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Trends and Tips: What Your Business Should Know About Online Reviews in 2015

As we get ready to begin 2015, it is a great time to take a closer look at what drives engagement in the online reviews arena.

The way consumers write and use reviews is constantly evolving and quickly growing. Understanding what triggers engagement and how your customers will use reviews in making purchasing decisions is essential in drafting marketing strategies that encourage the type of engagement most likely to generate reviews that matter to future shoppers.

On the whole, the principles that drive review engagement remain constant. Positive reviews are good for business, and conversely, bad reviews can affect customer acquisition negatively if neglected or handled carelessly. The percentage of companies that have embraced reviews as part of their core online marketing strategy continues to grow, making the review landscape more competitive by the minute.

Americans scan reviews on-the-go 

Mobile-based engagement has experienced a significant upward trend in 2014. Understanding what types of devices consumers use and when, while engaging with review sites such as Yelp, Foursquare, Google, Facebook, and others is key in designing a review management strategy that focuses on the sites that have made quicker, more responsive adjustments to this trend, and which equip businesses with tools to engage with potential customers using location-based technology.

When assessing mobile engagement, businesses would benefit from becoming familiar with the way shoppers find them on mobile. Once a business has evaluated its mobile state of affairs, resources and time can be set aside to optimize the experience and deliver mobile signals, such as promos, to maximize this trend.

3 out of 4 reviews are either positive or neutral

While it is true that a great deal of energy and resources are allocated to the management of negative reviews, it is essential for business organizations to maintain a balanced awareness of the reality of online reviews. The fact is, about 75 percent of reviews are either positive or neutral. This statistic needs to serve as a reminder and encouragement for small business owners.

Engage, acknowledge, and react to your positive reviews. Positive reviews are among the greatest marketing assets for small businesses to build brand credibility. Don’t let them go to waste. (Here’s a guide to squeezing more juice out of a positive review.)

Kudos are given on social sites, while rants come from review sites

In the past, we have discussed the importance of engaging both via social sites and review sites. It appears customers are more likely to brag about you in a social context like Facebook and Foursquare, and conversely more inclined to complain on review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor.

The good news about this behavior is the viral potential for when someone provides your business with an endorsement in a social context. Credibility grows exponentially, and the likelihood of customer acquisition increases.

Now let’s tackle bad reviews and rants. If we take this observation regarding engagement into account on how you manage your online reputation, then we need to reemphasize the essentiality of real-time engagement in responding to negative reviews and providing appropriate remedy. Staying on top of review site-based escalation is key in growing and shaping your online business reputation this 2015.

Lack of resolution after multiple escalations equals negative review

Over 72 percent of consumers attribute the posting of negative reviews to lack of resolution after multiple escalations. To put it another way, most businesses could avoid negative reviews not by delivering seamless products or services, but by handling escalations promptly, responsively, and compassionately.

Put mechanisms in place to allow your customers to escalate concerns in a manner that is customer-friendly and proactive. If you are using Square as your payment-processing platform, then we suggest triggering customer service surveys immediately after the transaction is completed, to capture concerns and address them before the customer feels cornered into writing a rant on a review site.

Another great way to reduce the incidence of negative reviews is to create a culture of employee empowerment that facilitates on-the-spot resolution for simple customer service issues.

Wealthy Americans more likely to share negative experiences 

According to a study conducted by ZenDesk, 100 percent of individuals earning $150K or more indicated that they will share a negative experience online. This is important to know, as it reminds us that those with the highest purchasing power are also the ones that have the highest expectations in terms of service delivery.

Consider implementing programs that ensure superior care of your highest valued customers based on wallet share. By focusing on your most loyal customers, you will significantly reduce the potential of a negative online rant that might affect your business for years to come.

Reviews are useful but not always trustworthy

While it may appear counterintuitive, over 90 percent of Americans rely on reviews when making purchasing decisions; but the same percentage feels many of these reviews are fraudulent or not trustworthy.

In fact, at least 21 percent of those surveyed by YouGov reported having written false reviews. This is a cautionary tale for business that reminds us all of the importance of checking the facts before taking action on issues escalated via reviews.

Americans read lots of reviews before making a purchase decision

Only 16 percent of consumers read two reviews or less when making a purchasing decision. Over 50 percent will read four or more reviews. To businesses, this means that review volume matters.

Invest efforts in ensuring you are getting fresh reviews that reflect your most current trends with sufficient frequency. Additionally, do not neglect your review responses, as they directly impact the credibility of your business.

The main motivation for writing reviews is to inform others 

This is wonderful news: reviewers want to help others make good purchasing decisions, and that is good for business. Detail-rich reviews will help businesses gain consumer confidence and will undoubtedly direct additional business their way.

Learn from customer interactions, and adopt marketing policies designed to help customers make decisions about your business. Take queues from the product or service reviewers’ highlights, and use that info to improve your messaging. 

Reviews are no longer just for restaurants and hotels 

In the past, it was believed that reviews provided an advantage mainly to restaurants and hotels. Presently, consumers use online reviews in making a variety of decisions, from consumer goods to shopping venues, and services such as home repairs or daycares.

Reviews are relevant to anyone and everyone that serves local customers. Regardless of the specialty of your shop, take time to learn how a strong reputation management strategy can help you grow your revenue and increase your overall brand reach.

Chris Campbell

Chris is the CEO of ReviewTrackers. He has helped tens of thousands of businesses hear, manage, and respond to what their customers are saying online.

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