One of the biggest stories of 2020 was the intense uptake of online retail in face of stay-at-home orders and a level of consumer anxiety around their health and safety.
And as retailers saw their online sales double, or triple in some cases, it became clear that the businesses with the best reputation online were the ones reaping the benefits.
In the year ahead, which is very likely to continue being impacted by disparate lockdowns and restrictions based on localised outbreaks of the Covid-19 virus, it’s more important than ever before for a business to be able to prove that it can be trusted to deliver what it says it can.
And one of the most effective ways of doing this is through the management of a business’ online reviews. All you’ve got to do is know how.
According to Podium’s 2020 State of Reviews: Australia Edition report, reviews influence the buying behaviour of 84 per cent of Australians, and are four times as effective as traditional marketing.
And, at a time when foot traffic is struggling and many brands’ bricks-and-mortar stores need a shot in the arm, almost a third of customers have looked up a review while standing outside a business to decide whether to go inside or not.
“I think the biggest reason people are valuing reviews more highly now is because there is so much information and marketing out there for every single brand and service that people are now looking to customer experiences rather than what the company is putting out there,” said Podium senior account executive Jacob Zimmermann.
“Marketing will always have its place, but for customers to truly know how a business operates they are going to look at reviews.”
Podium’s research found that 62 per cent of Australians read at least one review each week to help them make buying decisions, and almost half of customers would rather travel and pay more to use a proven business or service that has strong reviews compared to one that doesn’t, but is closer and cheaper.
And although the five-star review metric is itself a sign of a business’ quality, there are other review factors that drive how customers perceive how much a business is worth their while: review quantity, quality, consistency, relevancy and diversity.
“How recent a business’ reviews are, as well as their quantity and diversity are huge parts of what makes a business stand out – seeing new reviews flow through weekly or daily provides confidence for any new customers that are browsing,” Zimmermann said.
Following the difficulty that Covid-19 brought to most industries in 2020, customers are much more likely to be positive in their reviews, since they now have an ingrained understanding of how hard the business environment has become, and want to support local or great retailers.
All a brand has to do is make it easy for them.
“Customers have changed and they expect convenience. Not everyone is checking their emails constantly throughout the day. I personally check my personal emails one or twice throughout the day, but if I receive a text message, I’ll open it immediately and can respond quickly,” Zimmermann said.
“With people becoming busier and busier, texting speeds things up… It’s as simple as asking, ‘do you mind if I send you a quick text and if you leave us a review? it’d mean the world to us’.”
“And from experience, 7-8 people out of 10 will do it.”