The power of consumer reviews
Digital marketing sometimes offers strange paradoxes. It is a global business but works best when it leverages a local, community voice. A business needs an online presence that announces the product and services to the world, but people in your locality need to endorse this for the consumer to properly engage. Word-of-mouth, the comments of real people who have no reason to say anything but the truth, has been as essential to businesses as footfall. Both these concepts seem archaic in a digital age – but nothing could be further from the truth. Consumer reviews and testimonials are the new word-of-mouth that drives traffic – the new footfall – to your online store.
There are all sorts of ways to get user generated content. This is not just about the traditional world of including testimonials on your website. There are a host of ways you need to work to encourage content from your consumers. This could be a review of your app, it could be an affiliate marketer writing a review that links to your product, it could be recommendations on social media or responses to links and posts, a review on Google+ or Google Maps, or a five-star rating on an eCommerce portal like Amazon.
The business of garnering user-generated content is time-consuming but vital. This is about reputation building. Here are the essential tips to gaining comments from users.
Online Customer Reviews of Product/ Services bought
This is by far the most important user generated content on the internet. There are lots of places that your consumer can choose to review you.
- Online eCommerce sites such as Amazon, comparison sites such as MoneySupermarket or niche service sites like TripAdvisor
- Search engine local results on sites such as Google or Yahoo
- Directory listing sites such as Yelp
- Social media sites such as Facebook
- Paid review sites
- Apps that suggest trusted services such as Local Heroes or My Builder
It is not a big surprise to consumers – or to these review sites themselves – that marketers pay individuals to write reviews for them. The aim is to make sure that the star rating is as close to 100% as possible – lots of 3 star reviews out of 5 and the product might as well disappear into obscurity.
Sites like Amazon offer the “verified purchase” badge on the reviews in full knowledge that marketers buy positive reviews.
The reason for putting such an emphasis on gaining online reviews is because they are widely used by consumers. Stats suggest that 90% of all purchases are made only once reviews have been read and evaluated. 72% of consumers claim that positive reviews engender more trust – and many won’t even consider a service without a lot of excellent reviews.
The problems with online reviews is that a single negative review carries a massive amount more power than positive reviews. Learning how to respond to negative reviews is part of this marketing strategy. Leaving the comment out there unchallenged can cause the comment to fester and grow legs. Positively engaging with the customer and encouraging a public resolution of the issues shows that a company cares.
The problem? This takes a lot of time and effort – and a marketer that is on top of all the potential places that reviews can be left.
Another way to elicit positive reviews that comes from an “objective” voice is to encourage affiliate marketers. These affiliates are not directly linked to your company but do write reviews that should encourage click throughs to your site. The content will appear like a third-party recommendation of your service, but the marketer is paid a commission for each referral they prompt.
Unlike organic user generated reviews that can lead to both positive and negative comments – affiliate marketers have every reason to prompt people to be interested in your service or product. The reviews will sound natural and critique the pros and cons of your company – however – ultimately the review will prompt a conversion.
There is little understanding in the wider consumer community of the role of affiliate marketers. Blogs that offer reviews of your company, with direct links to your products, will appear unconnected to you to the lay person. This means you get the best of both worlds – the power of objective reviews but with the knowledge that you and the blogger gain from an end purchase.
The optimisation of apps in app store listings has been underestimated by a lot of marketers. If you want your app at the top of the search listings, then you need to put some effort into appealing to the algorithm – as you would with your website. One of the key ways to impact on the listing of your app is through customer reviews. The more reviews you have, and the more positive reviews there are, the higher up your app will come in the rankings.
Getting app reviews is about a constant prompting of consumers to offer a star rating and comment in app stores. A pop up prompting a review should appear regularly enough that the consumer wants to leave a review but not often enough that you appear desperate.
An overall strategy
Your overall approach to consumer reviews should be a balance of prevention, maintenance and response. You need to monitor your online reputation and make sure reviews are offered regularly and that these reviews prompt a sense of trust in your brand. Any negative reviews need to be addressed immediately, as does a lack of reviews.
Your customer reviews will promote your positives, provide independent insight into your services, convey your personality and brand story, help to build trust with the consumer and help improve your rankings. It is easy to underestimate the importance of reviews to your marketing campaign – but you do so at your own risk.