Chances are, by the time a consumer is researching a product online, they’re ready to buy. The first searches help them narrow down on a product but what clinches the deal are the reviews left by other consumers. Reviews can be the deciding factor not only for a product, but where a consumer chooses to buy it.
That people are so influenced by online reviews, which are basically a series of opinions from complete strangers, is just one more aspect of the “research online/buy offline” economy that businesses of all sizes have to manage.
The review stage is also an important part of the customer experience journey, one that should be handled with attention and care.
What happens after a consumer reads a review?
These days, it is not uncommon for them to go straight to the store or make contact by phone or email, bypassing the website entirely.
How many sites or businesses are they comparing?
An average of three. This is valuable information for any business looking to bring in local clients; optimizing the website to come up first in search results makes it more likely that a consumer will click through to your website, read reviews on your products or services, and visit your store.
Where are people looking?
Facebook and Yelp are the most trusted sites for local searches, with Google and BBB.org following as popular choices. In the remodeling industry, Houzz is becoming a major player.
What are they looking for?
Starred reviews are a trusted source. Seeing that four or five-star rating is often enough to inspire confidence in a product or service.
A star rating is becoming increasingly important as people have less time to read full reviews or visit multiple review sites. Consumers are looking for a snapshot of a business’ contact info and their star or percentage rating; if people read reviews, they may only look at the most recent ones.
Part of review research also involves checking whether or not a company responds to reviews. If it looks like a business is not managing its local listings and not replying to customer input, it can put potential clients off. They can easily go to the next listing in their search results and patronize a competitor.
Note: It’s not enough to have 10 people review your business at five stars — consumers want an average of 34 reviews before they trust the star rating.
What can you do to get reviews?
Ask! Make it easy for people to leave reviews online and encourage them to do it. Showrooms helping clients with expensive remodel projects should have a system dedicated to collecting and posting online reviews. Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool, but there’s no reason not to leverage a happy client’s feedback online.
Sending an email customer satisfaction survey will result in interesting marketing information; at the very least, ask for a review on Facebook, Yelp, or Google.
People will often leave reviews, on Facebook or Google for example, without being asked. Why?
Consumers are aware of how important reviews are, especially for local businesses, and they want to help others discover the products and services available in their neighborhood.
Considering how reliant consumers are on review culture, no business should shy away from asking their clients to leave a star rating or comment.
What can you do about negative reviews?
No matter how hard a company works to keep customers happy, some people simply can’t be pleased. There are some picky people out there who are more than happy to leave a review full of details about how much they dislike a product or service.
To manage this the world of online reviews, retailers have to be vigilant about validating and responding to reviews on as many sites as possible.
Along with your staff and management teams, come up with a strategy for dealing with reviews, both positive and negative. This ensures that the message from your brand is clear and consistent. Regularly monitor your social media sites and the main review venues (Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.), to respond to questions, comments and complaints. The best practice is to thank each and every person for their comments, good or bad, and let them know you are committed to making things right.
If you can address the issue, do so. Your strategy may be to respond to issues online, or you may decide to handle issues offline by contacting the customer outside of a public forum. Personal responses and sincere conversations reflect well on businesses; great customer service doesn’t stop once a purchase is made.
If it seems the reviewer is only looking for a fight, don’t engage! Most consumers can tell the difference between a legitimate reviewer and an online bully.
When all is said and done, managing consumers’ online behavior is one more way for showrooms to attract new customers and keep established clients loyal. Understanding “research online/buy offline” habits and review culture is critical for showroom owners looking to succeed in an increasingly competitive retail world.