Managing a business is not an easy task. There are a million other things you could be doing: managing inventory, managing staff, managing everything, really. Cultivating customer reviews is probably very low on the list. But it shouldn’t be.
“People are spending a lot of time researching purchases, and they’re not turning to friends and family as much as they are looking at devices,” Bob Bradley, vice president of sales and business development at Netsertive, tells Search Insider. “The good news is, [getting reviews] is free. The bad news is, it’s a lot of time and effort.”
But it seems to be time and effort that’s well spent. According to recent research from software platform provider Podium, 93% of consumers said online reviews make an impact on their purchase decisions, and more than two-thirds (68%) are willing to pay a premium of up to 15% if they’re assured of a good experience.
Meanwhile, consumers have trained themselves to look beyond the star ratings and delve deeper into the content to be assured of that experience. While 58% of consumers said the star rating is important (according to BrightLocal), Podium found 82% of consumers said the content of a review convinced them to make a purchase.
Along with the content, the timeliness of reviews is also important. According to BrightLocal, nearly three-quarters of consumers believe reviews that are more than three months old are not relevant. So, among all of those other things you need to be doing, add keeping your reviews current to the list.
“If you look at most local businesses, you’d like to see 20 reviews in the past three months,” Bradley says. “A lot of times, however, you’ll see less than 10, and they’re two years old.”
That’s akin to having a parking lot that’s fully of litter, Bradley says. Customers won’t want to stop at a retailer that doesn’t take care of its physical storefront. The same goes for the virtual one. To maintain currency, review cultivation needs to be an important part of your regular business practice. Here are five things to do get started:
Make it someone’s job to follow reviews. Someone — whether it be the business owner or a staffer — needs to be dedicated to your online presence. That means checking and maintaining the listings on on the major Web channels (Google, Facebook, Yelp), and monitoring reviews on a regular basis. This should be someone actively involved in the day-to-day, Bradley says. “It doesn’t make sense to have a third party monitoring reviews,” he says. “You need to have someone who can respond quickly.” And so…
Respond to negative reviews quickly. No one can prevent negative reviews. What consumers are looking for is a business that is responsive. A business that responds and resolves an issue quickly will earn points with potential consumers. “These things give people a certain comfort level,” Bradley says.
Make sure the big three (and your Web site) are covered. Most traffic comes through Google, so make sure your Google business listing is up-to-date and closely monitored. The same goes for Facebook and Yelp. “If the only ones you do are those three, you’re tons ahead of everyone else,” Bradley says. But also make sure your own Web site is up-to-date. Many businesses focus on the third parties and forget their own property. But you can link those reviews directly to your site, Bradley says.
Ask for reviews constantly. Nobody likes to ask for things, but not asking for reviews from regular customers is like leaving money on the table. According to the Podium’s research, 77% of consumers would be willing to leave an online review if prompted. They view it as helping out other consumers. Use every channel you can to solicit these reviews: e-mail databases, purchase receipts and, most importantly, staff. Car dealers ask for reviews along every step of the process, Bradley says. You should too.
Incentivize participation. It’s not buying a review if you offer a random giveaway for participation. You can also offer staff bonuses and contents to encourage review solicitation along with sales.
Yes, that is a lot of work, and it’s not a “silver bullet,” Bradley says. But at a time when even the simplest of products and services are being researched extensively, reviews are a resource you can’t afford to let slide.