Online customer reviews and ratings are surging in importance for consumer businesses. It’s no wonder. Research shows that 92% of Internet users read product reviews when investigating a service or product, with 89% saying they influence their purchase decision.
In the travel industry (where hotels, airlines, resorts and even the choice of food in the buffet are reviewed), feedback is proven to increase bookings. One study showed that 49% of people vowed they would not book a hotel for a holiday or business trip if there were no reviews available.
In the online retail market, product reviews are multiplying in value. Some organisations already benefit from Seller Ratings in Google AdWords, which appear as Google Stars. Stars are an automated extension that let people know which advertisers are highly rated for quality service. This initiative, recently implemented by Google across its advertising platform, helps companies earn more qualified leads and optimise advertising spend. And because Google gathers seller ratings from only reputable sources that aggregate business reviews, consumers can make more informed purchase decisions.
It’s a fact that consumers want to know what other shoppers think of a product before they buy it. The impact of customer reviews is undeniable, and the reason? They build trust.
Consumers need to trust that the product or service they are about to buy will deliver everything expected. Trust that their money is safe with the merchant. Trust that the product will be delivered on time and in one piece. And if purchasing a service, trust that everything will be carried out as described.
We also know that merchants need to be able to trust the source of reviews. Aside from fake reviews breaching the Australian Competition and Consumer Act, 2010, no business can learn what it has done wrong when reviews cannot be trusted.
What’s needed is to choose a rating and review platform where both consumers and merchants can trust the customer feedback generated. Trust is achieved through three principles:
- Guaranteed genuine customer reviews
- Every customer is asked to give feedback
- Feedback is never moderated
We are all aware of headline-making instances where fake reviews have damaged a business – this can be avoided by proactively seeking reviews only from actual customers, rather than relying on open platforms, which allow anyone to feed back, with no vetting of authenticity.
When you ask all of a business’s customers to give feedback, there can be no cherry-picking – no favouritism! Whether positive or negative, reviews are boradcast publically to influence the purchasing decisions of other consumers.
Any platform that allows moderation, or allows businesses to choose what consumers get to read, fails not just the trust test but also the legal test in Australia. Sometimes merchants fear negative reviews and, do you know what? They shouldn’t! It’s rarely about the negative review, it’s about HOW it is handled.
For merchants, genuine customer reviews provide a mechanism to demonstrate trust and build business. Customer feedback that can be relied upon will influence consumer choice and help merchants understand and then deliver what customers really want.