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Understanding the Role of Customer Reviews in Digital Marketing

Collecting customer reviews isn’t something you do to inflate your ego or make you feel better about your business. While it’s definitely reassuring to see positive reviews, the feedback you get from customers has much more tangible value.

Customer Reviews Matter More Than You Know

Meet George. He’s a 25-year-old shopper who isn’t very brand loyal, but does a fair amount of shopping. When he shops for products online, he’s looking at two very specific things to help him make the right choice. First off, George wants to get a good deal. While he’s not necessarily going to choose the cheapest option, he certainly isn’t going for the most expensive either. In order for him to seriously consider a product, it has to be reasonably priced.

The second thing George looks for is assurance. He suffers from serious buyer’s remorse and wants to do everything he possibly can to make sure he’s satisfied with his purchase. Assurance can come in many forms, but George is most influenced by social proof in the form of customer reviews. Even on relatively minor purchases, he’ll spend 15 or 20 minutes gathering reviews from different sites, studying the ratings, skimming buyer feedback, and making a mental list of the pros and cons of a particular product.

Understanding the Role of Customer Reviews in Digital Marketing

If a product doesn’t have any reviews, or features more negative feedback than positive, George is highly unlikely to spend his money on it. He assumes that his experience will be the same as other customers’ experiences and isn’t interested in walking down the road of buyer’s remorse again. However, if a product has lots of positive reviews and there’s some consistency between them, in terms of the benefits the product offers, then George is influenced to make the purchase.

George isn’t just one shopper. If you have a customer base that’s predominantly under the age of 60, George is your target customer. Today’s consumers have been raised in a virtual shopping environment where they have everything at their fingertips and have come to rely on tangible elements of social proof, like customer reviews, to help them sift through an abundance of online information and make safe, educated, and savvy purchase decisions.

According to a BrightLocal study on customer reviews, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as they do a personal recommendation from a friend. Nearly three out of four customers say positive reviews make them trust local businesses, while 58 percent say the star rating of a business is most important. Interestingly, 73 percent of consumers think reviews that are older than 3 months are no longer relevant – which indicates a need to always be collecting fresh reviews.

It’s not just trust that comes into play, either. SEO experts firmly believe that reviews impact search rankings for local businesses – especially in the top three.

“When multiple companies are available locally and meet the search criteria, Google turns to online reviews as a way to further determine which of the three businesses to display,” marketer Hannah Whittenly explains. “An expert with a white-label SEO company says review signals have been ranked as the fifth most important search-engine ranking factor. Businesses with higher reviews will, therefore, be more likely to hit that coveted ‘top three’ spot.”

4 Ways to Enhance the Value of Customer Reviews

It doesn’t matter what your industry is, if you sell exclusively online or also have a local storefront, or what preconceived notions you have about your target customers – reviews, testimonials, and ratings are crucially important to your long-term success online.

Not sure how to proceed or what it looks like to focus on gathering and leveraging reviews? We’ve got a few tips that should help:

#1. Focus on Third Party Sites

A lot of businesses make the mistake of only collecting reviews on their own website. While valuable, many customers won’t seem them here. If they do, they’re likely to be a little skeptical. That’s why it’s recommended that you focus on collecting as many reviews as possible from third party sites.

In addition to appearing more authentic to customers, reviews on third party sites can help you increase visibility. Take, for example, the Best Company credit repair rankings. Approximately 40 percent of their ranking formula is connected to reviews, which means an aggressive review collection strategy can actually increase a company’s rankings and, hopefully, drive more business.

#2. Use Reviews to Market and Promote

When you gather reviews, you should try to use them in as many different ways as possible. Ideas include promoting via social media, putting testimonials in marketing campaigns, inserting a reviews tab on your website, using actual customer feedback in advertisements, and incorporating feedback into your email marketing efforts.

#3. Quickly Respond to Feedback

Depending on the platform, you may actually be able to respond to customer feedback. If you have this option, take advantage of it and quickly respond so that customers know you’re listening. This is especially important when you get a scathing review. By responding right away and encouraging the customer to contact you, you stand a much better chance of diffusing the problem and showing other customers – who are watching – that you care.

#4. Empower Brand Ambassadors

Reviews give you an opportunity to see who your customers are and what their experiences are really like. When you receive glowing reviews from engaged customers, consider inviting them to be part of a brand ambassador program. People who already love your company may be motivated to endorse your brand online in return for basic perks like discounts and freebies.

Give Your Business the Upper Hand

Your business will never be successful if it doesn’t have quality products and services, competitive pricing, and a willingness to serve customers’ best interests. However, once you get past these basic elements of building a business, your attention should shift towards building trust with your audience. In the noisy digital marketing landscape, reviews and testimonials are the answer. Make sure you’re giving them an adequate amount of attention.


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Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn

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