Online Reviews and Reputation Management

Whether good or bad, online reviews are a critical factor in the shopper’s path to purchase, as almost all of the consumers who read online reviews, factor in the reviews into their final purchase decision.

Consumers usually write good or neutral reviews, with the intention of helping others make better purchasing decisions. Those who read the reviews wish to ensure that the product or service they are considering is of good quality. They tend to consider the overall star / point rating, almost to the same degree as they consider the written review. As far as stars go, many will still consider a 3-star rated product, but will hardly consider a 2-star product.

Most consumers will write a bad review only if they are very disappointed, in order to warn others. They don’t want to put people out of business, so there is generally no need to fear reviews if you don’t go around spreading promises you can’t keep… however, bad reviews are more common in the service industries, mainly due to the fact that any daily touch point has the potential to turn to a sour experience, as opposed to products.

While online reviews are relevant to virtually any industry, in some industries reviews are more important to the consumer than others. Such is the travel industry, where people agree to pay even more for a hotel with an excellent rating.

Today, online reviews are becoming more convenient: the consumers don’t have to search for reviews in several sites – they go to ultra-aggregators, which gather reviews from various industry-specific aggregators into one place. Mobile tools enable the shoppers to scan a product in-store to review it instantly, or write a review themselves. Meta-Reviews are also a rising trend, as they present a summary of the various reviews and can illuminate a specific feature of the product/service, providing a more convenient research method for the consumer.

At the same time, there are more and more formats and channels for writing and accessing reviews. Review aggregators, mobile apps, and YouTube channels, contain reviews in many formats – including photos, videos and badges.

To make reviews more effective, sites are now integrating the user’s social network to enable consumers to view friends’ recommendations. Another tactic is to offer reviews “from people like you” based on previous searches and ratings. Such tactics aim to keep reviews more trust worthy and compelling, as many consumers believe that many reviews are actually fake.

Reviews provide marketers a wonderful opportunity to leverage positive opinion and drive word of mouth. Companies can receive authentic feedback, and monitor the conversation more closely. In addition, the immediacy made possible by mobile devices, allows service companies to avoid bad reviews by responding to a bad feedback on-spot.

Companies have already realized that they cannot prevent a potential customer from accessing reviews. They decided that it would be a better idea to try and keep the conversation – and resulting conversions – on their own sites, and have begun incorporating reviews in their sites. May companies are dealing with fake reviews, such as suspected competitors’ reviews, by only presenting verified reviews. They also highlight good reviews, another plus in controlling the conversation.

When bad reviews happen, fighting consumers’ feedback is never a good idea. Best in class companies have a reputation management strategy in place, along with social media presence to give customers the opportunity to talk to the company directly.

In sum, it is important to view reviews as an opportunity: it enables marketers to get consumer feedback, to improve, and to encourage word of mouth. Let’s not forget that over 90% of brand conversations don’t take place online; they happen in the actual world – where marketers cannot participate.

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