How important are online reviews?

19 July 2018  |  by Marijn van Trierum

More and more companies get to deal with reviews that customers give online. Both positive and negative, but always critical. Even though some are unsolicited, it is important to deal with these reviews the right way.

According to research, 92% of the customers that orders an online product, first monitors the reviews of other customers. Apparently, customers have more faith in the reviews of others then in factual numbers. Customers seem to think that when the reviews are good, the company would have to be trustworthy.

The value of reviews

To answer the question why people value online reviews, it is important to analyze the principles of online reviews. Therefore, we look at the so called ‘influence mix’, that partly determines the decision making of a customer. The influence mix exists of three parts:

Existing preferences, opinions and experiences
Many of the choices a customer makes, are based on earlier experiences. For example with a product as bread. We often buy the same type of bread, mainly because we liked it before and have good experiences with it. This works the same for many daily low-priced products.

Information from the company
The way a company positions a product in its market and how they communicate externally, plays a part in the decision making process of the customer. Even though customers often think otherwise, television advertisement and billboards do have effect on the customers and their decision making. The information shared on the company’s website is also significant.

Information from third-parties
Information that does not come from the company, is valued as more trustworthy by customers. Therefore, information from third parties is important during the decision making process. Online reviews are such a third party sources, but experiences from friends and family belong to this category too.

These three parts form the ‘influence mix’, but not every part is always as important as the others. With small daily purchases such as groceries, experience is the most important pillar, but information from third parties is more important when a customer is booking a vacation.

How important are reviews?

With the ‘influence mix’ in mind, you can determine whether online reviews are important for your company. When existing preferences and information from the company become less important, reviews and other information from third-parties automatically become more crucial. When you are not sure how the ‘influence mix’ looks for your company, you can map this by surveying your current customers.

How to set off online reviews?

When you decide to start putting more effort in online reviews, you need to make certain choices. How to deal with reviews? What platforms do you use for them?

You can use multiple online platforms for collecting reviews. Those can either be intern or extern. Intern means that the reviews can be placed on your own website. Trustpilot and Feedback Company are examples of tools that can facilitate intern reviews. The extern sharing of reviews often happens on platform such as Zoover and Tripadvisor (both active in travel industry). They act as a assembly point for reviews on companies in certain industries.

The advantage of facilitating reviews on your own website is that you as a company can control the reviews. That apparently has a downside too, since customers can find reviews on your own website less trustworthy.

Communication departments and webcare teams are nowadays busy with responding to customer reviews. This often goes well, and it can even generate free publicity, but it can also go very wrong.

For companies it is very important to determine how to deal with reviews, especially the negative ones. Honesty and openness are much appreciated by complaining customers. See their feedback as a learning experience and definitely not as a threat. You can turn complaining customers around by approaching them the right way.

The reverse side of online reviews

Online reviews are mostly useful, but also know a downside. People often give their reviews anonymously, they are not always based on strong arguments and it is hard to alert readers for inaccuracies. Some companies abuse the popularity of online reviews, for example by writing excellent reviews for themselves.

A foolproof system for online reviews does therefore not exist yet. Experimenting with new forms of online feedback can be wise. This is one of the reasons Trustier is useful. With this platform you can analyze trust scores from both companies and individuals.