Online reviews have become the great influencers of purchase decisions for many people. When looking for a restaurant, deciding on a place to stay, choosing software, or making other purchases, today’s consumers don’t simply rely on advertisements, pricing, or company marketing materials. Increasingly, consumers rely on what they see on third-party review sites like Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, and others to help them make their buying choices.
This is particularly true when people consider businesses with which they have never transacted before or when considering products or services with which they are unfamiliar. Yelp’s own figures show that 82 percent of the more than 185 million people who visit the online review site every month do so because they intend to make purchases. Additionally, 57 percent of those customers make their purchases within a week after visiting Yelp.
A scathing review there can cost a company business; good reviews can result in higher search engine listings and additional business.
According to Invesp, a company that provides conversion rate optimization services, 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before visiting businesses, and 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations.
Recognizing the importance of reviews, Google has made it possible for businesses to incorporate them into their profiles. By adding reviews via Google’s review extensions, companies can share write-ups, awards, or third-party rankings with potential customers in an additional line of text beneath their basic information in Google search results.
“You know your business is great, but review extensions let customers know that a respected third-party source agrees. Adding a quote from a positive review, award, or accolade to the text beneath your ads gives potential customers one more reason to click,” Google officials said at the time of the product release, adding that including reviews can increase company click-through rates by as much as 10 percent.
How companies rate in those reviews has a significant impact on whether and how much consumers will spend at those businesses, Invesp adds: Thirty-one percent of consumers are more likely to spend more on businesses with excellent reviews; 72 percent of those surveyed said they would trust local businesses more after reading positive reviews; and more than nine out of 10 (92 percent) would use local businesses that have at least four-star (out of five) ratings.
According to Invesp, the most important reputation traits consumers look for in local businesses are reliability (cited by 27 percent), expertise (21 percent), and professionalism (18 percent).
On average, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5 percent to 9 percent increase in business revenue, while a negative review can cost up to 30 customers, according to Invesp data.
However, several experts say both positive and negative reviews have the potential to help businesses attract additional customers, as long as negative reviews don’t dominate and the businesses respond appropriately.
Yelp encourages business owners to be proactive in responding to reviews, says Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s manager of business outreach. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and other such sites even have software that will ping businesses when they receive new reviews, giving them the opportunity to respond quickly.
The reviews are critical to the success—or the lack thereof—of smaller local businesses, which is Yelp’s specialty. Though it’s impractical for larger national or multinational businesses to respond to every review, there should be a mechanism in place to respond to certain reviews so that problems are addressed if needed and so that future customers know the business cares about the opinions of its patrons, Washcovick says.
While it’s important to look for patterns (such as several people making similar comments about a particular customer service issue), businesses shouldn’t read too much into any single review, officials at Yelp advise. Instead, readers tend to look for the broader consensus rather than a single opinion.
BEST RESPONSE APPROACHES
Washcovick offers three tips to help businesses leverage reviews, both positive and negative:
• Respond promptly. Washcovick recommends responses within 24 hours.
• Respond personally. While some content can be generated automatically (“thank you for your comments”), the person’s name should be used, along with a personal electronic signature. Additionally, if the comments are negative, the specific issue (customer service, long lines, etc.) should be addressed as well.
• Thank the reviewer for taking the time to post comments, whether the review is positive or negative. If the business responds only to positive reviews and ignores negative ones, the public will quickly notice.