The Importance of Customer Reviews for Engagement Yes, online reviews do matter! A man goes online to find an affordable hotel to stay at during an upcoming trip to Las Vegas. He wants a hotel that is not only comfortable but also offers the quintessential Vegas experience—music, live performances and nightlife. He Googles “best hotels in Las Vegas.” Search results fill his screen. He clicks The Venetian Las Vegas, with 16,317 Google reviews and 25,929 reviews on TripAdvisor. He then reads the customer reviews and decides to book his stay! This is basically how reviews have always worked. The concept of customer engagement remains the same. What has changed in today’s consumer culture is the way businesses connect with customers. Welcome to web 2.0–induced customer engagement strategy: using online reviews to impress potential customers and create emotional connections that foster customer loyalty. What Makes the Customer of Today Fall Head-Over-Heels for Your Brand? Customers will love you if you are able to create a one-of-a-kind experience throughout their time interacting with your company. Your customers need to feel heard. They need to interact with a business that cares about them. One of the best ways you can project that image is through positive online customer reviews. And that makes websites that will host your company’s reviews—for example, Google and Facebook—important platforms for your customer engagement. So, how can online reviews amplify your customer engagement efforts? Reviews Make it Easy for Customers to Find You If you think word-of-mouth is the best way to drive customers to your business, think again. According to research conducted by ReviewTrackers, a website that offers premier online review management solutions, more than one-third of searches are local. Furthermore, 58% of local searchers will end up visiting your business within 48 hours. For example, when a person searches “Pete’s Pizza in Lincoln Park,” the results are determined by the quantity and impact of the eatery’s reviews. If the reviews look good, Pete’s has a scored a new customer. Reviews Help Improve Customer Experience There is a lot you can find out about your customers these days. Armed with user-generated data, you can see where you are hitting the mark and where you can improve. Operational changes can be made based on what your customers have to say. Are customers finding your online user interface tacky? Spend money on a good UX/UI developer. Are you noticing complaints about your customer service? Initiate an employee training program focused on how to treat customers. An analysis performed by ReviewTrackers on baseball stadium reviews revealed that the top-ranked stadiums offer fans good service, good food and enjoyable experiences—all things that the lower ranked stadiums did not. Ultimately, the companies that analyze trends in reviews will learn what slays their customers and what changes are needed to stay competitive. Reviews Make Customers Pay More On top of ramping up your SEO efforts, customers’ online reviews also impact your business’s bottom line. You might be selling the same thing as your competitors, however, customers tend to trust your highly rated product more. Even the shrewdest buyer cannot resist a product that has garnered troves of top reviews. According to a study conducted by Paley Center for Media and ShareThis, strong positive reviews can compel a consumer to pay approximately 9% more for a service or product. And when consumers read negative reviews, approximately five will reverse their purchase decision. Bottom line: The quantity and quality of reviews—not the number of likes and hearts—will influence purchase decisions and pricing flexibility. Do’s and Don’ts of Encouraging Customers to Review Your Product or Service Once you set up your review request campaign, follow these tips for encouraging your customers to leave a review: DO offer irresistible incentives for leaving a review. For example, you can run a monthly prize drawing for customers who leave feedback. Or try rewarding frequent reviewers with a badge of honor like “Top Reviewer” or “Valued Customer.” DON’T plaster your call for reviews all over your website. Mention it in your post-sale emails and in areas on the site that it won’t seem desperate, intrusive or out of context. DO send emails to past customers. Check in with them and ask them if they’d be willing to share their experiences. The best strategy is targeting your best customers—individuals with a net promoter score (NPS) of 9 or 10. DON’T make the review process difficult. Lengthy forms or the requirement to start an account will stop potential reviewers from leaving feedback. While many websites use CAPTCHA to avoid receiving a barrage of useless bot-generated comments, forms like these can turn off your human reviewers. Find ways to make it easy to leave feedback. For example, if a customer is logged into your site, don’t prompt them to validate themselves again when they want to leave a review. DO feature reviews where other customers can see them. Studies show that reviews are important for reassuring customers. Seeing other reviews may also motivate customers to leave their own comments. To increase the visibility of your reviews, put a star rating and a link to the reviews in a place where your customers won’t miss them. DO publish both positive and negative reviews. Reviews are a customer’s expression of their experience with your product or service. If you want to make your customers feel valued, don’t filter out bad reviews from your site. Publishing both perspectives also helps bolster credibility. Studies have revealed that the presence of bad reviews increases conversion rates by 67%. Customer reviews—both positive and negative—can shape the reputation of your business and drive customer growth.