Why Your Business Should Focus On Getting Online Reviews
“While online reviews are a relatively new form of information sharing, I see them as an extension of traditional WOM. It’s a way for people to share their opinion with those that need it precisely when they need it.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Online reviews are a strong marketing tool. If you don’t have any, then you might not understand what you’re missing. Reviews play a major role in today’s consumer decision making process and not having them can be a costly mistake.
Take off your business hat, just for a moment. Now, put on your customer hat. Good. Do you recall the last big purchase you made? Or maybe it wasn’t a big purchase, but an unfamiliar one. It could have been anything from purchasing a car, to trying out a new restaurant, to ordering a no-name replacement ink cartridge off eBay. I’m sure that you agree that these purchases have a higher level of perceived risk than, say, buying toothpaste or choosing which gas station to fill up at.
Maybe you’ve never given it a lot of thought, but you likely place a lot of importance on online reviews when making a risky or unfamiliar purchase. Well, you’re not alone!
Word-of-mouth vs. online reviews.
We tend to cope with uncertain purchase situations by seeking advice from others who have experienced them. Isn’t it reassuring to know that your aunt had a pleasant stay at the hotel in Quebec City that you planned on going to? That’s why word-of-mouth (WOM) is paramount! Loads of business research has shown that WOM has the greatest potential to influence purchase decisions.
Now, you might be thinking: Taro, word-of-mouth and online reviews are not the same thing. You’re absolutely right! But fundamentally, they serve the same purpose. While online reviews are a relatively new form of information sharing, I see them as an extension of traditional WOM. It’s a way for people to share their opinion with those that need it precisely when they need it. Convenient, when your aunt has never used Airbnb, and when your Dad doesn’t have that one power tool you need.
" Online reviews, like WOM, provide second opinions that enable prospective buyers to make more informed purchase decisions and minimize post-purchase dissonance."
Ultimately, online reviews, like WOM, provide second opinions that enable prospective buyers to make more informed purchase decisions and minimize post-purchase dissonance. And that’s precisely why your business needs them. Because online reviews reassure prospective buyers that they won’t regret buying from you when they are in the process of making that decision.
Online reviews and customer expectations.
Let’s say you’re in the mood for a fresh croissant. What do you do? Go online and search for local bakeries. Say you come across 3 bakeries within walking distance of your home. Awesome! How do you decide which one to go to? You might go to their website, but odds are, you’re looking at the reviews people left on Google, Trip Advisor, Zomato and the likes.
Here are three reviews that sum up each bakery:
Bakery 1: “Place had quite a few flies, but olive bread was to die for.”
Bakery 2: “Very reasonably priced, super friendly staff! Come here at least once a week and it never disappoints.”
Bakery 3: (has no reviews)
All else equal, which one are you likely to choose? Probably Bakery 2. Notice how they didn’t mention anything about the food… Even so, the fact that Bakery 2 received a very positive review would likely sway your decision in its favour. Here’s the ultimate question: If you had to choose between Bakery 1 and Bakery 3, which one would you go for?
I’m pretty sure that most people would choose Bakery 1 over Bakery 3, on the basis it’s unclear whether Bakery 3 is any good. And despite a potential fly infestation, you can expect Bakery 1’s baked goods to be exceptional, therefore, reducing the risk of being disappointed (experiencing post-purchase dissonance).
And that’s precisely why online reviews are so important, because they set expectations. When you don’t have any, customers can conjure up all sorts of ideas that your business may not be able to live up to. This is a recipe for creating dissatisfied customers.
Online reviews and your web presence.
Online reviews are great for SEO and contribute to a strong online presence. Google favours companies that have reviews by boosting their search ranking. You can see this in action by searching for something generic, like “coffee shops” and seeing what pops up. Sure enough, the ones Google shows you are the ones that are close to you and have reviews.
Marketers tend to spend most of their efforts on the usual suspects: online advertising, social media and blogging when it comes to boosting web presence. While these are important, we really shouldn’t neglect online reviews in the internet marketing mix. They cost next to nothing to implement, even when you factor in offering small incentives to clients. Arguably, online reviews have the most significant impact when it comes to converting web traffic into clients and they offer the greatest potential to increase your search engine ranking position organically. How’s that for ROI?
So, do you have any reviews on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google My Business? If you don’t yet, realize that no one likes being the first reviewer. However, people like jumping on a review bandwagon to validate their experience when they see others doing it too. It’s very much a snowball effect. There are a number of ways to get the ball rolling (pun intended) and increase the likelihood of drumming up many great online reviews. To start, consider the obvious one: ask your best clients to take the time to write you a review.
There were a bunch of key points throughout this blog. Here’s a concise summary about why you should focus on obtaining online reviews:
- People have been using this thing called the “Internet” to search for information for some time now when they are in the market to buy.
- People are more likely to purchase from a company that has reviews than one that doesn’t
- The more online reviews you have, the more reviews you will get and the stronger your online presence will become
- They help set realistic expectations of a product or service and reduce the risk of creating a dissatisfactory experience
- Research shows that positive online reviews considerably increases consumer confidence and the likelihood that they purchase from you.
Meet the author.
Meet Fortified Marketing's founder and lead marketing consultant. Taro loves reading fascinating articles on various marketing-related subjects, just as much as he enjoys writing about them. When he isn’t savouring a latte while working on his newest blog post, he can be found at a coffee shop in Ottawa's Little Italy, or marathoning shows and documentaries on Netflix.
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