How important are online reviews?
Customer experience is the new marketing. Well maybe not new, but a return to grassroots in the form of digital. The importance of responding to customers could not be more prevalent. These stats illustrate that reviews are on the minds of all consumers:
- 88% have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business (vs. 85% in 2020)
- 39% read reviews on a regular basis (vs. 32% in 2019)
- Only 12% do not read reviews (vs. 15% in 2019)
Google has given us yet another reason to put our reviews where our mouths are. In Google’s markup—the annotated content that appears in search—of a company or product, reviews and ratings can now be included. “When Google finds valid reviews or ratings markup, we may show a rich snippet that includes stars and other summary info from reviews or ratings” (Google Developers). This is huge news.
Consumers control the conversation
Social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare have dramatically changed the way businesses communicate compared to traditional media. A reputation today is more about what customers say about a business and less about what a business says about itself.
Review sites are a two-way conversation favouring the consumer—businesses can no longer broadcast the message they want people to see. There is a democratic nature to reviews, with brands, consumers and trolls having an equal voice in a shared space. Customers can rave about a business or let everyone know they had a terrible experience. Earned media—like mentions, reviews and shares—has empowered consumers to advocate for brands they care about. Today, consumers can converse with brands and vice versa. This has created a world of opportunities.
Though some people think of monitoring their reputation as a scary chore or a daunting task, instant feedback is something most business owners are constantly searching for. Responding effectively to negative reviews and amplifying positive feedback is essential for success. Not responding to customers on review sites and social media is worse than having a phone line that goes unanswered, because there are thousands of people witnessing the neglect.
While review sites and social media are essential parts of managing a successful online reputation, monitoring a business’s digital profile is about much more than responding to reviews and social media. It’s about being proactive and creating an authentic online image with the help of customers. Consumers are complicit in marketing now.