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Three ways online customer reviews can increase sales

According to 2017 research from Bright local, 85% of people trust online customer reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

This research indicates that businesses now have a mechanism to prove the quality of their small business to people, anywhere in the world, who are thinking about buying a product or service that they offer.

Online reviews are a tool that can be deployed at different stages of a sales journey to help customers:

  • Find a business
  • Trust that business enough to visit the website
  • Have confidence that business will deliver
  • Provide transparent customer service

Online reviews are also a valuable tool for small business owners, to:

  • Understand how to make their business better
  • Help them build relationships and keep more existing customers

Online reviews can therefore deliver more sales by increasing reach, improving conversion and helping small businesses gather insight.

Reaching more people

In order to make sales, first, potential customers need to know that the business exists. Today this means being found in online search and if a business isn’t on the first page of search engine results, they may as well be nowhere.

To get to the first page of the search engines there are two options, either:

  1. Pay Google or Bing for ads that appear at the top of the search results page via pay per click (PPC) advertising, or
  2. Try to conquer the search engine algorithms with search engine optimisation (SEO)

Both methods cost, whether in money, time or effort, (usually all three. Let’s remove paid advertising for now and look at the potentially more ‘free’ SEO option.

Customer reviews for SEO

Research published on the SEM Rush blog, analysed four of the main UK review platforms, Trustpilot, Feefo, Trusted shops and Ekomi and assessed them for their value as an SEO tool.

All four platforms, as well as numerous others not assessed, provide two main SEO benefits:

  1. They make your search listing more eye catching
  2. They prove the quality of your offering to the search engines

Why an eye-catching search result matters

When presented with a list of information, like a search result page, potential customers immediately scan and look for something that can help them make a quick decision. The normal behaviour in this instance is to click the first link, however, in a sea of blue links, a ‘different’ listing catches the eye.

The most obvious eye-catching feature of search listings, that include online customer review platforms, are the added yellow star ratings beneath the listings.

When Google sees a website in any given position of the search results getting more than its fair share of clicks and those users don’t immediately leave after clicking, then those websites tend to rise in the search rankings.

What this indicates to the search engines is that the website appears better able to satisfy the searcher's question than others, and if the searcher stays on that website, it is also providing an answer to their question. Search engines want to answer people’s questions. In turn, they reward websites that do this with higher search rankings.

Proving an offering to the search engines

The primary objective of any customer review website is to help build trust between a potential customer and a business. Maintaining independence and authority is fundamental to their success.

Because of this necessity for the review sites to be objective and trustworthy, the search engines are using the credibility of those review sites to apply credibility to businesses websites.

  1. Improving conversion

    Getting more people to a website is just the first step. If a search listing stands out and the small business offers the product or services that a potential customer wants, they will then want to find out more detail about the business, how it operates and what it might be like to be a customer.

    Online customer reviews allow potential customers to consider how other people with a similar need or problem have experienced the business, product or service that they are considering buying.

    By identifying these key moments of indecision for potential customers, for example, when reviewing product details, or, at the checkout stage, and by supporting those moments of indecision with strong social proof, it is possible to start turning the dial on sales conversion rates and get more prospects converting to customers.

  2. Improving your business

Inevitably, when embarking on a customer feedback journey, negative feedback is likely.

Negative online reviews are not to be feared.

Any negative reviews will likely be the minority and provide incredibly valuable insight for business owners as they highlight opportunities for that business to improve.

Many complainants often find a lack of response to be more irritating and a greater motivator to do harm than the initial issue they complained about.

Unhappy customers are influential, on average they tell twice as many people about their experience as a happy customer, and the different ways they can distribute that experience via social media can have significant repercussions.

The benefit of ‘grasping the nettle’ when resolving customer issues is not just limited to that particular transaction at that particular time. Customers that have an issue resolved tell 4-6 people about their positive experience.

Happy customers buy more, are advocates for that business and importantly cost seven times less to sell to than acquiring a new prospect.

By sharing positive and managing negative customer feedback it’s possible to start using that extra data to identify the most potentially profitable customers based on their satisfaction levels. 'Totally satisfied' customers contribute 14 times more revenue than 'somewhat dissatisfied' customers. Knowing who these people are is critical to focusing potential targeting and maximising the conversion opportunity for relevant up and cross-sell offers.

So there you have it, three ways that online reviews can help a small business:

  1. Reach more people
  2. Improve conversion
  3. Improve the business

If you need help setting up your various online customer review sites then take a look at this for guide for Facebook reviews and Google reviews.

Once activated, you can monitor all of these platforms from the comfort of your FSB Business Profiling feedback report so you'll always know what your customers think and how you can help them to buy more from you.

If you have any questions about the FSB Business Profiling feedback report or getting your review sites setup then just let us know at fsbbp@gethandle.com.