With the introduction of review platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, online reviews have become nearly essential for businesses wishing to attract new customers. A 2015 Brightlocal survey found that 92% of consumers now read online reviews making it essential for a business to have a presence of these types of sites. Granted, the importance of an online review presence relies greatly on the type of product or service being provided. Businesses such as restaurants or cafès are most likely to have their reviews read, while services such as accountant or locksmiths are least likely to have their reviews noticed.
In 2014, the Harvard Business Review published an article breaking the factors of a consumer’s buying decision into three main categories: “prior preferences (P), beliefs, and experiences, information from marketers (M), and input from other people (O).” They named it the “influence mix” and described how over recent years how the importance of O has increased. This shift in priority has decreased the effectiveness of banner ads or celebrity endorsements according to HBR.
Consumers are less likely to depend on O when their purchase is less important to them. However, when O is weighing heavily on a consumer’s online shopping decision, 30% of thee customers begin by going to Amazon to check reviews and product details. On average shoppers look at 10.4 sources of information before making a purchase. This means that not only are positive reviews essential, but a fair amount of these reviews is also necessary. Even if a product has five 5 star reviews, they are unlikely to purchase it because the product lacks quantity of reviews.
Within O, there are many more factors that can influence a customer’s purchase or visit to a business. The customer analyzes certain factors to determine the relevancy of the reviews such as overall rating, time-span since review and suspicion over the authenticity of the reviews. According to the Brightlocal survey, the star rating is the top indication of a product or service to customers.
Of course, the star rating is the most visible factor, usually appearing directly next to business’s names on platforms such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, which allows consumers to make decisions in the least amount times. Brightlocal found that only 13% of people would consider going to a business that has one or two stars.
Similar to the HBR which found that consumers typically looked at an average of 10.4 pieces of information before making a purchase, Brightlocal found that it typically takes 10 reviews in order to form an opinion about a business. In addition, 44% of those surveyed stated that a review must have been written within a month to be relevant. As a results, these findings show that in an idea world, 10 reviews within one month is the most likely combination to get you new customers.
Before you can attract these new customers based on reviews, you must first acquire the reviews. Finding customers to write reviews can mean learning to strike a balance between seeming too pushy and being completely passive.
Many marketers may advise you to use small incentives such as a discount on next purchase or free service, but many review platforms especially Yelp, have strict restrictions on these incentives claiming they generate biased reviews.
Based on these statistics, it is clear that building an online presence through reviews in this day and age is incredibly important. When encouraging people to write reviews, you must walk a tight line between seeming too pushy or seeming too passive.
The easiest and most effective way to getting customers to write reviews is to just ask. This can be either a personal or impersonal request depending on the type of product or service you provide. No matter how you ask, it is important you ask customers for an “honest” rather than “good” or “positive” review, as that could make your customer feel as though they are being manipulated and violates platforms, like Yelps, review policy.
- In person: When a customer comes into a furniture store, they are likely to spend an extended amount of time with a representative. At the end of the shopping experience, it would be entirely appropriate for that representative to ask that customer to write a review about their experience. The customer is less likely to feel ambushed and irritated since they have built up some type of relationship with that representative. Like any type of relationship, trust must be earned from the customer for them to respond positively to a request that will take up time in their day.
- Email: It’s common practice for companies to request feedback or reviews through email. It’s helpful to pre-screen customers via an initial survey before asking for a review because of course your goal is to engage with customers who had a good experience. Test different email subject lines and HTML versus plain-text to see which yields the most positive response. When it comes to email campaigns of any kind, you can never do too much testing! Also, make sure your call to action is clear and using buttons rather than plain-text is a great way to grab your customer’s attention and likelihood of engaging.
- Via your website: If you choose to incorporate a review option on your website, make sure it is fairly prominent. If the review option is buried somewhere within your site, the only customers who will be motivated enough to find it are those who are planning to leave negative reviews. Including a clearly visible review option could also prompt those who weren’t planning to leave a review to contribute their feedback, which has its pros and cons. Including reviews through your own website could cause some customers to become suspicious to the fact that you might be censoring negative comments and only posting those that are positive or posting fake reviews. With 31% of people trusting reviews they believe to be genuine based on certain requirements, according to Brightlocal’s survey, it is clear authenticity is an important factor for many customers.
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