Online reviews are becoming increasingly important to consumers when they are deciding to buy products or services. Consumers of all ages, specifically millennials, look to strangers’ reviews to decide where to eat, shop and more. According to BrightLocal, a provider of search services to local businesses, “97 percent of consumers aged 18-34 read online reviews to judge a local business.” That is an astounding number of potential customers. One bad review may lead a consumer to look elsewhere for their needs. On the contrary, an abundance of positive reviews may help to build rapport and create new business.
Research has shown that college students are immensely influenced by their friends and family during purchasing decisions. According to marketingcharts.com, 81 percent of college students reported being influenced by their friends or family in a purchasing decision. Of that percentage, 43 percent are strongly influenced. Friends and family are not the only source of trustworthy, unbiased information. According to Business 2 Community, “88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
Online reviews not only provide important information for the consumer but also elicit vital information for the business. Customer reviews on products or services may give the knowledge needed to create a more consumer-oriented product or experience. Reviews allow access into the consumer’s personal and unfiltered thoughts, essentially providing a special insight into the consumer’s mind free of charge.
What if a business is receiving bad reviews? Although a bad review may seem like a blow to a business, it can be a great opportunity if handled correctly. Ignoring a bad review will not do a company any favors. A qualified business wouldn’t dream of ignoring an angry customer at the register, so it wouldn’t make sense to ignore them online. It is important to respond to online reviews in a timely manner. Leaving a review unanswered for a long period of time will bring more opportunities for other customers to see the complaint with no solution from your company. With that being said, a response should be calm and professional. Being defensive and blaming the consumer for their poor experience will only portray the business as one-sided and unaccepting of others’ views. Instead of replying to every bad review with identical, automated messages, companies should show that the specific problem mentioned in the review is their main focus. Consumers will become frustrated when a response does not address any of the problems they mentioned. Consumers want their voices and opinions to be heard. That is one of the main reasons for leaving reviews.
Online reviews have become the new word-of-mouth. Potential customers are able to read about other consumers’ experiences, and those reviews are trusted by many. Businesses should keep track of what is being said so that they can learn, adapt, and respond to what their consumers like or dislike.