In the digital age, online customer reviews can be found virtually everywhere.
Whether it’s a quick-witted comment left on a forum, or a published piece on a highly-visited website, wide-ranging opinions on products and services are abundant on the internet. While some comments and opinions may help a company’s image, others can hurt it. That can be scary for business owners focused on building their brand.
Here’s five important aspects of customer reviews that business owners should keep in mind.
1. Customer Reviews Shape a Company’s Reputation
One important reason that reviews should not be ignored is because of their ability to affect sales. When potential customers come across your product or service, you want to leave them with a positive impression. This is where reviews play a major role. Today, anyone can search your company and find what others are saying. Potential customers won’t always find your product through your company website or social media pages. Some may find your business through a review they came across. Reviews online carry weight, as consumers inherently trust fellow buyers more than company promises. One positive review is all it may take to lead to a sale, and one negative review to lose one.
Before the rapid rise of social media and internet marketing, a company’s reputation relied on word of mouth. In today’s digital age, word of mouth is still spread, but via various methods online.
Whether or not business owners are technologically-savvy, the internet and opinionated anonymous comments are certainly here to stay.
2. Online Reviews are Popular
Researching products has never been easier than in 2021.
The internet has greatly benefitted buyers wanting more information before completing their purchase. Now online customers get to read and watch what others are saying, and even have more ability to compare and contrast rival products.
Here are some of the most influential platforms that offer online reviews.
When it comes to online reviews, Yelp is known as one of the largest platforms specializing in them. Yelp focuses on long-form writing, and is primarily known for more in-depth reviews.
In 2020, the site garnered over 200 million reviews and reached 43 million unique visitors on desktop web pages, and 52 million unique visits from mobile browsers.
With impressive stats such as those, all business owners should do themselves a favor and search Yelp to see what others are saying about their product or service.
Online reviews also can’t be discussed without mentioning Amazon, the largest online marketplace in the United States.
Once Amazon users have placed an order for an item, they can access the customer reviews section and submit a review from their profile. Similar to Yelp, Amazon implements a rating scale from one to five stars that accompanies the comments users are free to make.
For businesses selling on Amazon, reviews on Amazon are critical. Amazon shoppers will have access to see the ratings and comments left by others before they commit to placing their order.
While Amazon and Yelp host written reviews, Let’s not forget video content as well.
Youtube is not just an entertainment platform, it’s also the world’s second largest search engine, only behind Google. Since Google owns Youtube, videos on Youtube rank highly on Google.
Youtubers enjoy the freedom to post videos on whatever subject matter they chose, as long as it fits within Youtube’s terms of service. So naturally, some Youtube channels focus around reviews, while popular channels occasionally review products that reside within their niche.
For consumers, doing a quick Youtube search for a comparison between two products is becoming ever more popular.
While Facebook may not be new for those with an online presence, business owners need to understand the weight that Facebook reviews carry.
Many potential consumers may already have a personal Facebook account, which eases the barrier of entry in finding your business. Potential customers already on Facebook are also more likely to interact with your page, since they are already on the platform. One form of interaction is that of reviews. Furthermore, the social media giant is now incorporating reviews into the user experience.
Facebook reviews automatically activate when you create a Page. Sure, comments have always been allowed on individual posts and pages, but now Facebook is dedicating a section specifically to them.
With 2.8 billion users, Facebook doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
3. Online Reviews Remain Important
So now that we’ve covered how pervasive and accessible reviews are, let’s discuss their relevance for businesses. 82% of U.S. adults admit to at least reading online customer reviews before first time purchases. A staggering 40% say they always or almost always do so.
For online businesses, reviews are even more important, as social media and various highly-trafficked websites offer reviews that can easily be found in search. Before you worry about the influence of negative anonymous reviews online, understand that reviews have always been important for businesses long before the internet. The web has simply expanded their use for all to see.
4. Reviews Can Be Biased
While reviews remain popular for consumers and necessary for company reputation, the prospect of negative reviews remains daunting for some business owners.
The last thing any entrepreneur or brand ambassador wants to read is a negative review of the product they sell or promote. The anonymity the internet provides also means that anyone can write a negative review.
Instead of fearing that potential customers will see a negative review, here’s one method that helps combat that negative first impression. Responding to both positive and negative reviews may be time-consuming, but it let’s customer’s know you value their opinion.
While building brand loyalty and customer engagement, responses also add to your business credibility. Responding to reviews demonstrates that as a business or brand ambassador, you take their feedback seriously and want to improve the quality of your product or service.
Another means of building positive brand perception is that of affiliate marketing. Businesses worried about their brand reputation after negative reviews should also consider affiliate marketing. Content creators and social media influencers often earn commissions in marketing companies they partner with. While negative reviews can be worrisome, affiliates who have built trust with their audience will positively promote your products, countering negative perceptions online.
5. Reviews Provide Necessary Feedback
While they can be biased, business owners shouldn’t fear reviews, they should embrace them. As much damage one negative review can influence a potential customer’s opinion, a positive one can lead directly to sales. Considering both the positive and negative, entrepreneurs need to consider the feedback they receive and adjust their products and marketing accordingly. Sure, some comments may be out of line and nonproductive, but if you notice a pattern of complaints, it may be time to adjust your product or service accordingly. Much like other challenges businesses face, reviews may not be the most important aspect of your business, but it’s certainly one to take seriously.