Reviews Rule Our Decision-Making

By Taylor Smithfield

Did you know consumers distrust salespeople and marketers nearly as much as stockbrokers or politicians? Heck, even lawyers curry more favor with the public, according to one online survey.(http://bit.ly/2lln0KT) Marketers have perhaps unfairly earned this reputation, but we can’t deny their influence is ever-present; it’s hardly noticed anymore we consume more advertisements than Wheaties before 9:00 a.m.

When we’re fed a steady diet of ads, all clamoring for our attention — each one promising something more unbelievable than the last — we naturally become skeptical. As a result, the majority of consumers have stopped trusting shiny headlines or catchy jingles over the last several years. Instead, they’ve turned to a more trustworthy source: the online customer review.

Word Of (Big) Mouth

If you’re an Amazon shopper (Let’s be real, who isn’t?) then you know the power of the customer review. What better way to know if that Chewbacca mask is truly one-size-fits-all or if those wool socks for $19.99 are a deal or a dud? Reviews. Star-ratings, detailed accounts of product failures and triumphs, enraged one-liners or lavish praises in ALL CAPS. Reports from people, like you and me with no motives, who just want the best bang for their buck. This is why brands hire social media influencers with large, dedicated audiences to promote their products or services online. Advertisements and sales pitches directly from the retailer itself aren’t as genuine as casual reviews from “normal” people.

Outside of Amazon, reviews still rule our decision- making process. Not sure which campground to take the family for the weekend? Consult TripAdvisor. Stumped about which restaurant to treat out-of-town guests to? Yelp and Google reviews to the rescue. Searching for a fun weeknight activity to share with your spouse? Hello, Facebook business reviews. We even use reviews in the employee-hiring process, in the form of LinkedIn endorsements. And customer reviews aren’t merely limited to written surveys. Video reviews and unboxings have become extremely popular on Instagram and YouTube for all ages. (If you have kids, you’re probably aware of the toy review trend. Google “unboxing videos” for ideas on how you can implement this in your store.)

The online review can certainly be a business owner’s best and worst friend, depending on a customer’s particular experience. But we can’t deny they’ve become one of the most powerful advertising tools, which is why you should put significant effort into maintaining the highest level of customer satisfaction. If you’re not already encouraging consumer feedback or initiating discussions with customers, there’s really no better time to start. Word of mouth takes on a whole other meaning with the internet, and a customer’s reach is far greater than it’s ever been.

Are You Listening?

Reviews aren’t just helpful for customers, but for you, too. People who take the time to leave thoughtful feedback aren’t only alerting other shoppers, they’re speaking directly to a business. Are you listening? Maybe Yelp or Google reviews haven’t been checked lately, or perhaps it’s a struggle to receive any form of customer feedback. Or maybe you have a constant dialogue with customers. If managing reviews has fallen by the wayside, let’s look at some ways to improve things.

First, if your business hasn’t been claimed on Google or Yelp, now is the perfect time. It’s a better way to manage business information (hours, website, etc.) and also reply to reviews and manage photo albums. Simply navigate to the Google My Business page (www.google.com/business) and enter the necessary details. On Yelp, locate the Find and Claim Your Business page (http://biz.yelp.com), search for your business and follow the instructions. Now you’re taking ownership of your brand!

While not every store responds to reviews, the most successful businesses actively engage with their customers. Many stores will personally reply to both positive and negative reviews, with the latter providing opportunities to rectify an unpleasant experience (it also sends the message that every customer matters). It’s much more difficult to turn a negative experience into a positive one, and people will respect you far greater if less than stellar feedback isn’t ignored.

Choose Words Wisely

Now that you’ve opened communication lines, it’s time to encourage customers to provide feedback. Remind them every time they make a transaction — whether in-store or online. Many retailers provide a link or QR code on receipts along with a friendly verbal reminder at checkout. Oftentimes they’re promised a coupon code or entry in a giveaway.

Another popular option is to follow up a few days post-purchase via email, when the customer has had time to use their purchase. Not surprisingly, even the subject line of this email can affect the likelihood customers will leave a review. But what kind of language is most likely to attract customers to open your email? You’re in luck, because there’s a study on it! In fact, researchers looked at data from 3.5 million post-purchase review request emails and compiled the following advice: http://bit.ly/2K32Ekk

• Emotional appeal isn’t very effective.
• Always reference your store name.
• Incentives work!
• Ask a question.
• Avoid using uppercase words.

Using emotional language like “How did you like the product?” doesn’t really yield positive results. Actually, in certain industries, like sporting goods, emotional appeals negatively impacted review responses by a whopping 41 percent. Including the store name, however, can increase the odds by 3.7 percent. People are inundated with marketing emails and by identifying yourself up front getting the desired response is more likely.

Incentives still work when it comes to reviews. The most common incentives are coupons, a giveaway could also entice. Words like coupon, win, free, save, sale and discount can increase a conversion rate by 18.5 percent. However, this number jumps to 68 percent if a store has 5,000 to 20,000 orders every month. Mid-level retail outfits clearly have an advantage.

It’s natural to assume a subject line including a question would yield positive results. Retailers saw a 15.7 percent boost in reviews when they engaged their customers (“How was your recent purchase?” “What did you think of product X?”). The inquiry shows interest and clients are more likely to feel like their satisfaction truly matters.

Lastly, although it may be tempting to use uppercase words or phrases in the subject line, try to refrain — unless you have less than 20,000 monthly orders. For stores under the 20,000 mark, an uppercase word can hurt conversions by up to 49.3 percent — ouch! But for stores slinging more than 20,000 orders every month, an uppercase word made customers more likely to write a review, with a massive increase of 112.6 percent.
Incredible.

A variety of feedback services are available to compile reviews on your behalf so you’re not manually sending emails. While these particular reviews aren’t public, they still provide a direct communication line between you and your customers. Besides, the best reviews can always be displayed on your website, Facebook page or in a variety of marketing pieces. It will not only encourage shoppers but also your team, who deserve to know how the competition is being outshined.

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