The online world has brought so much to our fingertips, from our weekly food shop to researching into our next holiday destination. One area in which it’s having an increasingly pronounced effect is the public perception of businesses, turning the internet into a forum that enables consumers to base their purchasing decisions on the opinions of like-minded individuals. Although word of mouth has always been essential to a business’s fortunes, it’s now easier than ever for companies to be made or broken by the wisdom of crowds.
Yet, some small businesses—particularly offline ones—still place little importance on online reviews, despite the impact they can have, let alone worry about whether these reviews are positive. Here’s why those companies need to change their outlook.
Help consumers find your business
With 97% of consumers finding local companies online and 86% reading online reviews for businesses, they can help people come across your organisation in the first place. Not only is this the result of people actively wanting to read reviews before making a purchase, but also of the impact they can have on your online visibility. Search engines understandably see positive reviews as a seal of approval, and are more likely to put your website higher up on results pages, which should drive more traffic towards your business.
This has been borne out by research. For instance, a study by Yotpo found that adding customer reviews to a business’s website, Google organic page views increased from around 5,500 a month to 8,000 in just nine months. As such, online reviews are an undeniably valuable search engine optimisation tool.
Increase sales and build credibility
Online reviews have a huge impact on purchasing decisions, with 85% of people trusting them just as much as personal recommendations. Crucially, 92% hesitate to buy something if a company has no reviews, while 94% of consumers have avoided a business due to negative press. Meanwhile, products with reviews are a whopping 270% more likely to be purchased, while 68% of people are more inclined to interact with a business with positive reviews, which in turn increases sales.
Online reviews also massively affect people’s perceptions of a business. The average customer will read seven reviews before deeming a brand trustworthy, with 93% using them to decide whether or not a company is reputable, according to a BrightLocal survey. If yours has no reviews, or too many negative ones, you’ll be less likely to instil trust in consumers and build a reputation as a market leader.
Connect with customers
Online reviews are a great avenue for connecting with customers, regardless of whether the reviews are positive or not. For those that are positive, taking time to respond and say thank you lends further credibility to your business by showing that you care about each and every customer. With 53% of customers expecting businesses to respond to their comments within a week, it’s evident that there is also a demand for this interaction.
For not so glowing reviews, you’re offered the chance to iron out any issues, and perhaps convert these negative comments into positive ones. In fact, research shows that Yelp reviewers are 33% more likely to upgrade a negative review if business takes the time to respond to their complaint, while 45% of people are more likely to do business with a company that replies to negative reviews.
What are the best review websites?
Based in Denmark, Trustpilot is one of the largest community-driven review platforms around, operating in 65 countries, including the US. It has free and paid versions, with the latter including features like customisable review invitations and social media reviews. Around one million reviews are posted on the site each month about companies in a range of different industries.
TopCashback is a leading British cashback and rewards websites. Giving users the chance to earn cashback for everything from shopping to surveys, its reviews forum is also a great way for your business to build its reputation. Putting the highest reviews first, you’re able to maximise the positive impact of good reviews for your business. The site covers a wide breadth of industries, from lottery syndicates to insurance companies.
Google My Business
Those reviews that pop up when you search for a company? They’re from Google My Business. The service is not only ideal for encouraging reviews, but also helps you optimise your online presence. By letting you upload information like your opening hours, address, and telephone number, as well as your business category, you can control what users see when they Google your business.
Yelp allows consumers to rate businesses out of five, with sections on the site dedicated to different types of businesses, like restaurants and locksmiths. With over 178 million visitors a month, it is the second most popular reviews site behind Google, making it an excellent way of gaining exposure. The much-written-about Yelp community is renowned for its enthusiasm, with members motivated to earn badges and other honours for their reviews.