Online reviews are an important tool that helps consumers decide regarding a purchase of a product or a service.
Today, more than ever, digital reviews are everywhere and it seems that most of the consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision.
According to BrightLocal survey, 91% of US consumers ‘regularly’ or ‘occasionally’ read online reviews. Online reviews also increase trust in a business, as long as the reviews are positive: 74% of customers say that a positive review makes them trust a business more, while 60% say a negative review makes them question the quality of a business. Usually consumers will stop looking for another business after having read positive reviews.
Online reviews are used for various types of businesses. Restaurant / café is the most common segment in which people use online reviews before deciding, with 60% of consumers saying that they had read online reviews for this segment. Hospitality comes next, with 40%, and Medical / healthcare comes third with 31%. According to Schieber Research, these numbers are expected to rise significantly for every industry with the integration of reviews into search engines and with companies increasingly encouraging consumer to write reviews, it would be almost impossible to make a decision without reading reviews first.
In the travel industry, Travelers tend to rely on reviews and opinions from other travelers when researching and booking their trip and according to Trustyou study, 95% of travelers read reviews before booking a hotel. On average, travelers spend 30 minutes reading reviews before booking.
Reviews can be either company initiated, consumer initiated or 3rd party initiated, and they include influencer/ expert sites, social media, brand websites/ social media, and search engines.
Search engines are the preferred method for finding online reviews and according to BrightLocal, 63% of consumers surveyed said they turn to a search engine, like Google, to find online reviews of local businesses. It seems that social media also has a significant impact, with Facebook leading the market and inventing dedicated tools to help consumers to read reviews in a convenient way. For example, Facebook recently launched a tool that allows users to discover new events or services, based on friend’s recommendations. After writing a post asking for a recommendation, Facebook changes it to a ‘recommendation’. As soon as other users react to the post, Facebook recognizes the business and displays it on a map, as well as its rank and reviews.
Video reviews are a relatively new and popular type of review. According to Google Think, YouTube has become a top source for reviews, especially among Millennials, with 50% saying that they are examining product reviews at the store at the time of purchase, mostly on YouTube. Some companies embed those videos in their websites to respond to the growing interest in 3rd party video reviews.
Professional reviews websites, that offer reports written by professionals, are still popular despite the vast availability of free reviews, demonstrating that the need for authentic reviews is crucial, and inability to verify reviews might impair the future of online reviews.
As online reviews can affect any business critically and determine if it lives or dies, companies should design strategies aimed at leveraging positive reviews, responding to negative reviews and ensuring authenticity of reviews.
To encourage and verify positive reviews, companies are advised to encourage post purchase reviews - including providing a convenient platform in which to respond, sending dedicated emails, and sending specific questions. Some companies even offer an incentive for taking the time to review the business.
Responding to negative reviews: Naturally, some marketers fear the effect of negative reviews. However, Companies should understand that providing consumers a platform in which to respond can help position the company as transparent and responsible and allows the company respond to any review. Failure to provide such platform will just result in posting the reviews somewhere else. Today, some mobile apps enable customers to respond in real time, and we suggest that companies will focus on these tools as well, as they give a company the chance to make things write and avoid a negative review altogether, instead of having an ever-present negative review.