Online reviews of businesses are growing in importance to consumers making purchasing decisions, according to a recent study reported by eMarketer. The study says that 88 percent of U.S. Internet users read reviews, up from 85 percent in the same study last year.
Perhaps because of growing media attention to fraudulent online reviews, consumers are also reading more online reviews than in the past. The percentage who read more than 20 reviews before making a purchase hit 7 percent. While still a low number, that’s more than triple from 2 percent last year.
Consumers are not only reading more reviews, but also putting more trust in them. Eighty-eight percent of respondents say they trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from friends and family—up from 79 percent in 2013.
But while more people are reading—and relying on—online reviews, far fewer are actually writing them. In fact, eMarketer cites another survey that a whopping 75 percent of U.S. Internet users have never written an online review. About 16 percent have done so once or twice; only 10.5 percent write reviews regularly.
If only a few people review your business, that means the opinions of a few consumers could affect the actions of many prospective customers. And what if there aren’t 20 reviews of your business online? Prospects may feel like your business doesn’t attract a lot of customers, which will reflect badly on you.
How can you get customers to write reviews of your business and boost your odds of having several positive reviews? Try these tactics.
- Ask for it. Many customers don’t think to write a review of a business unless they have a bad experience. To capture happy customers, use reminders to encourage reviews. A restaurant can put a note with the check; a retailer can add a reminder on receipts; an ecommerce company can send a followup email asking for reviews. (Don’t reward customers for writing reviews, however; this can get you in trouble with online review companies such as Yelp!.)
- Imply it. Putting decals from Yelp! on your store windows, in your office or placards at your checkout counter can be all you need to nudge customers to review you online.
- Get social. Active social media users are more likely to write online reviews, so make sure posts and tweets encouraging reviews are a regular part of your social media content outreach (“Have you reviewed us yet?” with a URL is simple enough.)
- Make it easy. One-click buttons or URLs on the home page of your business Web site make it simple for customers to quickly get to your online ratings and reviews and add their own without having to go through a complicated search. Keep it simple, and you’re more likely to get results.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at email@example.com, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.