Businesses need to start caring more about reviews. Why?
Reviews are the #1 influencer today for consumer purchasing decisions.
But maybe you’re a well-established business that relies on referrals, you say?
While that used to carry a lot of weight, nowadays 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as or more than they trust personal recommendations.
Whatever your situation, reviews are important. That’s a fact.
With such a strong influence on the purchasing decisions of customers, it’s shocking that less than 20% of businesses have a review strategy in place, when more than 80% of purchases are made based on reviews.
This represents a huge opportunity for the businesses that are consistently getting high quality reviews online. These businesses:
- rank higher on Google
- attract more traffic
- generate more sales
That’s the power of a strong review presence!
So, what’s caused this change in how customers are making their purchasing decisions?
1. Customers Have Taken Control Over Their Purchasing Decisions
Let’s face it: Everybody likes to buy things, but nobody likes to be sold to.
Up until recently, businesses had control over their messaging through TV, radio & print advertising.
Now, with the rise of over 100 social platforms & review networks like Google, Yelp, Homestars, RateMDs, Amazon, etc., consumers have taken control over the messaging.
And that messaging comes largely in the form of reviews.
How BIG of an impact are Reviews having on Sales? Well…
- 9 in 10 consumers read reviews when researching products & services (that number jumps up to 97% for local businesses!)
- 3 in 4 consumers place more trust in businesses that have positive reviews
- 85% trust online reviews as much as or more than personal recommendations
- 10% of search traffic comes from reviews (even higher for mobile & local search)
- Google knows this – that’s why reviews are now the most important ranking factor for local search
Instead of taking the advice of a friend or trusting the messages portrayed in the media, consumers have adopted a sense of empowerment.
This sense of empowerment comes from having access to hundreds of authentic reviews and opinions from other past customers who’ve purchased that product/service.
But, just because customers now have access to all this information, are they truly making unbiased and well-informed purchasing decisions?
2. Businesses still control the messaging that consumers are exposed to, just in different ways….
Despite the feeling of empowerment, consumers aren’t always in full control of their decisions. That’s because smart businesses have simply found new ways to influence their customers buying behaviours, often in more subtle ways than the average consumer is even aware of.
With all this information available, that means that we’ll consume it all and be the most educated customer ever… right?
Reviews bias the information we consume
With so much content available, we rarely have time to read it all. In fact, the average researcher will only go 1 or 2 layers deep and thus is exposed to a maximum of 5-10% of the total information available. What does that mean?
That means the review networks are forced to sort and rank content based on a rating system that shows the most valuable content first.
Well, when “most valuable” normally means “best rated”, it’s clear that even a detail-orientated customer is only being exposed to a small fraction of biased data, heavily influenced and ranked by REVIEWS.
Thus, reviews control the information we consume when researching products and/or services.
Okay, so how do businesses control & shape the reviews?
We said that smart businesses are finding new ways to influence buying behaviour. Reviews are a big part of that.
In the Google My Business profile above, look how many reviews Modern PURAIR has! With 146 reviews and a 4.9-star rating, do you think this was left to chance?
I can attest firsthand that this was no coincidence!
We work with Modern PURAIR in a number of facets of their marketing. They understand the value of a proactive review strategy.
The first thing they do, of course, is provide a superior product delivered with excellent service. But even that’s not enough, not these days.
They follow up with customers, making sure that the customer has had a positive experience. Then they ask the customer to leave a review on Google.
Among the 20 or so options for duct cleaning in and around Kelowna, Modern PURAIR comes up at the top of the 3-pack for Google My Business.
Business owners who are invested into their review game are seeing dividends paying off exponentially.
Business owners who leave it up to chance? Well, look at Kettle Valley Duct Cleaners in the same profile above. They have one review, not a very good one, and come up third in the search.
Which reviews will your customers see?
3. Reviews control the two most crucial parts of the purchasing process
The buying process typically starts & finishes with the influence of reviews.
Reviews influence whether you appear on Page 1 of Google, valuable real estate in the ongoing war for visibility & traffic.
Reviews are also an influencer when the customer is ready to make a purchase.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Reviews in the early search stages
Google’s algorithm takes reviews into account to determine where your page will rank. When it comes to local businesses, reviews are so important that they are now the #1 ranking factor for local search.
And it’s not just Google’s logic. 1 in 2 of consumers will choose a local business if it has positive reviews.
That means that, even though someone may never have heard of you, there’s a good chance that they’ll click through and check out your website if your search ranking is high and you get good reviews (which often go hand in hand).
Include more reviews and testimonials on your site – big trust factors – and the conversion rate goes up further.
In this example, searching for used cars in Ottawa, we get the standard Google My Business 3-pack.
- The first listing only has a 3-star rating with 13 reviews
- The second has a 4.8 rating with 38 reviews (it also has a photo)
- The third business has no reviews
Which would you choose?
That’s how reviews influence the front half of the process.
Let’s say you’ve chosen Autorebex (we certainly would have!) and make your way to the dealer to check out some cars.
Reviews are seen right before the purchase
Now you’re at the dealer, looking at two cars in the same category. You take each for a test drive, look at the specs, and then check your phone to ask two questions:
- Is there a better price somewhere else?
- How are the reviews?
Take a look at the two profiles below from car site Edmunds, which show ratings and reviews.
One rates a 4.2, the other rates a 4.9. Those are from people who actually drive these cars.
Again, the choice is pretty clear.
And that’s how reviews are also the last thing most customers evaluate before making that final decision to purchase.
What about reviews that retailers display on their sites? Are these trustworthy? Although the public used to be more skeptical of reviews & ratings on ecommerce sites, these days it’s seen as more helpful than not. People are 63% more likely to buy from a site that displays ratings & reviews, translating to an 18% increase in sales.
Whether it’s retailers themselves or third-party sites, there’s no denying that reviews are a huge influencer in purchase decision-making.
You might say that reviews control the most powerful psychological stage of the process.
4. Overwhelmingly convincing reviews are essential
Speaking of psychology, here’s a fun fact:
The fear of losing is a more powerful emotion than the desire to acquire equivalent gains.
That’s why you need a lot of positive reviews!
Strange as it might sound, most people would find it better not to lose $5 than to gain $5.
In fact, people are 2.5X more likely to avoid losses than take a risk on winning. It’s the principle of Loss Aversion.
To cancel out the perceived risk for most customers, you need more than twice as many good reviews as neutral-to-negative reviews. A ratio of 2.5:1 or better.
Of course, not all reviews are the same. If a business has 109 reviews and an overall 3.7 rating, for example, some people won’t click on the search result or make a purchase.
Why not? 3.7 isn’t a bad rating, is it? And hey, that’s over a hundred reviews, so they must be worthy of someone’s business… right?
It’s a combination of quantity and quality that influence a purchase.
- Having more than 50 reviews can translate to a 6% increase in conversion rates
- Star rating is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business
- 92% of consumers would use a business with a 4-star rating
- While 51% would use a business with a 3-star rating
- Only 14% would consider using a business with a 1-star or 2-star rating
Quite the drop-off, isn’t it?!
From four stars to three, you’re losing nearly half the audience. Drop below three stars and you’re losing most of the remainder.
Why is this? Loss Aversion in practice!
Loss Aversion and Consumer Behaviour
Loss Aversion is a guiding force when it comes to how we spend our money.
The market votes with its wallet, and it usually decides to go with the safest, most trusted option with the least risk or downside.
Is it possible that your business is the unlucky recipient of some picky customers who a bad day? Maybe.
But if you have a small number of reviews, and even one or two of them are 1-star or 2-star, you’ll need to get a lot of 5-star reviews to make up for that!
What about businesses with good ratings, say in the “sweet spot” of 4.3 ~ 4.8 stars? Will people overlook the bad reviews that happen to be there?
On the contrary!
Remember it’s about Loss Aversion.
People looking to buy your product are more likely to skip the good reviews and go directly to the bad reviews. Then they’ll make a decision about the “risk” of having a negative experience and how that compares to their potential for gains.
That’s why it’s very important to consider how you respond to your reviews, so that you have a voice of reason with consumers. Realistically, as the saying goes, you haven’t made it until you have bad reviews, so you might as well prepare and learn how to handle them in a constructive way.
5. The COST of a BAD REVIEW might be way more than you think (don’t be fooled)
Bad reviews can cost you money – hundreds if not thousands of dollars in losses for every bad review that gets posted!
That’s why you need an online reputation management system in place.
What’s the true cost of a bad review?
Well, for the drywall company in the example above, they only have one review and it’s a 1-star at that! How much business do you suppose they’re losing just by not addressing this???
But let’s say you’re not them. You’re you, and you’re good at what you do. That gets you good reviews, averaging 4.5 stars. You’re cruising along, you’re at your target – and then, BOOM, a bad review gets posted.
Is it the end of the world? Not necessarily.
First things first, follow up constructively. Address the issue, acknowledge where you may have erred or strayed from your mission, and be humble. Then you need to go out and get more good reviews!
Easier said than done? Read on.
Making up for a bad review with good reviews
How many reviews do you need to offset one 1-star review?
To maintain the 4.5-star minimum rating, you’ll need nine 5-star reviews to make up for one 1-star!
How much will it cost you in time and effort to get those nine awesome reviews? Depends on the nature of your business, of course.
Let’s say you’re a drywall contractor. What happens if a customer leaves a 1-star rating?
You now need to go above & beyond for nine customers, wowing them and providing a stellar experience. You’ll probably have to throw in some add-ons or comp some extra labour time. Those all cost money.
If the cost of each additional 5-star review were $300, you’d have to spend $2700 to make up for that one 1-star review!
Apply this formula to your business & category and see how your numbers shape up!
This clinic and its doctors (each with separate pages) are deploying a proactive online review strategy. The result: Argyle Associates is now ranked 4th out of 4004 medical professionals in Ottawa.
What can you do to put yourself ahead of the Reviews curve?
Okay, you’ve come this far. You’ve got a solid website, you’re doing social media and SEO. Maybe you’re tackling marketing on your own, or perhaps you’re already working with an agency.
Ironically, it turns out that very few SEO and online marketing companies include “review services” to their clients.
Time and again, we’ve seen a company’s reviews go unnoticed and untouched on major review sites.
That’s a pretty cruel irony, isn’t it, considering that reviews are the #1 ranking factor for local search on Google?!
It turns out that reviews are actually one of the few online marketing initiatives with benefits on both the TRAFFIC and CONVERSIONS sides of the equation.
So, if you’re thinking it’s time to do something about controlling your online reviews, here are a few key questions you’ll want to consider:
- Are you going above and beyond for your customers?
- Have you identified the review networks that are most popular in your industry?
- Have you identified the most opportune moment to ask customers for a review?
- Are you sending out review requests, as well as friendly reminders?
- Do you have a system to monitor recent reviews?
- Are you responding to all reviews?
- Have you established a professional way to respond to “less-than-stellar” reviews?
- Have you set a target review score & review frequency that is realistic?
In other words:
Could your review & reputation management be working better for you?
Or maybe you see the importance of reviews but just don’t have the time?
Why not automate the process with a tried-and-true method?! For a nominal investment, you can free up valuable time AND ensure that just the best reviews and ratings will get posted online.
Perhaps WebMarketers’ review management services are for you!