Are online ratings and reviews important to your business? They should be, as the influence of online product reviews on consumers continues to grow. Recently, Brightpearl.com conducted a survey of consumers, which reveals just how much we now rely on online ratings and reviews.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Most people relate strongly to the growing review culture. These days, not many of us would book a stay in a hotel or make a reservation at a restaurant we’ve never been to before without first consulting an online review forum, checking the ratings and scrolling through customer feedback.
In increasing numbers, we are now turning to total strangers to read their customer reviews and ratings before buying. 84% of shoppers now read online reviews and 46% check star ratings before committing to an online purchase – with almost 9 in 10 consumers considering them to be essential to their decision making. As we can see, the review culture is playing an increasingly important and normalized role in our purchasing behavior, and above all else, informs our decisions on where to stay, where to eat and what to buy.
In today’s modern retail landscape we are all influencers – and we’re all ready and willing to be influenced. But not only do we expect our voices to be heard, we demand that our feedback be acknowledged and acted upon quickly. The Brightpearl.com survey reveals that 76% of shoppers expect merchants to respond to reviews and one in five consumers believe a reply should come within 24 hours.
As connected consumers, we are not as tolerant as we used to be. Our expectations and demands are far greater than ever before and we have a voice and many platforms – from social media to online review websites – where we can express anger or dissatisfaction when we’ve had a poor experience. From the same report, almost two-thirds of us are likely to leave a negative review following a bad experience – with 60% having done so within the last year.
Shoppers are increasingly volatile and unforgiving and it is within this environment that some retailers are losing their grip on their online feedback. 50% of retailers think that poor reviews are getting worse and 38% admit that they do not know how to best deal with negative reviews, according to the study by Brightpearl. It also takes just five (on average) poor recent reviews to halt most shoppers from buying from a retailer or brand, which demonstrates the sway that consumer feedback can have on potential new customers.
The other danger to merchants failing to get to grips with their online feedback is the money they are leaving on the table from lost sales opportunities. The study shows that the average difference in revenue between a 3-star and 5-star rated merchant is 33%. This means some businesses with average ratings are likely missing out on many potential orders which are being lost, never to be recovered. Because our trust is fragile – and the options are many – it takes very little to be discouraged from buying from an online merchant.
In today’s consumer era it has become crucial to use reviews and ratings both as a trust symbol and as valuable insight into the areas of the customer journey that require improvement. Indeed, negative reviews should be viewed as an opportunity to improve, not a threat.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Brightpearl.com study is the revelation that it’s notably the level of service we receive that attracts the most vocal negative attention from customers — whether it’s items not arriving on time or at all, to a lack of delivery updates or canceled purchases. In fact, 77% of all 1-3 star feedback left by customers are related to problems or issues that occur after the customer clicks ‘buy’.
It’s vital to determine the specific stages where customers are evaluating and talking about their experiences and whether there are gaps or issues that need to be addressed. Businesses then need to consider new processes, technologies, or renewed investment in their operations to fix the failures driving poor feedback.
Without the right mechanics in place to support quick and seamless service at every touchpoint, including handling orders, shipping and logistics, or to manage hassle-free returns, businesses will continue to fumble the ball in the end zone – the operations of the business. The last impression is key, and if this isn’t optimized, businesses will continue to find themselves attracting poor feedback, driving away potential shoppers and leaving a long-lasting stain on their reputation.
It’s not all bad news though. The technology now exists to not only be able to capture all those reviews and ratings but to also enable the whole organization to act upon them. Closing those gaps and improving the entire customer experience.
As Brightpearl’s report shows, a positive review – or 30 – can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer. More positive reviews enhance a brand’s reputation with buyers above the competition – leading to increased conversion, retention and spend.
To help get the most out of online reviews, businesses need to consider solutions which allow them to fulfill the modern expectations of customers – from same-next day delivery options to real-time shipping and incredible response times. With a great reviews strategy and the right technology in place, firms can focus on earning the five-star feedback needed to capture the attention – and the business – of today’s online shopper.
Now back to my original question – how important are ratings and reviews to your business?
Derek O’Carroll, CEO, Brightpearl