90% of Consumers Read Online Reviews

Being trusted by prospective customers is essential but there’s a consumer trust crisis. We all know that the internet is awash with frauds, fake news, scams and poor content.

Consumers are more cynical and savvy about marketing than they’ve ever been.

Nearly 9 in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business (BrightLocal). Similarly, 90% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which means that having good, recent reviews is essential for effective marketing.

Successful businesses need to be trusted; you need to build ‘trust capital’. This is a valuable strategic resource. If your business has high trust capital it reduces the ‘trust gap’.

You can achieve this by having a secure website (with an SSL certificate), easy navigation, up-to-date content, a strong team section (because it’s one of the top 5 most visited pages on many websites), an authentic sustainable approach to the environment, offering online chat, a privacy statement, engaging social media presences and good search engine rankings.

Do you have a customer review strategy?

And, of course, you should also have very good customer testimonials and reviews.

Today, most businesses should have a planned approach to inviting and managing customer reviews and testimonials, and managing their online reputations. Why? Because prospects often see your reviews and see your online reputation in Google long before they first visit your website. And, if they don’t like what they see, they won’t visit your website.

Online reviews are trusted nearly as much as recommendations from your friends, so they play an essential role in the customer journey and in buying decisions.

Amazon has led the way with customer reviews but Google and other platforms play critical roles. Google Reviews are now leading the way and are hugely important.

You need to answer these questions…

Which review platforms should you use? How should you present reviews on your website?

Should you use free platforms like Google Reviews, Facebook or TripAdvisor? Or paid-for review options like Reviews.io, Revoo, Feefo, TrustPilot, some of which are invitation only? And there are many other review options to choose from.

Not all your reviews need to be 5*. In fact, research suggests that you should aim for average ratings of 4.2 to 4.6 out of 5, because having the occasional poor review demonstrates that your reviews are genuine and makes them more believable.

If time allows, you should thank customers for good reviews. And, of course, you must respond to poor reviews.

Dealing with bad reviews can be a challenge, particularly if they seem very unfair or are even fraudulent. You should try to take the emotion out of bad reviews by ‘biting your tongue’, and replying apologetically, sympathetically, factually and even-handedly. I recommend that you draft your response, then sleep on it and edit it again before posting.

If possible, speak to the complainer off-line, then ask them to change or add to their review. Whatever, do not become confrontational as this usually backfires and makes the issue harder to resolve.

Of course, you also need to monitor customer complaints in social media posts and act on them.

Other considerations for building trust

Websites should capture and project their customers’ voice. Letting your customers talk about you builds trust, and always beats self-promotion and overt selling on your website and online.

Using content marketing and PR to answer customers’ questions, share your solutions to customers’ problems and providing thought leadership also helps build trust. This means running a good news section (or blog) and integrating this with PR. The blog on your website can act as the hub which feeds your social media.

You have to build relationships with your customers online, through having an engaging approach to social media. However, do not forget the importance of building strong relationships, face-to-face. Pick the phone up. Meet up. Don’t rely too much of one dimensional email communication.

Managing any business’s reputation is important and in our multi-channel world, it can be challenging to manage it both online and off-line. Authentic customer reviews play a critical role in building trust and driving sales.

Real Marketing provides holistic, multi-channel marketing for SMEs, from developing clear marketing plans and strategies to executing campaigns across most channels, digital marketing and traditional. We’ve worked with more than 200 SMEs. Christopher Lamotte founded the marketing consultancy in 2002. You can see some of Real Marketing’s reviews in Google Reviews.

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