At the dawn of marketing, companies dictated the rules of the market. Companies would create demand and try to persuade customers that their products were the best.
Today, with the spread of social media platforms and review websites, customers are in the driving seat. You won’t be successful if your product only has 1.2 stars on Amazon and barely any positive reviews. The sound of peer-to-peer information is getting louder and louder, and marketers need to listen to it.
But in the abundance of reviews, how do you filter the information and decide which data is valuable enough to analyze, and which can be left out? What can you really tell from online reviews, and why are they so important?
Why are online reviews important?
You probably intuitively understand why online reviews are important to your business, but let’s look at some numbers. Nearly 87% of consumers said they read online reviews in 2020, up from 81% the year before.
The importance of online reviews grew during the COVID shutdowns when going to stores became impossible for most people and products such as home workout equipment and hand sanitizers suddenly gained importance. In fact, about 31% of consumers said they read more online reviews because of COVID.
It is also important to know How? ‘Or’ What people read reviews online. 73% of online consumers said they read only recent reviews (no more than a month old).
Finally, how often do people write reviews? In 2020, 72% of consumers said they left a review online, up from 66% in 2019, according to the same study.
So how do you extract valuable insights from online reviews and make smarter, data-driven marketing decisions?
Here are five key lessons marketers can learn from reading online reviews.
Lessons you can learn from reading online reviews
1. How your product is perceived
Although some reviews may be dry and uninformative, you will come across many detailed and well-argued customer reviews. They tell you exactly why they like or dislike your product or service and even tell you how to improve it.
Anonymity on the internet has brought out many negatives in people, but it has also allowed for frank and honest opinion. Some reviews may seem harsh and blunt, but at least you’re getting a completely honest opinion without the sugar coating of real-life communication, where people often try to be polite and nice.
Additionally, online reviews help you analyze your place in the market and understand where you fit in the POM influencer mix:
- Preferences, past experiences and beliefs
- Contribution from others, including online reviews
- Information received from marketers
Customer purchasing decisions are driven by a combination of these three elements. Every product perception depends on this, and you should strive to strike a balance and cover all three equally. If you overemphasize one and omit the other two, you’ll waste resources and generate results that would have been better had you included all three.
2. How to Build an Emotional Connection with Customers
It’s no secret that customer experience has become a centerpiece in most companies’ decision-making processes. Customer experience is often the #1 priority, second only to pricing and even the product itself, and its importance will continue to grow in the years to come.
How do companies provide the best user experience and generate more long-term customers? By creating an emotional bond with their customers.,
You end up losing a quarter of your audience after providing just one bad customer experience, according to research conducted by PWC. Human interaction and friendly service top the list of what people value most in a business.
However, be aware of the negative consequences of capitalizing on your customers’ emotions. Manipulation can backfire, and she won’t be satisfied with the level of connection you’re looking for.
For example, in 2014 Audi decided to rebrand its Instagram page and release a six-hour compilation of various artists who drive Audi cars, sharing their stories under the hashtag #PaidMyDues. What seemed like a good idea that could potentially humanize the brand and attract more customers eventually backfired: Audi subscribers were unhappy with this type of content and they kept asking for familiar photos of cars. Audi continued the campaign for another two weeks and ended up losing subscribers and receiving tons of negative comments.
When trying to make an emotional connection with your customers, you need to understand their needs and deliver the best product and customer experience to meet those needs.
3. Why negative reviews aren’t always a bad thing
It may come as a surprise, but bad reviews aren’t necessarily a bad thing.
First of all, completely clean, complaint-free customer reviews come across as fake and untrustworthy. The likelihood of a purchase decision is at its peak when the rating is between 4.0 and 4.7 stars and decreases when it approaches 5.0 stars, according to Spiegel’s research on online reviews.
To capitalize on negative reviews online, take the opportunity to respond and build a deeper connection with your customer base. About 20% of customers expect a response within the day after writing a review, take the opportunity to change your mind about your business and build a personal relationship.
Nearly 63% of customers never hear from the business after leaving a review, while 45% are more likely to use the service if they see the business responding to negative reviews. Reviews Trackers found.
Such an approach even attracts customers who never leave reviews, because they see how you respond to negative reviews of your service. A genuine and personal response will make you seem more trustworthy and responsible, and humanize your business.
4. How to boost your online presence
Online reviews help you improve your online exposure in two ways.
The first is through SEO rankings. As a marketer, you’ve probably used this technique to promote your business. When you post articles that describe your industry and products using appropriate keywords and link building, you increase the chances of people finding out about your business. Plus, online reviews get you noticed in Google searches and expose you to new customers. The more high-quality reviews you have on several specialized websites, the higher your ranking.
Second, by engaging with your customers and giving them a platform where they can exchange their opinions about your product, you turn them into ambassadors for your brand. It is the most economical solution for brand promotion, and it creates a community of loyal customers who will support your business.
5. How to provide social proof
It’s human to ask others’ opinions, especially on something you’re not an expert on. When we read content from credible influencers, experts, celebrities, and friends, we are more likely to trust them. This creates what is called social “proof” – proof that a service, hotel, restaurant, laptop, car, etc. especially worth your time.
In addition to providing arguments for or against the purchase, reviews often tell the full story of how the customer perceived the brand before, during and after the experience. This creates a complete picture of the business, customer service, quality of experience, and other important aspects.
Is there a trap?
Are all online reviews good? Could the comments also be harmful, and if so, how can you mitigate the repercussions?
As you probably know, online reviews have their downsides. First of all, you should not underestimate the impact and possibility of fake reviews. Your competitors or even former employees may leave a fake negative review that could jeopardize your ratings. Since the people behind such comments have agendas, your attempts to respond to such comments would be futile.
Also, people tend to memorize only the negative parts of an experience and quickly forget the positives. Because of this, customers usually only leave reviews after they have had a bad experience with a company. At the same time, readers are also more likely to focus on negative reviews and overlook positive posts, leading to unbalanced brand perception.
Another downside to online reviews is their prevalence within the online community. There are so many websites where people can express their views that marketers can’t physically address them all.
This is where social listening comes in.
What is Social Listening?
Social listening platforms collect all the data about your product from various sources and compile it into an understandable format. Based on pre-selected keywords, the social listening tool crawls the web and gathers all mentions about your business from media, websites and other online sources, and stores them in one place.
Moreover, social listening platforms are not limited to simply collecting and storing your data. Using AI-based technology, they analyze, categorize and organize information, as well as create metrics for you. Based on these numbers, you can compare the number of positive and negative reviews and make data-driven business decisions.
This type of analysis is usually called sentiment analysis, and it helps you identify the good, the bad, and the ugly of your product and the company itself. On top of that, you can monitor your competitors’ mentions to see what they are doing right and wrong.
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Humans are social beings and we tend to form our opinions alongside others. Learning how to use online reviews to your advantage can be powerful for your business. It can expose your brand to new audiences, build a strong community of loyal customers, and teach you a lot about your customers’ needs.
More online review resources
Best Practices for Developing a B2B Online Assessment Program
Five Ways Marketers Can Benefit From Online Reviews
When your reputation is at stake (and online): “Manipulated” author Daniel Lemin on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]