Use of online review sites surges in a climate of consumer mistrust
COVID-19 has changed how business is done and we're not yet sure what life will look like post pandemic. We do know that everyone spends more time online now...a lot more time. This behavioral shift has increased website traffic, grown social media engagement, increased email open rates, expanded content libraries, and renewed a focus on search engine optimization.
One important aspect of SEO is online reviews. Customer reviews and testimonials are valuable endorsements of trust and authority, two strong drivers of customer purchase behavior. Here, we break down what you need to know to build online reviews for your company.
Bright Local’s 2019 Consumer Survey about online reviews confirms that 82 percent of consumers read online reviews when looking for a local business. Most consumers are more likely to use a local business after reading positive reviews, though negative reviews can dissuade nearly half of consumers from supporting the business. As more companies ask consumers to review their experience, it's important to also address the critical feedback. Companies need to be cautious of online trolls, but unhappy customers can also provide constructive insight. Even the positive praise received on these review sites deserves a company response - 97 percent of consumers read the businesses' response to reviews!
Service, hospitality, retail, and business-to-business operations benefit from authentic customer reviews that describe a first-hand experience with a product or service. Review websites include Google, Facebook, Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor and in-app reviews (like product or service reviews within one brand’s app, i.e. Amazon). Consumers refer to online reviews when dining out, traveling, buying insurance or fitness services, and even when making major healthcare decisions. In instances such as COVID-19, consumers engage in more 'discovery' online and take the time to learn more about a product, service, and brand before making a purchase.
Consumers don’t just read one review and make a purchase. The average consumer reads 10 reviews before making a decision and these 10 are from various online review sites. That's a lot of reviews on a few different websites! In the consumers' mind, online reviews are nearly as trustworthy as a recommendation from friends or family. As consumers scour the Internet to find more reviews that validate their choice before actually making a purchase, make sure your company has a presence on multiple online review sites.
With many types of review websites and potentially hundreds of reviews, how does a consumer choose what to trust? Consumers prioritize star rating, the number of reviews, and recency of reviews when selecting when evaluating reviews. The average local business has 4.42 stars on Google. Consumers gravitate to businesses with three to five out of five stars.
Make sure review sites are current at all times, reflecting holiday hours, product/service changes, location/parking information, and recent reviews. Close to 50 percent of consumers prefer to read a review posted within a two week time period of their research. All information should be current and accurate since you only have one chance to make a first impression and some customers won't come back if they don't find the information they're looking for. Your business should continuously collect feedback through these review sites so there's always fresh reviews to peruse. Reviews older than three months aren’t relevant to most consumers. An “expiration date” can be a welcome thing if there’s a bad review, offering the business an opportunity at redemption.
Online reviews, referrals, and testimonials are powerful because of their word-of-mouth capabilities, which
fuels organic growth more than traditional marketing and advertising channels. Businesses of all types are seeing the impact. Consumers seek out reviews because they want to learn from the experience of others before investing in a product or service. It may come as no surprise that hospitality tops the list. However, healthcare marketers should take note that consumers are very interested in reviews of medical facilities, physicians, and dentists.
Because many of these industries are among the most impacted by coronavirus stay at home guidelines, current customers can buy a gift certificate and write a review to help. Maybe your business is slower as a result of the crisis and you can invest time to develop online reviews as part of your marketing strategy. All businesses should start thinking now about how plans and even products or services offered will change after coronavirus.
C. Change Consulting provides holistic marketing and communications strategy, research, and planning for brands. Pro bono assistance is available to companies with limited resources. If you would like help during COVID-19 - schedule a consult.