Online reputation management is more important than ever, as consumers increasingly research products and services online and turn to online reviews for information about businesses and their offerings. BrightLocal’s 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey revealed that 85% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses—up from 76% just a year earlier. A 2013 survey conducted by Dimensional Research put that number even higher, with 90% of customer’s reporting that online reviews influenced their purchasing decisions.
The concrete impact of that influence is well-documented, too. An earlier Harvard Business School study showed that a one-star increase in rating on Yelp.com led to a 5-9% increase in a restaurant’s revenues. Clearly, online reviews impact the success of your business and online reputation management should play a significant role in your marketing and branding strategy.
Opportunities for online reviews abound. For example, on Yelp.com alone you’ll find more than 1.5 million reviews for hotels and travel-related companies. And, those numbers grow dramatically when you consider industry-specific sites. Early last year, TripAdvisor crossed the 100 million review mark. And, that’s just one site. Within the travel industry alone, consumers may also turn to Hotels.com, Booking.com, Trivago, HolidayCheck, Expedia, Travelocity and others.
Making the Most of Online Reviews
With so many opportunities for online reviews and their impact on your business so apparent, you can’t leave customer feedback to chance. To make the most of online reviews:
- Identify the most powerful review sites for your industry and learn their nuances. Each site operates slightly differently in terms of ratings, reviews, ability to respond and other features.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews; there’s nothing untoward about asking your satisfied customers to share their experiences. Your most successful competitors are undoubtedly doing just that.
- Make it easy for your customers to complete those reviews. Strategies will vary somewhat depending on the nature of your business, but some effective approaches include placing links to key review sites on your company website, asking for reviews (and including links) in thank you and other follow-up emails and including review links on your receipts.
- Monitor your reviews and respond where necessary. In a TripAdvisor survey, more than half of respondents said they’d be more likely to book a hotel whose management responded to reviews than one without responses.
- Learn from your reviews. Tracking your online reviews is about more than just managing your reputation online. It’s an opportunity to see honest feedback from a variety of customers over time, which allows you to identify weak spots in your business and those customers value most.
Your business’s online reputation is developing, whether you’re guiding that development or not. Don’t let that happen by accident.