How customer reviews can help grow your online business

Part 1 : Embracing customer feedback

word of mouth marketingWord of mouth has always been one of the most successful ways of promoting a product or service. People trust the personal recommendations of friends and family above even the most innovative sales techniques or advertising . But where once word of mouth was primarily the domain of local businesses and limited to personal recommendations from friends and family, the internet has seen word of mouth marketing explode. In recent years we have seen a massive boom in customers sharing their opinions on products and services via specific review sites, digital media, social media networks, discussion forums,  blogs and online retail sites.

“The most influential element driving purchase decisions today is word of mouth.” Word of Mouth Marketing Association

The rise of word of mouth has also seen a change in the traditional purchase journey, having a direct impact on consumers decision-making process. Never before have consumers had so much product and service information at their fingertips. Nowadays, very rarely would I purchase a new item without first checking out online product reviews or would I book an unknown hotel without having a quick peek at a site like Trip Advisor. Online reviews and customer feedback are an integral  part of word of mouth marketing as a way for people to recommend products and share their opinion with others.

In part 1 we look at the benefits customer feedback can bring your business and how to encourage it. And in part 2 we will examine how best to manage negative customer feedback.

The benefits customer reviews can bring your business

As a key part of a customers decision-making process, we take a look at the many benefits positive customer feedback can bring your business.

  • Help drive sales: Since so many customers now look at reviews prior to making a purchase positive feedback can help drive your sales. For example, supposing a customer was deciding between purchasing a product from you or a similar product from one of your competitors (all other variables being equal), if your product had no customer reviews and your competitors had positive customer reviews, the likelihood is your competitor is more likely to make the sale.
  • Improve conversion rates:  Customer reviews are a great way to win over wavering purchasers. They can address and remove any  lingering doubt a prospective customer may have over making the final purchasing decision. For example suppose I was wavering over whether to buy a particular dress as I had concerns about how the garment would stand up to washing. A customer review stating that they had found the garment kept its shape well after washing is going to help remove any remaining doubt I have and mean a higher probability of an actual sale. 
  • Improve brand trust and credibility: Online businesses who embrace customer feedback are more likely to benefit from improved consumer trust in their product or service. It helps enforce brand credibility by conveying to customers you are confident in the quality of your products and service, you value your customers opinions and are a transparent and trustworthy business.
  • Additional sales tool. Positive customer reviews can work for you as an additional sales tool. You will find many customer reviews outline the different features and benefits of a particular product or service – helping you reinforce your sales message to prospective customers.
  • Build customer relationships. Providing the opportunity for customers to engage with you by being able to provide feedback on your products and services, shows your customers you that you value them – their opinion matters to you.
  • Research tool. Customer reviews are a great, qualitative method of getting some feedback from customers as to what products are working well and what could be improved. For example if a number of customers are highlighting a similar issue with a product then you know it is something you probably need to investigate. Remember we can all learn from a bit of  constructive criticism.
  • Helps SEO. Including customer reviews on your site is an additional way of adding fresh relevant content to your website helping with Search Engine Optimisation.

customer feedback7 ways to encourage your customers to give feedback

So how can you encourage feedback from your customers? Obviously the best way to ensure positive reviews is to offer a great product, exemplary service and all round excellent customer experience. However there are also a few ways that you can help things along and prompt customers to feedback.

  1. Have product reviews visible on your website (both positive and negative).  Customer reviews should be somewhere visible on your website. And make sure you have a balance of positive and negative reviews. Overwhelming positive reviews can look a bit contrived and less believable.
  2. Ask for it. Don’t be afraid to contact customers who have recently purchased a product to solicit feedback. Customers who have just received a product or service are usually more willing to take time out to write a review.  A simple email a week or so after customers have received your product expressing that you hope they are enjoying their new purchase and asking for some feedback work well and show customers you care.
  3. Make it simple to submit a review. Make it as easy as possible for a customer to submit a review. If the process is complicated and they have to swing through hoops – customers simply won’t do it. If you have a review page then make sure the link is clearly visible and use it in email correspondence.
  4. Respond to comments . Show customers that you appreciate them leaving a comment by replying to them. This applies to both positive and negative comments (we’ll  examine the best way to respond to negative comments in part 2 of this bog). If someone has taken time out of their day to offer feedback on a product or service, comment on Facebook or read and remark on a blog post, then try your best to respond. It shows you value what they have to say and increases the likelihood that they will engage with your business again.
  5. Offer an incentive.  You do need to walk a careful line here and not over incentivise . What you don’t want is people sending in product reviews just to receive an incentive as these reviews are more likely to appear insincere. However entry into a monthly free prize draw can work well. Or,  you could send an incentive after they have submitted a review as way of a thank you. This way you know the reviewer hasn’t been influenced by the incentive alone .  
  6. Interact on your social media sites. Try to create an environment where your customers see a face behind the business. Remember people like to deal with people. So interacting on social networks, writing blogs and so on can convey  a business that is interested in engaging with their customers which in turn makes customers more likely to respond.
  7. Exploit customer feedback to its full potential. When you think about it you’ll realise that you can actually receive customer feedback in a number of different ways – not just through customer reviews. You may have some feedback during a telephone conversation with a customer or in an email exchange. Some of these me of these off the cuff remarks can make excellent testimonials that you can use on your website (just make sure you ask them for permission).

Customer feedback in the form of reviews, questionnaires testimonials, ‘likes’ and ‘sharing’ can all have a positive impact on your business. So finding ways to encourage customers to converse with you makes sense. In part 2 of this blog we will be looking at how to manage negative feedback.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post, so please do leave a comment.

Thumbs up image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Survey Form image courtesy of tiramisustudio / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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6 thoughts on “How customer reviews can help grow your online business

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