These days, it seems like everyone is depending on online or social media reviews to determine the potential value of a product or service before they buy. It seems like that, because the vast majority of consumers shopping online do in fact depend on review sites or online reviews to aid them in their web-based purchases.
The success foundation for this approach is found in a rock-solid marketing tenet: “third-party affirmation is extremely powerful.” Third party affirmation is when a person who is not affiliated with a brand, product, or service enthusiastically recommends that brand, product, or service to someone else interested in what that brand offers. This works because we tend to trust people who seem to have little to nothing to gain rather than the brands who, we know, are just trying to sell us something.
It’s this fundamental and universal human dynamic that makes online reviews so powerful. Google Reviews, Yelp Reviews, Facebook Reviews, Angie’s List… all of these sites or platforms are leveraging the opinions of shoppers to both provide new and fresh content, but also to bring new potential customers their way by giving those consumers something they are looking for anyway: a fair or unbiased product review.
The best of these sites employ reviews by real people consumers can see, click on, and learn more about. This step strengthens trust, because shoppers know they’re hearing from a real person with an authentic opinion. But that’s just step one.
By leveraging these opinions, good or bad, brands can get people engaged and talking about their products and services in a constructive way. It’s a simple process to post a review, then ask fans or customers to comment on that review. By putting the brand out there for voluntary scrutiny, digital PR teams make a move that leads to further interaction, giving the brand the opportunity to build engagement and trust with their audience.
And, knowing what the audience is really thinking can yield significant, measurable reviews. When a brand takes honest critiques into account and works to improve, consumers appreciate that, and they will review accordingly. More specifically, some market studies have shown that the increase of one star in the average rating for a Yelp review, for example, can mean as much as a nine percent revenue jump, year-to-year, especially with independent or mom-and-pop businesses.
Think about the impact this kind of engagement could mean to an independent brand trying to make a name for itself in a world dominated by big chains with massive marketing budgets. Online reviews are one way for the “little guys” to level the playing field. Deliver outstanding service and give people reasons to keep talking about it, and a small or medium size business can quickly develop an outsize footprint in the digital marketplace.