It’s easier than ever to be an informed-consumer. With hoards of information at your fingertips it’s a rare purchase these days that’s made without any prior knowledge, or at least a cursory Google.
Where we used to have to rely on word-of-mouth from friends and family, we can now turn to a network of millions online. Consumerist reported that “nearly seven-in-ten consumers actually base their purchases on the digital recommendations of strangers.” That data comes from a “survey of 2,000 U.S. adults for the American Lifestyles 2015 report from global marketing firm Mintel, which found that perusing online reviews is now an integral part of how consumers make purchases.”As the Chicago Tribune noted, the practice is so commonplace it’s made it into comedians stand-up shows. “Aziz Ansari describes buying a toothbrush, which entails searching online for ‘best toothbrush’ and sorting through dozens of reviews from strangers he's not sure he can trust — a questionable use of time, he said, given that ‘every toothbrush I've bought on a hunch has been fine.’”
Reading reviews of products and businesses is the new normal, and the new expectation for most consumers. They don’t want to waste or chance their money on a purchase they don’t know about yet. That’s why it’s more important than ever that there are good reviews and feedback online about your business.
The Mintel survey also found that “Fifty-six percent of respondents said online reviews from people they don't know help them decide which products or services to consider, and half said they would pay more for a product with positive online reviews.”
Encouraging your customers to leave reviews and feedback is a new key factor in today’s marketing equation. Encouragement is fine, but incentivizing can often land you in hot water. Most review websites ban any practices that reward reviewers in any way, including discounts or contest entries.
What you can do is follow-up with customers after a purchase and ask them to review their experience. You can also create a feedback page on your website with instructions on how to leave reviews on the sites that are key for your industry.
Then, watch your pages on those sites. Engage with reviewers on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List, right bad experiences and let reviewers know you are listening and willing to make amends. It will help future customers see you as trustworthy and looking out for their best interests. With a majority of consumers placing their trust in reviews you can show them you are like-minded and also take your customers opinions seriously.
Online, you can include asks for reviews in your email communications, include a link to reviews on the ‘Thank You’ page after a transaction, or use AdWords to target customers who have completed a transaction and ask for their feedback. You can and should also thank customers for good reviews, they make great content for social media – pull out a key quote and link to the review and remind customers you are paying attention to them.
You can also ask for online reviews in the offline world. You can include signage in your business that reminds customers they can leave reviews if they’ve had a good experience. Like on social media - you can also feature great reviews somewhere in your store or office where customers can see them and see that you pay attention to their experience. Don’t be shy about introducing the concept of a review at the beginning of a sale by telling customers ‘if you’re happy with your service, I hope I can count on you for a good review.’
Then, give them a reminder. Putting the link to your feedback page on your receipts helps remind customers. Using a shortened, custom link here helps to not only fit the page on your receipt but makes it easy on customers to type it in.
Most of these options are a free way to help turn your shoppers into your spokespeople and capitalize on the new age of word-of-mouth and should not be overlooked.
If you would like additional information or assistance on this topic, please contact us at www.BuddinghAssociates.com.
David S. Buddingh is founder and partner in Buddingh & Associates, Inc., an award-winning strategic marketing consulting firm in Naperville, IL. Contact him at (630) 961-4504 or visit www.BuddinghAssociates.com.