In an age of mass social media usage and review platforms, the power of word-of-mouth can have a significant impact on sales — good and bad. With the internet at their fingertips 24/7, happy and unhappy customers alike are poised and ready to share their feedback at the touch of a button. Online reviews, as with all digital interactions, invite a level of honesty that is devoid of face-to-face politeness and courtesy. If your customer is unhappy, there is nothing stopping them from leaving a scathing review online for the world to see. Equally, a fantastic or funny review can go viral within minutes.
But just how significant are your product reviews to your potential shoppers? Do they have the power to sway an undecided buyer towards your website's checkout page?
The impact of reviews
Our recent Consumer Brand Report uncovered some key stats around the impact of reviews on prospective customers. Unsurprisingly, ‘online reviews’ are the top influencers in purchasing decisions when researching/shopping for a product/service online (55%). Interestingly, 38% of consumers are influenced by website and digital experience, while 41% say that their online shopping experiences are inconsistent — data that should concern many businesses offering an online service.
Fan & Fuel (2016) found that 94% of online customers read reviews before making any purchasing decisions, and the Spiegel Research Centre (2017) established that 95% of shoppers read reviews for product-specific information before making a purchase.
It's clear to see that reviews form a key part of the customer journey, playing a crucial role at the decision-making stage of the sales funnel. As a business, you should be proactively encouraging your customers to leave reviews of your product or service. This could be on your social media platforms, on third-party review websites, on your own website or on related forums. Don't forget to actively monitor the web for other reviews that might pop up in unexpected places.
Engaging with your customers is key to understanding how to better meet their needs. Utilising customer experience platforms is vital for continually improving your service and communications. By welcoming a dialogue with your customers, you are empowering them to make a positive difference to your company. Show that you are a work in progress as a business and that customer feedback and input is valued. As you start to implement improvements and make changes based on your customers' insights, let them know that you have heard their feedback and are taking action. Doing this will show your commitment to continuous improvement and will make your customers feel seen and heard, which in turn will lead to more positive reviews.
It's not just how you engage with your customers that matters. It’s clear that consumers also have strong views on how companies behave. We found that 57% of Britons agree that companies should be socially and environmentally responsible and 47% believe that businesses should always respond to negative reviews (Consumer Brand Report). Negative reviews should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and improve as a business, but also as an opportunity to show potential customers that you are actively listening to your complaints and resolving them where possible. Every negative review can be the chance to earn a positive one.
The negative review
How damaging can negative reviews be? Small Business Trends (2017) reports that one negative review has the potential to lose 22% of potential customers, three negative reviews will lose 59%, and four negative reviews could turn away 70% of your potential customers.
It's not just negative reviews of your products or services that you should be wary of. Governance around online communication in the public domain is becoming ever more challenging and complex, as the line blurs between employee behaviour and their employer’s own brand values. One negative post, video or interaction from an employee can pose a real threat to how potential and actual customers alike view your brand. Minimise this risk by implementing a robust social media policy.
Online reviews are only set to get more and more popular, as our younger generations enter the world as 'digital natives'. The figures above make a strong case for how important product reviews are to customers as they make their shopping decisions. As a business, be sure to embrace the feedback and engagements your customers are sharing — both good and bad. Learn from what is being said and use each negative review as an opportunity to win back an unhappy customer and show potential ones why they should choose you over your competitors.