Online reviews play a major role in influencing consumer shopping decisions and purchase behavior.
Marketers looking to capture the attention of potential customers and win the loyalty of existing ones must manage online reviews and understand customer desires, needs, and expectations while developing a positive and engaging brand reputation.
Here are some research-based insights to help your business understand how exactly reviews impact consumer shopping decisions throughout the customer journey.
Shopping Decisions Are Influenced by Authenticity, Not Perfection
Unlike in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, where efficiency, authority, and expertise rule, success in consumer marketing depends on one’s ability to connect meaningfully with individual consumer mindsets and invoke emotional responses that inspire trust and confidence.
Research suggests that some consumers perceive a 5-star rating as too good to be true. According to the Online Reviews Survey, the rating that consumers trust the most is 4 stars out of 5, followed by 4.5 and 5.0 stars.
A Womply study also found that businesses with a 4.0 to 4.5-star rating earn an additional 28 percent in annual revenue, while 5-star businesses have below-average sales, sometimes earning less in revenue than 1 to 1.5-star businesses.
Simply put: consumers specifically seek trustworthy, authentic, and therefore often imperfect reviews and ratings. Shoot for 5 stars, but at the same time, recognize that less-than-perfect reviews and ratings are an important element in consumers’ research and decision-making process.
Negative Reviews are Useful
It’s not unreasonable to feel upset after receiving a negative or less-than-perfect review on sites like Google, Yelp, Tripadvisor, or Facebook. But this doesn’t mean you should attempt to delete the review or censor customer feedback.
Even negative reviews provide consumers with valuable information that influences their shopping decisions. People also do not trust businesses that delete negative customer comments and reviews.
Consumers are not necessarily looking for a perfect provider when they check business review sites. As mentioned earlier, consumers value authenticity over perfection. Your business should do the same.
The way you handle customer feedback can speak volumes. A negative review does not necessarily deter a customer from engaging with a business.
What shoppers look for is a business’s ability to provide timely responses and solutions. Survey data shows that responding to negative reviews makes it more likely for 44.6 percent of consumers to visit a business.
When you respond to negative reviews, be sure to resolve any issues with the customer experience and address any areas that need to be worked on.
Without Reviews, Ads Aren’t Trustworthy
Instilling consumer trust through traditional advertising and marketing efforts is a growing challenge for marketers, especially now that 96 percent of consumers don’t trust ads.
This makes it even more important for you to leverage what customers are saying about your business in online reviews. Specifically, reviews provide essential social proof that can influence consumer behavior and shopping decisions.
More than convincing people what is worth buying versus what isn’t, reviews also serve as social proof for determining what to think about a certain business, product, or service. They want more than enough reviews to confirm a rating. A report from Salsify noted that consumers expect an average of 112 reviews before they believe a rating is authentic.
Here are some ways you can leverage online reviews to provide compelling social proof and foster shopper confidence.
- Use review widgets to add customer testimonials to your website
- Implement review schema to add reviews and ratings information in your search engine results and online ads
- Share customer reviews on social media and in your emails
Verified Reviews Have Higher Ratings Than Unprompted Reviews
Not all customer reviews are the same, particularly in terms of where they come from and how they’re generated. Some online review sites only accept verified reviews, which are tied to actual transactions. Others allow anyone to leave a review without proof of purchase (unprompted reviews).
It’s logical to assume that verified reviews posted by actual buyers are perceived as more credible than unprompted reviews, which should prompt marketers to develop a review request program.
By encouraging your customers to share their feedback through reviews, and by tying these reviews to transactions that actually happened, you can systematically improve your ratings and generate the kind of social proof that drives sales.
Get Reviews at the Point of Sale
The ability to get reviews consistently improves brand visibility, enhances your business’s credibility, and influences shopping decisions.
Verbally asking for reviews is one way to get customers to review your business. Another way is to integrate the review request into your point of sale (POS) system. This allows you to engage with customers in a more personal, immediate way and improve the quality of customer feedback obtained at the point of sale.
You can connect your POS system with ReviewTrackers to send review requests via SMS or email. During checkout or towards the end of a customer’s visit, you hand over a device, like an iPad or tablet, to your customer so that they can fill out a short form. Any review or feedback they share is instantly and automatically added to your ReviewTrackers dashboard.
Requesting reviews at the point of sale is a great way to capture actionable insights just moments after the crucial sales or care experience. It’s also a valuable opportunity for your business to strengthen customer relationships.
From research to post-transactional situations, the impact of online reviews on shopping decisions is evident throughout the entire customer journey. In particular, authentic customer feedback posted online is more powerful and effective than traditional advertising messages and promotional brand content.
By managing and incorporating reviews as part of your overall marketing strategy, you can earn the trust of potential and existing customers, placing your business front and center the next time they make a shopping decision.