The sixth annual consumer review survey by local SEO platform, BrightLocal has revealed just how big a deal online reviews are for consumers and by extension, brands large and small. BrightLocal polled more than 1,000 US consumers and found that:
- 84% of online shoppers now trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations received offline
- 96% of shoppers have searched online for a local business and 91% will read online reviews
- 54% of people will visit a business website after reading a positive review
- 9 out of 10 people will read less than 10 reviews before reaching a conclusion about your business
- 73% of shopper say reviews which are more than 3 months old are irrelevant
The level of trust that many shoppers now place in reviews has also increased in the last six years. In 2010, 29% of shoppers said they didn’t read online reviews at all – now, that figure is just 9%.
For businesses with an online presence, the survey data highlights just how critical reputation building has become. Reviews should be considered as a form of e-commerce currency, with positive reviews acting as a powerful call to action, driving consumers through to a brand website and encouraging them to place their trust in a product or service they might otherwise not have tried.
One of the positives to take from the BrightLocal report is that small businesses should be able to compete with larger rivals simply by investing time and effort in review building. While a startup or entrepreneur won’t be able to invest the same budget in advertising for example, non-paid for reviews can be equally effective when it comes to showcasing products and services.
So, as a small business how can you go about building reviews and how can you leverage them?
Reach out to your customers
7 out of 10 consumers polled by BrightLocal said that they would leave a review for a business if they were asked to do so. Even if you have a respectable pile of reviews in the bank already, continue to be proactive about asking your customers to leave a review for you. The most effective reviews are less than three months old so this should be an ongoing activity. The request can be as simple as an automated email or, built into your sales or ecommerce process in the form of a quick survey or personalized telephone call.
Offer a range of review options
While some people will take the time to go back and leave an individual product review on your site, others may prefer to share their experiences via a familiar forum such as TripAdvisor or TrustPilot. Give a range of options for reviews so customers can review using the means they are most happy with. Having a couple of review options available from different sources also means your reviews will take up more than one listing in the SERPs.
Don’t be afraid of reviews
Some businesses are afraid of reviews because they fear negative feedback. While not every review will be positive, don’t put off review building for fear of complaints. Have a process in place to deal with negative reviews from shoppers and be sure that all customer service personnel work from the same playbook. Casting blame, arguing and airing grievances publicly with customers, even if you feel they are being unfair in their comments, does more harm than good.
Respond publicly and if necessary take the conversation into a private arena to resolve the issue and leave the client feeling more positive about their interactions with your brand.