The marketing landscape has clearly evolved. Consumers have vast brand influence at their fingertips in this digital, social age, and the growth of omnichannel means retailers have multiple avenues to engage customers in personalised conversations. Trust has become a valid currency, and online reviews have the ability to influence and change customer opinion before they have even made it into your store or clicked the ‘check out’ button.
Truspilot recently conducted a survey with 1,500 US and UK business executives (of which two thirds are in the retail and travel sectors) to find how businesses are using online reviews. The survey discovered that 79% of respondents believe that reviews play an important role in influencing consumers’ decision making and the same percentage also cited online reviews as having a positive financial impact on their business. This indicates that most businesses already consider online reviews as central to their strategy and their bottom line.
To support this, when it comes to the benefits businesses have seen by using customer reviews, 78% cited the acquisition of new customers, 57% cited the ability to identify opportunities for improvement and 41% cited increased customer loyalty. However, a number of areas where businesses could improve was also identified.
Although 69% of businesses surveyed were both collecting and displaying reviews, this means that almost a third (31%) are not benefiting as well as they could. With 50% stating that the biggest barrier to online reviews is their concern about potential negative exposure, it seems some businesses are still holding back.
However, retailers should bear in mind that in this day and age, organisations can’t control the conversation. If a customer wants to share their experience, they can and will. By taking ownership of the process, businesses can mitigate the risk of negative reviews by dealing with them first hand. By quickly identifying and resolving the issues that have triggered a negative review, businesses can avoid the chances of further hostile commentary and potentially turn dissatisfied customers into brand advocates.
What’s more, public online reviews can enable businesses to turbo charge their marketing. As a recent report by Google Seller Ratings, has shown, Google ads with ratings generate a 17% higher click through rate that those that don’t - proving that having public online reviews can have a direct positive impact on sales. Retailers that refrain from engaging with customers in this way are therefore placing themselves at a disadvantage.
Along with the fear of displaying reviews, our survey also revealed some confusion over ownership of online reviews with 38% of businesses dealing with them in marketing, 19% in customer service and a further 19% in sales. This suggests that in in some organisations there is limited resource flexibility or the management of reviews is overly confusing.
In light of this, it seems retailers would benefit from taking a cross-functional, collaborative approach to managing online reviews so that feedback is leveraged across marketing, customer experience and other product development initiatives. This will ensure that feedback is being used across the businesses to improve every customer touchpoint ensuring improved loyalty, advocacy and retention to ensure customers keep coming back for more.