power of reviews

It’s all in the stars: the power of reviews

March 2021

When was the last time you bought anything or booked a plumber or a dog-sitter, or any other service, online? We’d hazard a guess that it was pretty recent.  Now, did you buy it without reading a review about it first? We’d hazard a guess not. In fact, we’d wager that you read several.

These days, with every online purchase we make there’s a huge amount of choice, and, with every choice an incredible amount of information in the form of ads, social media, product descriptions – some of it transparent, honest and objective, some not so much. Despite the thorny issue of brands paying people to write fakes (which is another article entirely), reviews are one of the most relied-on sources of information, and one that can make all the difference between purchasing and walking away.

“Reviews are twice as likely to be an important factor in choosing a business than loyalty”

In 2021, 87% of respondents of one study said that they read an online review before visiting a local business. Reviews are twice as likely to be an important factor in choosing a local business than loyalty, and 7.4 times more likely to be an important factor than traditional marketing. And, more importantly, 94% said that a negative review has convinced them to avoid visiting a business.

So online reviews are crucial, which means businesses need to know how to make the most of positive feedback – and make it easy for customers to give it.

The irresistibility of social proof

Everyone likes to think they’re an individual with their own opinion, and that they’re not easily influenced by anyone else. Of course, we’re social creatures and the truth is that we rely very heavily on other’s opinions. And, while it’s especially true if the opinions are of other like-minded people, it’s also true if they’re a bunch of strangers. Glowing reviews of a product will help increase conversions.

Even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate uptick in sales, it helps to build up your reputation over time. Plenty of positive mentions on social media and lots of five-star reviews can only boost brand trust.

So brands need to encourage interaction on social media, display and share positive communication, and generally make sure everyone knows that everyone thinks you’re great. Just don’t overdo it, or you’ll come across as insincere and a little desperate.

Quality and quantity

Star ratings in reviews are, without a doubt, important. Customers look for at least 3.4 stars before they’ll even consider engaging with your business, and those ratings have a cumulative effect on your longer-term brand reputation. An occasional negative review is one thing, but nobody wants a long line of 1-stars.

However, stars are not the be-all and end-all. Customers are much more savvy and nuanced in their assessment of whether a brand is worth looking at. They’re looking for quantity, quality and consistency in the reviews they see online.

“Reviews must be recent and relevant in order for consumers to care about them”

In this study 83% of consumers agreed, or somewhat agreed, that reviews must be recent and relevant in order to care about them, and 68% said that they don’t trust a high rating unless there are lots of them.

Respond to reviews

The way a business responds to reviews is also very important.  In the same study, 56% of consumers said that a business’s responses to reviews had changed their perspective on the business.

How you respond gives consumers an insight into how trust-worthy, genuine, responsible, and caring you are – in other words, an insight into how you are going to treat them.

Make it easy to show the love

So the importance of reviews is clear. But while most consumers say they read reviews before making a purchase or visit a business, they’re much less likely to write one themselves.

The vast majority (81% according to the study) say they leave a review four times a year or less, and 20% say they’ve never written one. To break down this barrier, brands need to think about their strategy for encouraging customers to leave feedback.

“Consumers are significantly more likely to leave feedback if they receive an invitation by email or text”

After having a good experience with a business, consumers are significantly more likely to leave feedback if they receive an invitation by email or text.

Either way, the study found that businesses are 1.4 times more likely to have an average star rating of 4.5 or higher if they are proactive about their online reputation than if they are passive about it. So strategy and proactivity, as in most forms of digital marketing, are your best friends.

Illustration: Barbara Alca

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