This brings with it a host of opportunities for companies, but also some challenges too. So how can brands use local reviews to drive increased revenue, both online and in the real world?
The appeal of reviews in the digital age is entirely understandable.
Purchase journeys are no longer linear and their complexity only increases as new technologies are introduced.
Amidst so much flux, people want an opinion they can trust. The numbers show that people trust their fellow consumers to a considerable degree, leading to an increased level of dependence on online reviews. On average, a consumer seeks out 10.4 pieces of information before making a local purchase.
Content produced in association with Yext.
Online reviews can drive positive outcomes for brands in three clear ways:
- Better brand reputation: Monitoring reviews and ongoing engagement with your users will only improve consumers’ perception of your brand.
- More effective business operations: The feedback contained in consumer reviews is invaluable for any business. Conduct an analysis of the language people use to describe their interactions with your company, and turn this insight into action by improving your customer service.
- Higher traffic and conversion rates: Yext research has revealed that reviews can increase click-through rates from search by as much as 153%.
The network effect
Placed in a wider context, the rapid adoption of online reviews as part of the purchase journey makes sense.
One of the most significant undercurrents driving change in the last decade has been the creation of huge networks through which information can be disseminated instantaneously.
Any interaction a customer has with a brand can be shared online with a potential audience of millions, all of whom are receptive to the feedback of their fellow consumers. After all, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family.
As a result, the way brands are built has changed fundamentally.
The power of these networks is unprecedented; there is even a persuasive argument to be made that the network itself is a brand’s most important customer. Understand how these interconnected patterns of people influence each other and your company can reap the rewards.
This plays out most clearly in the world of search marketing.
In essence, the modern battleground for brands is the search results page, with online reviews often proving the deciding factor in who wins and loses.
Within local search results and the main search results pages, customer reviews make a significant difference to each business’s performance.
Search marketers will already be familiar with this new reality, as company reviews have been shown in search results pages for some time now.
Google typically shows two different review sources within its results:
- First-party reviews from a company’s website.
- Third-party reviews from a site that the company doesn’t own, including:
- Google My Business reviews
- Reviews left on other websites like Yelp or Facebook
This ecosystem is delicate, however.
Google changed its rules recently, mandating that businesses can only add and mark up first-party reviews to their websites if they want to see star ratings displayed on their results in the organic SERP. Google’s rationale for doing so was that it wants fresh content in these results – not duplicate ratings from another site.
If this is reflective of the power of reviews, it is also a reminder of how they can be abused.
The only way forward is for brands to use this medium for its intended purpose: to give potential customers a transparent view of a company from current and past customers.
Tips to help you star in search
Knowing how to gain maximum value from the customer reviews can be a game-changer for local businesses.
The first port of call should be to focus on the types of reviews listed above. Consumers crave genuine feedback that helps them make informed opinions, so make sure you have maximized the potential of your review real estate.
You can encourage users to leave reviews when they make a purchase, either in store or online. As the quantity and quality of reviews grow, so too will the footfall to your stores. Just make sure that these are collected and hosted as first-party assets on your website, using a tool like Yext Reviews.
It is also worth brushing up on the Google reviews data types to ensure that your data is structured correctly.
A second consideration is how to deal with negative reviews or complaints. A common concern for businesses is that misleading feedback can affect the opinions of other consumers, which is even more of a risk now that websites cannot filter reviews.
This opens up a great opportunity for companies, however. By responding to negative reviews within 24 hours to assuage any complaints and engage with the customer, there are three main benefits:
- Businesses who respond promptly to all reviews are 68% more likely to raise their star rating over a six-month period.
- Answering complaints increases customer advocacy by 25%. Not answering decreases advocacy by 38%. – Hug Your Haters, Jay Baer
- Brands that respond to reviews are 16% more likely to receive a recommendation from their customers.
Finally, it is essential to monitor and analyze customer feedback on a regular basis. For larger companies, this can be a difficult task to achieve at scale, especially when it comes to responding to all consumers and maintaining a consistent approach to communications.
It is for this reason that so many businesses now partner with a review managements solution to allow them to tap into the full potential of online reviews.
For more insights into how to use online reviews to drive digital and real-world business, check out this whitepaper; ‘How To Win Digital and Real-World Business with Local Reviews‘.