How Important Are Online Customer Reviews?
Written by: Ryan Flannagan

How much does a customer review affect your customers’ buying habits?  How important are customer reviews? Does anyone really read customer reviews?

The new media, aka the internet, has become a major influence on how business is conducted. It has influenced how patrons find new businesses, products, and services and reduces the need for proximity to conduct business. These are important questions that business owners should be asking themselves.

 

Traditional Word of Mouth Facts

The average consumer mentions specific brands over 90 times per week in conversations with friends, family, and co-workers. (Keller Fay, WOMMA, 2010)

When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product”  71% claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence. (Harris Interactive, June 2010)

90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users. (Econsultancy, July 2009)

Based on these facts, it is clear that people put a great deal of stock in the opinions of their friends, family, and coworkers when looking to purchase or after purchasing a product or service. However, this is limited to people that a person already knows and talks to on a constant basis.

 

The Internet Online Review Facts

Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted — nearly 12 times more — than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US mom Internet users by online video review site EXPO. (eMarketer, February 2010)

44% of Moms use social media for brand/product recommendations; 73% trust online community recommendations. (BabyCenter LLC, July 2009)

61% of people rely on user reviews for product information or research before a buying decision is made. (Razorfish, 2008)

Upon reading these facts, one realizes that online reviews increases confidence in a product and service and over two-thirds of people trust online community recommendations. Therefore, it is very important to allow potential clients to read and write reviews about your company’s product or service on your website.

Social Media Recommendation Facts

53% of people on Twitter recommend companies and/or products in their Tweets, with 48% of them delivering on their intention to buy the product. (ROI Research for Performance, June 2010)

In a study conducted by social networking site myYearbook, 81 percent of respondents said they’d received advice from friends and followers relating to a product purchase through a social site; 74 percent of those who received such advice found it to be influential in their decision. (Click Z, January 2010)

67% of shoppers spend more online after recommendations from online community of friends. (Internet Retailer, September 2009)

Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilizing consumers to talk up products online. (Etailing survey of 117 companies, September 2009)

Social Media is also influential with individuals who are looking to make a purchase in the near future. However, social media also acts as a referral system. When looking for a product or service, a person using social media to get recommendations will ask their community for a referral and will be driven to a particular product or service.

 

As a business owner what referral/review stratagem should I follow?

The short answer is all of them!!

Each of these referral reviews works in different ways. The traditional system is going to happen regardless of what you do as a company. If you have a product or service, people are going to discuss it with their friends, family, and coworkers, apparently, 90 times a week.

The online review option is optional; however, it is a major influence on people’s decisions, provides a company with constructive criticism and is a competitive advantage. Online reviews on a company’s website or on another site, increase confidence in your product or service and ultimately will lead to more sales.  73% of people trust online reviews and 63% of people actively seek out online reviews when making a purchasing decision. Additionally, if you start to receive poor reviews, your company can change what needs to be changed. It is better to know that your customers aren’t happy than have someone telling everyone else other than your company that they are not happy.  Finally, not every company is doing online reviews. This varies quite a bit by industry. If your competitors aren’t doing online reviews yet, then you have a great opportunity to increase your business. If they are, then you are losing business.

The Social Media referral/review network of Facebook, Twitter, etc. is also optional: however, social media seems to produce more of a lead generation or referral based system. With the online review system, potential customers have to find your content and then read the reviews. With the social media system, people ask their community and are referred to a website based on their social media communities recommendation. This increases brand awareness enables people to evangelize your product or service and leads directly to sales.

 

* Facts/Statistics were sourced from bazaarvoice.com

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