Opinions are divided about online reviews,
with most business owners coming down one of two ways. First, there are the
look-on-the-bright-side types, who believe online reviews can positively affect
their sales. Then, there are the gloomy naysayers, who argue that online
reviews don’t make a shred of difference. (Oddly, these cynical sorts are often
the first to blame a bad review when their sales drop off!)
But who’s right? Do online reviews affect sales – or are they just another piece of digital detritus, gathering dust on a far-away server? Read on, as we find out.
Do Consumers Trust Online Reviews ?
Hmmm… That’s a sticky one! Can we really lump together 3-billion+ consumers, and serve up just one answer?
No… The truth is, some consumers trust online reviews, while others are more wary. Generally, the tighter the review-verification process, the more likely buyers are to trust those reviews. On the other hand, reviews obviously left by friends and family members are a major turn-off. These are likely to be biased, at best, or completely fake, at worst.
Relevance, The Forgotten Factor
It’s not only the issue of fake reviews that affects trust. As well as deciding whether a review is real, consumers care about whether it’s relevant. Three of the key signals that affect how people interpret reviews are:
The product or service bought by the reviewer. Was it the same as, or similar to, the purchase the consumer is considering; was the price equivalent?
The age of the review. Old reviews count for very little, especially if a business has changed hands. New online reviews have a much stronger affect.
The demographic of the reviewer. Consumers will subconsciously judge how much they have in common with the reviewer, to determine the relevance of their opinion.
The Effect on Sales
The big beasts of the digital world clearly believe that online reviews influence their sales. Buyer reviews are an integral part of the Amazon and eBay platforms. Reviews aren’t just for product-centric sites either. The big-three freelancing sites (Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer.com) all use online review systems to increase trust and transparency.
The conclusion: Either online reviews have a big impact on buying decisions, or else Jeff Bezos and friends have made a serious error of judgment!
Third-Party Review Sites
On-site review systems have a huge impact on sales. But you’re probably more interested in reviews left for local businesses, on third-party sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. Do they affect sales too?
Yes – and in some cases, the impact can be even greater; here’s why:
Let’s think about a consumer landing on an Amazon product page. The seller has a golden opportunity to bamboozle this potential buyer with some killer sales copy. Who knows, maybe the power of their words will be enough to overcome the so-so reviews they’ve received.
Now, let’s think about a consumer Googling the words: ‘local plumber in Dallas, Texas’. Right at the top of the page is the Google Maps listing – complete with the ‘3 pack’ of featured businesses. And what sits alongside each business’ name? You guessed it, their Google reviews! It’s a safe bet that the best-reviewed business will get the most clicks, so poorly reviewed plumbers never even get the chance to win customers around.
In fact, the effect is even stronger than that, since poorly reviewed local businesses are unlikely to ever get into the ‘3 pack’ to begin with!
Online Reviews: The Numbers
Tired of words and theories? Still not convinced that reviews influence sales? Maybe some cold, hard numbers will sway your thinking:
86%. That’s the percentage of customers that read online reviews written about local businesses.
74%. That’s the percentage of people that trust a local company more, after reading positive reviews.
68%. That’s the percentage of people that say they’re more likely to use a positively reviewed business.
57%. That’s the percentage of people that won’t touch a business with a 10-foot pole – unless it has 4+ stars!
Who says? BrightLocal – in their local consumer review survey.
How Can I Improve My Online Reviews?
For starters, take an honest look at how you do what you do. Are you offering genuine value for money? Do customers come away feeling satisfied? If not, then you’ll need to improve your products or services first.
But supposing everything you offer is already top-notch? Do you have to tamely accept a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly, when it comes to your online reviews?
Well, not necessarily. There is an answer; it’s called…
Online Review Management
Thanks to online review management, pro-active local business owners can take back control. It’s actually perfectly possible to manage your reviews manually, by yourself. But if, like most business owners, you value your time, then you’ll need to find a more streamlined solution.
One option is to work with digital marketing experts, who specialize in this niche. Get Savvy Digital is a leading agency offering online review management – and a whole host of other marketing services. The team have a special focus on helping local businesses in the Dallas area to grow online.
Ultimately, whether you go it alone, or call in the pros, your online reputation is too important to ignore. So, make sure you’re giving your online reviews the TLC they deserve, and judge for yourself whether your sales are affected!
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