Why Online Reviews are Important for Customers & Businesses
Mar 3, 2022|Read time: 12 min.
- Online reviews help consumers make purchasing decisions.
- Customers are 63% more likely to trust brands with online reviews compared to brands with no reviews.
- A lack of reviews makes buyers feel increased risk, which makes them less likely to buy.
The vast majority of consumers (93%) say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. So it’s not an understatement to say that online reviews can make or break your company’s success.
Think about the last time you bought something on Amazon, for instance. Chances are, one of the first things you checked was the overall star rating of the product. And that rating is the byproduct of individual online reviews.
In fact, star ratings are so powerful that consumers still trust them even though 42% of the reviews on Amazon are thought to be fake. In other words, collecting, monitoring, and managing customer feedback must be a critical part of your digital marketing efforts.
Read on to learn why online reviews matter so much, which review sites are the most important, and how you can increase the number of reviews you receive.
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Why reviews are important for customers
For customers, online reviews and testimonials are all about building trust. And that’s especially true for ecommerce sales when shoppers can’t ask store associates for product information before buying.
Here are some specific reasons online reviews are important for prospective customers.
Provide social proof
Online reviews provide social proof to potential customers and give them confidence in you and your business. Let’s be honest, customers probably won’t believe everything you have to say about your business. However, personal recommendations and word-of-mouth are much more powerful.
Positive reviews reassure potential customers that they can trust your brand, your products, or your services.
The data backs this up. Up to 84% of consumers noted that reviews were important in their purchasing decisions. Additionally, 68% develop an opinion of a product or service after viewing between one to six reviews.
Unfortunately, just about everyone has bad experiences with companies, whether online or in brick-and-mortar locations. Online business reviews help potential customers overcome any hesitations and worries.
Build brand trust
Online reviews also build brand trust with your audience. If potential customers know that other people had positive experiences with your brand, they’re more likely to trust your brand. Reviews build brand credibility and increase the likelihood that consumers will purchase from you.
Online reviews validate expertise
Online reviews also validate your expertise in the eyes of prospective customers. They prove that you have successfully helped other people overcome a specific challenge or accomplish a particular goal (or that your expertise results in high quality products).
Anyone can make claims about how amazing their product or service is, but that doesn’t mean those claims are true. By providing evidence of success through online reviews, you demonstrate your expertise and authority.
Most consumers trust online reviews by their peers more than the claims made by a company. Consumers are less likely to believe a claim if there isn’t any third-party supporting evidence. Good reviews are a great way to back up your claims.
Why are online reviews important for businesses?
Online reviews are just as essential for businesses as they are for customers, but for different reasons. For example, they establish stronger relationships with potential customers, and they allow companies to charge a premium price for their products. In one study, consumers were willing to pay 22% more for some products if the company had a good reputation.
One of the more underrated advantages of online reviews is that they allow your brand to expand its online presence beyond your website and social media channels. Customers can learn about your brand on authoritative third-party sites, like Google, Angi, and Yelp. You can also interact with your audience directly on these sites by responding to reviews, answering questions, and addressing any problems that arise.
And unlike many marketing channels, this expanded reach doesn’t cost anything beyond the time you spend engaging with customers.
Influence purchasing decisions
Online reviews directly influence the buying decisions of your target market. According to one study, having as few as five reviews makes products 270% more likely to sell compared to products with no reviews.
Consumers will pay 22% more for products if the company has a good reputationMarketWatch
Products with five reviews are 270% more likely to sell than those with zero reviews.BigCommerce
Online reviews are a key part of the buying process, especially toward the bottom of the funnel. When customers compare products or services, they often choose the ones that have more positive online reviews. A lack of reviews makes buyers feel increased risk, which makes them less likely to buy.
Online reviews help confirm authority
Reviews also help confirm your brand’s authority and expertise. The more reputable brands are, the more trustworthy they appear to be.
People who read reviews assume the author has used the product or service in question before. When a potential customer reads a positive review of your company, it shows them you truly are an authority in your industry. When they see you have successfully helped others overcome problems and achieve positive outcomes (or simply helped them to fall in love with your product), it makes them more likely to trust your claims.
E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, and plays an important role in how the Google algorithm ranks content in the search results. Google wants to give searchers content that is backed by expertise, created by an authoritative source, and as trustworthy as possible. The more a page meets all three of these criteria, the more likely it is to be ranked high in the search results.
Online customer reviews can give your website’s E-A-T a significant boost. When Google sees numerous positive reviews of your brand across multiple third-party sites, it signals to them that your brand has a good reputation.
These positive signals make it more likely that Google will rank your site higher.
Improve your brand’s online visibility
Consumer reviews are also important for SEO. Firstly, they can improve your local search rankings which means more foot traffic in your stores. Secondly, reviews are mentioned repeatedly throughout the Google Quality Rater Guidelines (QRG).
Take a look at section 2.6.3 about customer reviews of businesses.
“For businesses, look for reputation information and reviews from a variety of sources.
It’s important to remember that the QRG do not directly affect search engine rankings. However, it is a clear indication of what Google values.
Thirdly, if you create content that targets branded review keywords, you’ll be more likely to show up for those valuable bottom-of-funnel searches. However, do not fabricate fake reviews in an attempt to game the system. Earn and prominently feature positive reviews.
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What are the most important online review sites?
There are plenty of places for customers to leave feedback, but what are the best customer review platforms for you to focus on?
Given that Google often shows reviews directly in the search results and that they have an impact on your SEO, Google reviews should be prioritized.
Your Google My Business profile contains a significant amount of information that is valuable to potential customers. This includes your contact info, reviews, website, hours of operation, etc. Potential customers are highly likely to click on your profile and see your reviews (or lack thereof). Given the impact this can have on your business, it’s essential to get positive Google reviews.
With billions of monthly active users, it’s also critical to get positive reviews on Facebook. When someone visits your brand’s Facebook page, they should see plenty of positive reviews. This makes it more likely that they’ll click through to your website, as well as follow you on social media.
Another benefit of having positive reviews on Facebook is that you can include your overall rating in the paid advertisements you display on the platform. As a result, you’ll increase the odds someone will click on an ad.
While reviews on Yelp are important for all types of businesses, they are particularly important for businesses operating within a specific locale.
Searchers often use Yelp to find nearby businesses, such as a coffee shop, auto repair shop, etc. As users scroll through the search results, they skim the overall ratings. The higher the average rating, the greater the odds a person will choose that business.
Angi focuses specifically on local services, such as home remodeling, duct inspection, house cleaning, etc. If your company provides any of the listed services, Angi should be relatively high on your priority list when it comes to reviews.
One additional benefit to Angi is that, in addition to displaying customer reviews, you can also provide quotes to potential customers and gather qualified leads.
Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another third-party site where it’s helpful to display company reviews. Not only does it show customer reviews, but it also indicates if your brand is BBB certified. This rating is based on a number of factors, including years in business, complaint history, response to complaints, and more.
Positive customer ratings plus a high BBB rating can significantly increase a customer’s trust in your brand.
Trustpilot is an influential online review site where customers can review everything from car dealerships to airlines to mortgage brokers to shoe stores.
Their pages often show up in the search results when a searcher uses keywords like best X or top-rated X. When a person clicks through to a page, they see the most highly rated brands. The more positive ratings your brand has, the higher your Trust Score. A higher Trust Score results in a better brand reputation and usually more sales.
If you’re in the travel industry, reviews on TripAdvisor are critical to your success. Just think of all the questions people have when they plan trips. Where should they stay? Which restaurants are worth a try? Are there any fun activities nearby?
TripAdvisor reviews can have a major impact on consumer decisions. If your brand has very few reviews or too many one-star reviews, customers will likely choose a better-rated brand.
Folks have a ton of questions while they’re considering software solutions, so online reviews are critical to the customer journey. What are the features, benefits, pros and cons? Is the software hard to use, and does the company offer seamless customer support? What do other folks like me say about it?
With over 1.5+ Million verified software reviews, Capterra is the world’s leading software reviews and selection platform. It helps software buyers search the right software for their business, and make an informed decision.
Industry review sites
Industry-specific review sites can be helpful, especially if your brand is in an industry not usually listed on the bigger sites. Reviews on these sites can give potential customers the assurance they need to trust your brand, even if they can’t find it on the larger sites.
Leveraging online reviews to help your brand
There are a number of ways you can use online reviews for brand management.
First and foremost, prominently display your positive reviews on your website as social proof to visitors. You can also use your reviews as part of your marketing content. Periodically share enthusiastic customer feedback on social media or in marketing emails.
Additionally, some review websites offer badges if you rank highly within your industry or category. These badges can be added to email signatures, as well as displayed on your website.
And don’t miss out on the SEO benefits of online reviews. Identify the terms your audience uses when they’re in the consideration stage of the buying journey.
Obviously, your goal is to get as many positive reviews as possible. If your product or service is good, you will naturally get some positive reviews from happy customers. But there are additional steps you can take to increase the number you get.
How to get more online reviews
There are numerous strategies you can use to boost the amount of positive reviews you receive.
Perhaps the simplest, most obvious way, is to directly ask for reviews. If you sell a product, create a simple email that is automatically sent to buyers after a specified time period. This email should make it as easy as possible for them to leave a review, whether that’s embedding a form directly into the email or including direct links to Google, Yelp, etc.
There are also ways to incentivize customers to leave a review. Something as simple as a discount on future purchases or a promo code for free shipping can be all that’s needed to get a review. SaaS companies often offer access to additional resources in exchange for a review on a site like Capterra or Trustpilot.
A post-purchase survey asking about the customer’s satisfaction with things like checkout, shipping, and product quality is another way to garner more positive reviews. If you include a comment section on the survey, you can collect positive responses and then show them off in various ways.
How to respond to positive reviews
When you receive a positive review, it’s important to respond to it. The response doesn’t have to be long or in-depth. It simply needs to show that you’re grateful for your customers and committed to engaging with them on an ongoing basis. Not only does this build goodwill between you and your audience, but it also encourages other customers to leave reviews.
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It’s important to have a plan for both minimizing the number of negative reviews you receive and how you will respond to them.
How to minimize negative reviews
There are several simple strategies you can use to reduce the number of bad reviews you receive.
The most obvious is to create a superior customer experience from start to finish. This includes the quality of the product or service itself, but also much more. It also includes providing things like:
- A path to easily find specific products or services
- A smooth checkout process
- An easily navigable website
- A sufficient amount of information to make the best buying decision
- An obvious contact process if further information is needed
Another effective way to avoid negative reviews is to provide thorough answers to commonly asked questions. This ensures new customers know exactly what they’re getting into and won’t be caught off-guard.
Finally, consider offering a strong guarantee behind your product or service. If customers know that you are committed to giving them the best possible experience, they’re much more likely to contact you first before leaving a negative review. This gives you the opportunity to address the problem.
How to respond to negative reviews
Inevitably, you will receive the occasional negative review. Instead of ignoring it, use it as an opportunity to show your commitment to your customers. Respond directly to the review, apologize for any problems, and offer a specific way to fix the issue.
Even if this doesn’t totally satisfy the unhappy customer, it demonstrates that you truly do care about your customers. Others who read the negative review will see that you genuinely attempted to solve the problem, which actually strengthens how many perceive your brand.
Invest in reputation management
Now, more than ever, your brand reputation matters. People buy from brands they trust, and they tell others about ones they don’t.
The importance of online reviews is even more clear when it comes to your brand’s reputation. They influence customer purchase behavior, your search engine rankings, your perceived authority, and ultimately, your bottom line.
Whether you operate a global enterprise or a local business, investing in your online reputation will only benefit you. Failing to do so can have serious consequences.