Do consumers trust online reviews?
I recently chatted to some friends about online reviews in the context of holiday bookings and the issue of validity (particularly in restaurants and tourism) arose. As a wider point it made me wonder what the power of online reviews is currently and how a business should be dealing with the all-important area of trust.
Online feedback is still on the increase
As an area of digital marketing, online consumer feedback is red hot. Whilst cynicism exists about the authenticity of some review content, the wealth of online reviews is clearly giving us enough of a steer to make real buying decisions. More than your website, more than your email marketing and more than any advertising that you may carry out. At least that is what a 2011 Nielsen Study showed – providing strong evidence that online reviews should be a major priority for any business owner.
Only last month local review specialists Bright Local conducted a detailed survey that 85% of the sample questioned use online reviews for local businesses. When compared against their study in 2012, interestingly they proved that more people are reading reviews but on average consumers read less than they did. Therefore assumptions and conclusions about a local business are being formed quicker than ever.
What can we learn from this?
For me, the take homes from these fascinating studies are simple, for marketers these points are absolutely critical priorities:
- Develop a review strategy. If you hadn’t already got an online review strategy, this is as good a time as ever. Incentivise your customers and/or employees to provide online feedback.
- Put marketing spend into channelling reviews. Think about what you’ve invested in online advertising or website design – and move some of this spend into getting more of your customers to review you on your website and other relevant 3rd party review websites.
- If consumers are reading fewer reviews, then quality will surely be the long term priority. Think video and think tougher data validation for review entries.