According to Brightlocal’s 2017 survey, “85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation from a friend.” The impact of reviews on company performance is undeniable, especially for businesses who transact mostly online like ecommerce.
#Reviews and Market Disruption
Look at companies like UBER and Amazon. They completely disrupted their respective markets, by offering one convenient platform through which their clients can easily buy products or book services with one click. For them, the customer is clearly king, which is one of the major factors leading to their differentiation from, and surpassing of, any and all competition.
One of the key components in putting consumers at the forefront is reviews. By building platforms around the importance of customer feedback, taking every opportunity to both request and display opinions and ratings, UBER and Amazon managed to effectively leverage the power of reviews, demonstrating their importance in their capacity to foster growth through increased loyalty.
Major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are also responsible for the increase in emphasis on reviews and customer feedback. After all, their main goal is to present the consumer with results that are most relevant to their search. The less time they spend “Googling,” the better it is for search engines, as it means they have quickly found what they were looking for.
How better to evaluate the popularity and relevance of a result than through reviews from other consumers? It is for this reason that customer feedback has taken center stage in both Advertising and Organic results through enriched content, and why collecting reviews is becoming essential for businesses, especially for those that transact mostly online.
#Why you need to collect & display Customer Feedback?
“Seller Ratings,” “Merchant Reviews” and “Customer Reviews” are all commonly-used terms for the same thing: they essentially stand for your online reputation. Google aggregates all reviews collected by Google and its partners about your business and displays them on the individual page for your domain.
In this example, Imaginarium has an aggregate star rating of 4.5 based off 2000+ reviews collected over a 12-month period. This breakdown provides consumers with an overview of the company’s performance based on opinions of real clients, and provides them with extra information on which to base their purchasing decision.
This rating is definitely something to be proud of, and if utilized correctly and efficiently throughout the web, can have significant positive ramifications.
Effect of Seller Ratings on Improving Ad Performance
Seller Ratings have become one of the best ways to enhance PPC Ads. All major search engines support this in one form or another. For Google, it’s the Seller Rating Extension, and activating the display of your aggregate star rating underneath your Ad title has been seen to increase Ad CTR by over 17%. Google has released Seller Ratings gradually throughout the world, and some of the latest additions to this list are countries like India, Colombia and Mexico, where businesses will soon be able to experience these positive effects first-hand.
While seller ratings are also displayed on Google Shopping in the form of green stars, the real CTR booster for products lies in Product Listing Ads. As with the Seller Rating Extension for Search Ads, product ratings can also be collected, aggregated and fed to Google to show up on the Product Ad. Thanks to the enriched information on these types of Ads, they tend to have 2 to 3x higher CTR than traditional ads, which is even further enhanced by displaying aggregate product ratings underneath.
This increase in CTR helps drive more traffic to your site, and also improves the quality score of your Ad. As your result is clicked on more often, your result becomes more relevant, which in turn decreases your CPC, making your Ads more effective, efficient and giving them a greater ROI.
Effect of Seller Ratings on Boosting SEO
Reviews not only contribute to your CTR on Ads, if used correctly they can also have a positive effect on your organic CTR and SEO in general.
- Increased CTR through Review Rich Snippets: they can be activated for organic results thanks to a simple schema markup. Displaying stars will really help you stand out among your competition and draw more traffic to your site. Up to 30% more to be exact.
- Improved relevance: over 25% of the search results for the 20 largest brands in the world are linked to user-generated content (Kissmetrics). Keeping content relevant and fresh is always a challenge, which is why customer feedback has basically become a UGC machine. Collecting and displaying this feedback on product pages helps websites be crawled up to 200% more frequently than others who don’t, thus increasing the likelihood of appearing in the SERPs, and ranking highly at that. What’s more, by populating your page with more relevant content, you are probably going to keep visitors on your page for longer, especially those who have questions about your product who would usually leave the page to research them. More on-page and in-store time are key for SEO.
- Boost traffic through review-related search queries: as more and more customers read and base their purchasing decisions on reviews, it is also more likely that they will search terms like “Product name” + Review. Make sure your page HTML includes these terms to increase your likelihood of indexing for these search queries. The same is true for long-tail queries, as the people writing the reviews often use the same type of language than the people who are asking questions about them.
Effect of Seller Ratings on Accelerating Sales
Not only can reviews help drive traffic to your site through both Ads and Organic, but they can also help guide potential clients in their purchasing decisions, thus granting a positive and noteworthy impact on sales.
- Increased shopping cart value: consumers are likely to spend 31% more on products/services from businesses that have excellent reviews according to a recent statistic from Brightlocal. This is due to increased consumer confidence, as clients see and trust the satisfaction of others.
- Increased customer trust and lifetime value: customers are more likely to purchase if they see that other customers are happy and satisfied (Zendesk 2017). Even when repeating a purchase from the same brand, more than half of clients will still refer to reviews before purchasing an item they have never bought before, thus also impacting on the lifetime value of a customer.
- Decreased returns: the more product information you make available on your page, the more credibility you add to your product selection, and the better informed your customers will feel. Not only will this help guide purchasing decision and increase conversions, it should also help reduce your returns (Shopify 2017).
#What else can (and should) you do with your reviews?
While collecting and analyzing customer feedback is an important source of actionable business insights and a key to improving and growing any business, the true value of reviews is derived from displaying and featuring them though as many channels as possible.
The “Power of Social Proof”
The impact of reviews and ratings on the path to purchase is so pronounced that it has even become the topic behind scientific studies like this one conducted by UCL. To summarize, two groups of subjects were shown the same image of the pair of headphones below. One group saw the image accompanied by a technical description, while the other group was given its average rating, with a breakdown by star rating, and the total number of reviews.
The subjects were then asked to form an opinion of the product based on the information they were provided. Those in the first group who were only shown a product description gave a lower star rating (2.5) than those who were provided the average star rating, who tended to agree with the consensus and rate the product more favorably (4.2). This speaks volumes about the importance of perceived value, and how this can impact not only products but business ratings as well.
“In collecting and displaying reviews, taking advantage of their viral impact, companies can effectively harness the power of social proof to boost their reputation and grow their business.”
-Michael Ambros, CEO and Founder of eKomi - The Feedback Company
Why companies should publish reviews on their website
As previously mentioned, featuring reviews on your website can boost your SEO through increased user-generated content and can boost sales through greater trust and confidence. Thus there should be no doubt as to whether you should display reviews on your pages. The answer is definitely yes. As many pages your site as possible should feature reviews to maximise both of these opportunities. Trust seals, review widgets, awards and badges also help reinforce this effect, and should be highlighted wherever possible.
Why you should promote your reviews on Social Media
Take this a step further and increase the viral effect of your reviews by promoting them on social media, and turning them into a component of your social media strategy. User-generated content can be used on social media to attract more organic traffic to your site by re-posting real customer photos and videos on your brand’s social channels. This not only expands your brand reach but also encourages browsers to participate in content creation for your brand.
Use your reviews in traditional advertising
The positive effect of your reviews does not have to be confined to the online. Many companies have embraced their online reputation as a tool to increase the efficacy of their traditional advertising as well. Flyers, Posters, Billboards and TV Ads are equally good stages to emphasize reviews or star ratings. With distrust in traditional advertising on the rise, reviews and rating can reinvigorate them. Just take a look at the ERGO flyer below as an example.
#The More the Better: Why and How to Collect More Feedback
The “Power of Social Proof” vol. 2
Going back to the UCL study mentioned above, another result was derived that points to the importance of not only collecting and displaying reviews, but also doing so in high quantities. The study went on to prove that the higher the number of reviews on which the aggregate star rating of the headphones was based, the more the perceived value would conform to the average star rating. That is to say, the more weight was thrown behind the average rating, the more the group conformed to the average.
This means that not only is it important to collect and display reviews and star ratings, it is also vital to have high volumes of them to enhance the social proof and perceived value of your business and/or products.
Trade secrets: How to supercharge your feedback collection
So how does one go about collecting more reviews when it is already difficult to collect any reviews? The issue here is twofold: usually reviews that come in organically are from disgruntled clients who have a grievance to air, and furthermore they trickle in at a slow pace. The key here to combat both aspects is to be proactive and smart about review collection.
According to eKomi’s statistics, only 0.5% of all of the c. 50 million reviews in our system are 1-star reviews. This is thanks to the fact that all clients are contacted proactively to leave their review.
“We manage to generate such high volumes of feedback because we help businesses unlock the silent, satisfied majority. These are customers who are happy with the service received, would not go out of their way to leave a positive review, but when asked proactively and presented with the opportunity are happy to do so.”
- Simon Woods, VP of Sales and Alliances at eKomi - The Feedback Company
This is where the second part of the equation comes in. One of the best ways to boost review collection is by making it as easy and seamless as possible for clients to provide their feedback. For example, integrating a seller review at the end of the purchase process has an excellent response rate, and has permitted us to collect up to 3x more reviews than through other traditional methods like email surveys. So really examine your customer touchpoints and try to integrate review collection in the most user-friendly and continuous way for best results.
#The best ways of dealing with negative feedback
Remember that no business is perfect
All businesses, regardless on how reliant they are on technology, are created and run by people, which inherently means that mistakes will happen. These mistakes often have unhappy consequences for the clients affected, which can result in the publication of negative reviews about your company. This is unavoidable, and should actually not be cause for alarm, as negative reviews are only truly dangerous if not handled correctly (as discussed below). The sooner businesses can accept this fact, the sooner they can be integrated in an effective customer service strategy and used for the valuable business insights they provide.
Make sure to react to the review
There are several keys to follow when dealing with negative reviews which help reduce their impact and diffuse the situation:
- React quickly and efficiently: reach out to the client in question as soon as the review is published. Answering in a timely manner will already represent a step towards mending the customer relationship, especially in light of consumers high expectations when it comes to response times (over 40% expect an answer within the hour).
- Go public: while you should work out the details of the complaint privately, businesses should also make an effort to comment on negative reviews publicly as well. Other potential clients who are reading reviews these reviews probably don’t know that you are sorting out customer grievances through private channels, so commenting publicly, even only to apologize and communicate that you want to compensate them or fix the issue, already demonstrates your investment and shows others that you care on an individual level.
- Don’t take it personally: remaining calm and professional can be difficult, especially for business owners or employees who are particularly invested, but it is highly important to reach a positive outcome. Remember that it’s usually fruit of the nature of personal opinion. It is impossible to please everybody, even with stellar products and / or services. Furthermore, certain items are subject to higher fluctuations in taste and opinion than others (for example, it is easier to find differing views on books, clothes, movies, and generally things that are dependent on personal taste than on items that depend solely on their function, like household appliances or sports equipment), which can also be reflected in a larger mix of positive and negative reviews.
#Why negative reviews are necessary
As Brian Tancer succinctly summarizes in his book Everyone’s a Critic: Winning Customers in a Review-Driven World, “Bad reviews happen.” But he also goes on to make the point that they are necessary (at best in small doses) to reinforce the credibility of the other reviews and the business as a whole. Studies show that the overwhelming majority of consumers suspect censorship or fake reviews when a business has close to a 5-star rating and little to no negative reviews. This actually results in a deterioration of trust, which has a negative impact on new and return sales.
In relation to product reviews, only displaying 5-star reviews has also been linked to a negative profit for retailers. Although this may seem counter-intuitive, it is due to the creation of unrealistically high expectations, and what happens when these are not met by the product.
There seems to be a sort of “sweet spot” when it comes to ratings. Studies around this subject have found that “products with an average star rating in the 4.7 - 5.0 range are less likely to be purchased than those in the 4.2 - 4.7 range.” Intuitively, the same rationale can be applied to seller ratings, and speak to the trust factor generated by both positive and negative reviews.
There are countless reasons why businesses should collect and publish customer feedback, and reasons why they shouldn’t are few to none. They are quickly becoming a hygiene factor, and their impact, their market-disrupting force, can no longer be ignored. Whether you proactively solicit reviews or you don’t, some of your customers will go out of their way to review your business through platforms like Google+, Facebook, Yelp, etc. So why not grant your prospective customers the full picture? Solicit reviews from all of your clients, publish these on search engines, web pages, social media, etc. and experience increased visibility, trust and sales.