It's time to take ownership of the rising review culture

Are online ratings and reviews important to your business? They should be, as the influence of online product reviews on consumers continues to grow. Recently, we conducted a survey of consumers, which reveals just how much we now rely on online ratings and reviews.

This shouldn't be a surprise. Most people relate strongly to the growing review culture. These days, not many of us would book a stay in a hotel or make a reservation at a restaurant we’ve never been to before without first checking online ratings and scrolling through customer feedback.

In increasing numbers, we're now turning to total strangers to read their reviews and ratings before making a purchase. 84% of shoppers now read online reviews and 46% check star ratings before committing to an online purchase. As we can see, the review culture is playing an increasingly important and normalized role in our purchasing behavior, and above all else, informs our decisions on where to stay, where to eat and what to buy.

As connected consumers, we're not as tolerant as we used to be. Our expectations and demands are far greater than ever before, and we have a voice and many platforms — from social media to online review websites — where we can express anger or dissatisfaction when we’ve had a poor experience. From the same report, almost two-thirds of us are likely to leave a negative review following a bad experience, with 60% having done so within the last year.

Shoppers are increasingly volatile and unforgiving. It's within this environment that some retailers are losing their grip on their online feedback. 50% of retailers think that poor reviews are getting worse and 38% admit that they don't know how to best deal with negative reviews. It also takes just five (on average) poor recent reviews to halt most shoppers from buying from a retailer or brand, which demonstrates the sway that consumer feedback can have on customer acquisition.

The other danger to merchants is the money they're leaving on the table from lost sales opportunities. Our study shows that the average difference in revenue between a 3-star and a 5-star rated merchant is as much as 33%.

In today’s consumer era it has become crucial to use reviews and ratings both as a trust symbol and as valuable insight into the areas of the customer journey that require improvement. Indeed, negative reviews should be viewed as an opportunity to improve, not a threat.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of our study is the revelation that it’s notably the level of service we receive that attracts the most vocal negative attention from customers — whether it’s items not arriving on time or at all to a lack of delivery updates or canceled purchases. In fact, 77% of all 1-3 star feedback left by customers are related to problems or issues that occur after they click "buy."

Without the right mechanics in place to support quick and seamless service at every touchpoint, including handling orders, shipping and logistics, or managing hassle-free returns, businesses will continue to fumble the ball in the end zone — the operations of the business. 

The last impression is key, and if this isn’t optimized, businesses will continue to find themselves attracting poor feedback, driving away potential shoppers and leaving a long-lasting stain on their reputation.

It’s not all bad news, however. As our report shows, a positive review — or 30 — can make a huge difference in the choices consumers make when it comes to selecting a brand or retailer. More positive reviews enhance a brand’s reputation above the competition, leading to increased conversion, retention and spend.

To get the most out of online reviews, businesses need to consider solutions which allow them to fulfill the modern expectations of customers, from same- and next-day delivery options to real-time shipping and incredible response times. With a great review strategy and the right technology in place, retailers can focus on earning the 5-star feedback needed to capture the attention — and business — of today’s online shopper.

Now back to my original question: how important are ratings and reviews to your business?

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This article originally appeared on Total Retail.

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About the Author

Derek is CEO of Brightpearl, responsible for the overall company strategy. Co-author of the Omnichannel Survival Guide, Derek is recognized as a leading retail expert, and his mantra is to deliver on Brightpearl’s mission to automate the back office for today’s merchants. During the 1990’s Derek founded two IT companies, including Ireland’s first online advertising agency building database driven websites and offering SEO services. Most recently, he served as Senior Vice President of field sales and marketing for Norton, responsible for $1.7bn of revenue globally. Since Derek became CEO of Brightpearl in spring 2016, the company has seen significant growth in its core customer base, cementing its position as an invaluable asset for mid-sized merchants seeking a competitive edge.