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Business owner's guide: the power of online reviews

Whatever you might think of them, the power of online reviews cannot be ignored. Whether you’re a small e-tailer, an online giant, or a global blue-chip - online reviews have an impact.

Research from Nielsen revealed that recommendations from acquaintances or opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of ‘advertising.’ A recent blog post from eConsultancy shows that:

  • 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision

  • Reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales

  • 47% of Britons have reviewed products online

With the explosion of online shopping - latest figures show that UK shoppers spent £586.9m a week online, on average, in June 2013 (that’s 18.3% up on the same month in 2012) - reviews have taken on a whole new significance. By not allowing customers to rate and comment on your company, you run the risk of online shoppers taking their business straight to competitors that do.

Research from a recent TripAdvisor study also revealed that:

53% of travellers won’t book a hotel if it doesn’t have any reviews. Some 78% say reviews help them to feel more confident in making a booking decision. Whatever way you look at it, if you sell online, then not having online review options is going to have a serious impact on your profits.

5 reasons why you need online reviews

Online reviews are basically a word-of-mouth marketing strategy, which has long been known as the most powerful endorsement a brand can have. Here are 5 reasons you should include reviews on your website:

  • Reason #1 - They help you build consumer confidence and trust.

You’re obviously going to be providing the best products and services that you possibly can, so the vast majority of your reviews will reflect this. This builds confidence and trust in customers who haven’t used you before as the more 3-5 star ratings you have, the more likely they are to believe all those people can’t be wrong.

  • Reason #2 - They increase your click-through rates (CTRs).

Featuring reviews from your happy customers in search results when consumers search for your product gets you more click-throughs and, in turn, more conversions. Find a platform that feeds your reviews straight into your Google Seller Ratings: on average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17% higher CTR than the same ads without ratings.

  • Reason #3 - They can help improve conversion rates

Businesses that have been using online review solutions show that their online sales have increased anywhere from 7.5% to 60% due to increased trust from sceptical buyers.

  • Reason #4 - They give you great content to share on social media

With 92% of people trusting recommendations from people they know, an online review system that lets you share your reviews easily on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ will enable your customers to spread trust among their peers, increasing your customer base.

  • Reason #5 - They keep your customers engaged

By letting your customers comment on your company and taking the time to respond to them you make them feel valued and wanted. They are more likely to want to become part of the company - PROsumers, not just CONsumers. This goes for negative as well as positive reviews - even if someone is unhappy, by responding quickly and positively you can turn things around.

According to Forbes, where online reviews matter most is in the home electronics market (77% say consumer reviews influence purchase decisions compared to just 23% for editorial reviews) and automotive industries. But they also point out that any business that operates a significant portion of its retail platform online, apart from the FMCG sector, has a lot to lose or gain when it comes to online reviews of products and services.

What next? 5 steps to getting started with reviews

So now that you know why online reviews are a must-have for your business, and how to use them to win more customers and more repeat business, what do you do next?

You need to:

  • Embrace the new world of online reviews and learn how to make them work for your business to increase conversions.

  • Review your online review platform options and choose the one that best suits your needs. Can you respond to reviews? Will it push your reviews to Google and feed them into your Google Seller Ratings? Can it share them easily to social media platforms?

  • Get your platform up and running and start collecting reviews from your existing customers before your competition does.

  • Respond to your reviews, good and bad, and share them across all of your marketing channels.

  • Sit back and watch as your glowing reviews generate more business.
 Need help finding a review platform that’s right for you? Download our free eGuide now: Top 5 Questions when Choosing your Online Review Platform