on social media.
More Reviews, More Customer Confidence
Just sheer numbers of reviews are often a valuable addition for your company. Especially for new companies, seeing a large amount of reviews confirms that the product is established and well-known.
Think about it: if you’re looking to book a rental on a home-sharing website, even a very nice listing seems a little odd if it has only one or two reviews.
The assumption, generally, is that places with multiple reviews over time must have been fairly good, since big issues would have to be addressed within the first few visits.
While it’s wonderful to have a 100% 5-star rating, having hundreds of reviews that range between three and five stars may actually establish you better than a perfect track record from only three or four customers.
Reviews Contribute To Your Searchability
Whenever someone references your company’s name in a review, they’re bringing more search engine connections to your company. If your website links out to a review site and the review site links your profile back to your website, those interlinking elements are part of a strong presence in the Google rankings.
If you are getting new business through Google already, more online reviews are just another way for online business to flow toward you when someone is searching for your type of product or service.
How Businesses Should Respond to Reviews
Online reviews may seem daunting if you worry that negative reviews can tank your reputation faster than good reviews can build you up.
Negative reviews are indeed no fun, but the benefits of reviews are so valuable that you really cannot afford to throw them out for fear of a bad review here and there.
Instead, put together a policy for you and your employees to handle reviews well, shaping the opinion of future review readers through a strong strategy.
A consistent strategy for evaluating, responding to, and incorporating feedback from reviews will actually help your company thrive, even if an unsatisfied customer occasionally surfaces.
Begin With Active Monitoring
You’d be surprised how many businesses have a few negative reviews really tanking their online reputation but they simply have never seen them.
If you make it a key duty for someone to check for new reviews at least every few days, you give yourself the opportunity to address the feedback quickly. Sometimes, it’s as simple as updating your hours sign or sending a refund to someone who justly deserved one.
The quick response time, however, is a big part of how your reputation can grow even from a negative review. Companies that care enough to frequently monitor reviews come across as invested and willing to grow.
Don’t Panic About Negative Reviews
It’s easier said than done, but there are a few ways in which negative reviews aren’t as bad as they seem.
In some situations, a negative review may turn into a positive experience, by:
- Allowing a chance to make it right with the client or customer who wouldn’t have otherwise given you another chance
- Alerting you to a danger or a problem that you need to address immediately, not down the road when there’s a class action lawsuit or other legal action
- Being written in a way that makes it clear that at least part of the issue is the expectations and mood of the customer himself or herself
- Sparking more positive reviews if your loyal customers see an attempt to tank your reputation.
When they say “there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” they’re referring to the kind of buzz that something like a sensationalized review might create. Many people may be influenced by the negative review, but way more people will want to make their own judgment.
As you can see, there are ways that even a negative review can prompt growth or bring your name into the light as a company to consider.
Respond Clearly When Possible
The Google reviewing interface allows people who have officially verified that they own the business being reviewed to respond to reviews. Other reviewing websites allow you to claim and verify that you own the website and want to respond to customer reviews.
This can be a great tool. If a complaint is something you can easily resolve, a response can be as simple as an apology for a bad experience and clear details to connect them to customer service.
In other contexts, you may want to offer missing details that the reviewer isn’t sharing, such as their own behavior in a heated situation or the fact that you’d just announced a new line of products replacing an older one.
While responding with missing details is tempting, make sure that the response isn’t there to put blame back on the customer. If it comes across as an issue of “he said, she said,” your reputation suffers more than theirs does.
Focus on sharing details only if they offer future readers something they may need to know, not things that discredit the customer’s review.
Even if you’re tempted to use a complaining review as a place to vent frustration with a customer, this really isn’t the place. Type a message to a friend that vents your annoyance, then write a scrupulously polite response on the review site.
Remember: you’re not really talking to the complainer. You’re talking to all the review readers who are considering buying your product.
Proactively Solicit Positive Reviews
One thing you can do if you have a few negative reviews lurking on independent sites is to get a better representation for the opinions of your happy customers. You can encourage positive reviews in many ways:
- A note on the bottom of a receipt can mention, “Love your new product? Let others know on (review site)!”
- You can post a QR code or other signage in your place of business mentioning that you want new reviews.
- If you do a lot of online business, you can automate an email that requests reviews from customers after, for instance, a third purchase on the same account. By pinpointing shoppers who have been happy enough to shop with you again, you get a better chance at positive reviews.
- Send out a survey to your customers and feature strong reviews as testimonials on your website, showcasing what some real customers think that contradicts the negative reviews elsewhere.
The goal is to particularly encourage customers to leave reviews when you have every reason to believe they’ll leave a positive one. You don’t want to come right out and say, “we only want positive reviews!”, since most customers will see this as pushy.
Instead, mention the need for reviews at a time when you’ve just wowed a customer or really gone above-and-beyond for them. It’s a natural segway to say that, if they’re happy with your service, reviews help other people find you.
Managing Online Reviews Helps Your Company Thrive
All this work leads to a familiar and excellent place. You want your online reviews to be well-understood and well-managed because they truly move the needle when it comes to brand reputation and revenue.
The reviews may provide fodder for marketing efforts, like a blog post about how you’re addressing recent feedback as part of a commitment to quality. They also help you to never stop growing and realizing that tastes change, so your customers may be ready for some novelty.
Rather than letting reviews make you worried or fearful, set up a strong policy for how you and your employees will respond to online reviews. Make it the kind of task that gets the same attention and care as a customer’s email or phone call.
They are sending out a message to the world about you: thank them for it and do your best to incorporate it into your self-knowledge as a business.
If you want to go beyond online reviews and need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, look no further than Redstitch Digital. Our platform helps you pinpoint the highest-value marketing moves you can make right now and bring attention to your brand. Get to know us today!