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What others think may matter more than most of us care to admit.

Thanks to the speed, ease and mobility of online searches, customer reviews of products and services have a significant impact on when, where and how people make purchases.  As importantly, the internet has given consumers direct and unfiltered access to one another, plus on a massive scale.

And as today’s tech-smart marketers are well aware, nothing drives purchase decisions and grows brand recognition like positive online reviews from trusted fellow consumers

According to data gathered by Connext Digital, a multi-channel marketing services company, a majority of shoppers trust in online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from friends. Before buying a product, most also search online, which is where they’re most likely to view reviews from fellow consumers. And nearly 90 percent of consumers, according to the data, will stop transacting with a business after experience poor customer service. That, in turn, will most likely be reflected in negative reviews.

But are business owners doing all they can to engender positive customer reviews and tap this extremely effective marketing channel? Maybe not, according to a 2017 survey conduced by Podium, an online review management platform. Here are some key takeaways from that survey:

  • 93 percent of consumers said online reviews impact their purchasing decisions.
  • 60 percent look at reviews on a weekly basis.
  • 77 percent said they’d leave an online review if prompted by a local business.
  • Just 13 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses ask customers for reviews.

In short, satisfied customers make for the best brand ambassadors and product advocates money can’t buy. Their reviews are free! But it’s up to businesses to capitalize on the collective consumer power by engaging with their customers and enticing them to leave reviews.