Online reviews statistics to know in 2021
93% of customers read online reviews before buying a product. Find out how to use online reviews to connect with your customers, improve your brand image and encourage positive buying recommendations.
Your customers are talking online
Like it or not, in the confusing and busy world of online shopping, people want reassurance before committing to a purchase. Your potential customers are turning to online review sites to learn all they can about your service or product. Sites like Yelp, Google Maps and TripAdvisor allow customers to give advice, or to read past customer experiences directly from the source.
How powerful is this route to market is on customer buying decisions? The answer is very. 91% of 18-34 year olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 93% of consumers say that online reviews influenced their purchase decisions.
Why do customers leave online reviews?
Online reviews give power to the customers to tell their side of the buying story. This provides social proof to other potential customers.
Social proof is the level of credibility that the public provides to a service or product. The more people that use, or enjoy a product, the more likely others are to follow. Positive public endorsement of a brand by a celebrity can provide high social proof, which can directly impact sales. Likewise, a negative review can drive customers away.
There’s also evidence to suggest that online reviews are the primary way to choose where to shop locally. Nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media when researching products or services in their local area.
The value of positive reviews
Positive reviews remain a key way for companies to sell their product, with customers willing to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews. But there are other benefits too:
- Increased consumer trust - As you’ll know, trust is hard to gain and easy to lose following a bad experience. 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review.
- Having a direct line to customers - Hearing feedback from customers will give you insights to help you improve the customer experience. You’ll soon be able to draw up a picture of the entire customer journey, and find out areas you perform well and others that need improving. With most review sites, you can also respond back to the customer and start a dialogue to find out more, and close the loop to ensure their issues are resolved.
- Appearing higher in search engine rankings - Online customer reviews gain more weighting (6.47%) in organic local searches. What customers say in their reviews also mattered - ‘Negative Sentiment in Google Reviews’ is a negative ranking factor.
The cost of negative reviews
On the contrary, negative online reviews have a devastating effect on your brand.
- 3.3 is the minimum star rating of a business consumers would engage with and only 13% of consumers will consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating.
- 94% say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business.
- Four out of five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase after reading negative online reviews.
In fact, businesses risk losing as many as 22% of customers when just one negative article is found by users considering buying their product. If three negative articles pop up in a search query, the potential for lost customers increases to 59.2%.
If you have a star-rating for your company, negative change to this can have serious consequences. A loss of a half-star rating means a restaurant is 19% less likely to have full seats during peak dining times (UC Berkeley). Likewise, a one-star decrease in a Yelp rating could lead to a 5-9% decrease in revenue (Harvard Business School).
Which review platforms do customers use?
General review sites
Social review sites
Industry-specific review sites
- Food and drink: TripAdvisor
- Travel and hospitality: Air BnB, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com
- Property: Home Away
- Cleaning: UK Cleaning Company
- IT/Computers repair: Computer Repair Companies, Computer Repair Maintenance UK, Which?
- Weddings: Guides for Brides, The Wedding Planner
- Trade: MyBuilder
Be aware of the danger of fake reviews
Fake online reviews are dangerous as they don’t help you or the customer get what you’re after.
Malicious fake reviews impact the credibility of your brand by reporting bad service where there is none. To real potential customers, this can be enough to turn them off a sale.
If customers can spot one fake review, it calls into question the trustworthiness of all the other genuine reviews.
You can spot fake reviews by a few tell-tale signs.
- If the reviewer does not provide profile information, or has inconsistent reviewing methods (lots of reviews or none at all), you could be dealing with a computerized spam persona.
- This is more likely if they have included links to third-party websites or products, in an attempt to draw away customers to competitors or unprotected sites.
- The review messages will be repeated as new reviews for other companies. The messages may be non-specific, created in a different language or misleading.
You can report these reviewers to the platform administrators, so they can remove the review as soon as possible.
5 ways to use online reviews to your advantage
What can you do to help promote positive reviews and work with your customers?
1. Ask for online reviews from your customers
If you’re not already working to improve your online reviews, you can start now by educating your customers on the importance of leaving reviews - and encouraging them to do so, optimizing your listings on each platform, and providing excellent customer service.
Instead of waiting for customers to volunteer a review, you can ask customers if they would like to leave one on a site of your choosing - one study found that 68% of customers will leave a review if they’re asked.
This could happen automatically at the point of purchase, through a personalized email campaign or a satisfaction survey. This way, you can direct the reviews to an online review platform that suits you and allows for direct communication to customers.
Don’t solicit good reviews in exchange for money on ethical grounds. If you’re found out, it can damage your credibility and consumer trust.
2. Respond to online reviews from your customers
Periodically check review sites to check if there have been any reviews recently, and make sure you respond back to each one. If a customer is taking the time to write a review - positive or negative - you can't ignore it.
Be careful about how you respond to the customer. Check that your message and tone is on-brand. It’s true that 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews, so they will be watching how you react.
Thank the customer for their view, and where there are negative comments, offer to take this case off-line to investigate further. This shows you’re proactive about giving good customer service and that you take their views - and experience - seriously.
3. Be transparent about your online reviews
Show you’re a transparent, customer-focused company that cares about what their customers say by sharing your online reviews.
Some companies put their Trust Pilot ratings on their websites, using HTML widgets, and others create a testimonials page. Whatever your way, complement your sales with real reviews.
If you want more online reviews, make it easy for customers to do so by giving them direct access to these review sites. This way you can learn from their feedback.
From a consumer’s viewpoint, a company that offers online review opportunities is a company that is confident in providing high-quality products and great customer service.
4. Share online reviews in your communications
Use the positive reviews you have in your company communications. Try the following:
- Promote reviews that mention a product by name, so you can link this to the product’s homepage. When new customers see the review, they can click on the link to learn more, and this will help to endorse the product naturally. A company can say a product is good, but it means more coming from fellow customers.
- Use the reviews in your recruitment material. Harvard Business Review found that a bad reputation costs a company at least 10% more per hire.
- Share customer success stories internally where you have closed the loop and turned a bad experience into a good one. This will help to humanize the brand and show employees the value of taking action on poor experiences.
- You can also help resolve the need for reassurance by increasing the visible reviews for customers at the point of purchase. For example, where the cost of a product is great, like in IT software sales, people will use more reviews to feel comfortable before investing in the purchase (64% of software buyers want to read at least 6 reviews before purchasing)
5. Have a physical shop presence if possible
Consider this: According to Google/Nielson, 93% of people who use mobile to research go on to complete a purchase of a product or service. Does your brand have a physical shop presence?
If you’re unable to get shop space, you can use your online shop or sales process to mimic the person-to-person experience. You can ask for a review once an order has been placed.
Alternatively, get third-party endorsement to sell your product in the real world. 49% of consumers depend on influencer reviews and recommendations, so find someone that reflects your brand and can connect with your target audience.
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