3 ways online customer reviews can increase sales

According to 2016 research from Bright local, 84% of people trust online customer reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

That’s staggering.

It means you now have a mechanism to prove the quality of your business to people, anywhere in the world, who are thinking about buying a product or service that you offer.

“Awesome!” you’re probably thinking. “If I go and get some online reviews, the sales will start rolling in, right?”

Well, yes hopefully, but I was deliberate in my description of online customer reviews as a mechanism.

They are a tool that can be deployed at different stages of your potential customer’s sales journey to help them:

  • Find you
  • Trust you enough to visit your website
  • Have confidence that you will deliver
  • Provide transparent customer service

They are also a valuable tool for you, as the business owner, to:

  • Understand how to make your business better
  • Help you build relationships and keep more of your existing customers

I’m going to break down how you can use your online reviews to get more sales into three key areas.

  1. Reaching more people
  2. Improving conversion
  3. Improving your business

Reaching more people

In order for you to make sales, first, your potential customers need to know you exist. Today this means being found in online search and if you aren’t on the first of the search engine results pages (SERP), you may as well be nowhere.

To get to the first page of the search engines you have two options, either:

  1. Pay Google or Bing for ads that appear at the top of the search results page via pay per click (PPC) advertising, or
  2. Try to conquer the search engine algorithms with search engine optimisation (SEO)

Both methods 'cost' whether in cash, time or effort, (usually all three) but let’s remove paid advertising for now and look at the ‘potentially more free’ SEO option.

Customer reviews for SEO

Recent research published on the SEM Rush blog, analysed four of the main UK review platforms, Trustpilot, Feefo, Trusted shops and Ekomiand assessed them for their relative value as an SEO tool.

All four platforms, as well as numerous others not assessed, provide two main SEO benefits:

  1. They make your search listing more eye catching
  2. They prove the quality of your offering to the search engines
Why an eye-catching search result matters

As human beings, we are visual creatures. When presented with a list of information, like a search result page, we immediately scan and look for something that can help us make a quick decision. The normal behaviour in this instance is to click the first link, however, in a sea of blue links, a ‘different’ listing catches the eye.

The most obvious eye-catching feature of search listings that include online customer review platforms is the yellow star rating’s that get added to your websites search listings.

Search engine result enriched with 5 yellow online customer review stars

All four of the review sites assessed provide this, assuming you have correctly implemented them into your website.

These types of results get more clicks because visually they stand out to users. Search engines notice these extra clicks because they have expectations about the click through rate for each position in their results.

Search engine result page with one online customer review enriched listing

It’s generally accepted amongst SEO experts, that when Google sees a website in any given position of the search results getting more than its fair share of clicks and those users don’t immediately leave after clicking, then those websites tend to rise in the search rankings.

What this indicates to the search engines is that your website appears better able to satisfy the searcher's question than those around you, and if the searcher stays on your website, you are also providing an answer to their question. Search engines want to answer people’s questions. In turn, they reward websites that do this with higher search rankings.

Proving your offering to the search engines

The primary objective of any third party customer review website is to help build trust between a potential customer and a business. Maintaining their independence and authority is fundamental to the success of these third party customer review websites.

Because of this necessity for the review sites to be objective and trustworthy, the search engines are using the credibility of those review sites to apply credibility to your own website.

This is the fundamental principle of SEO. Having authoritative websites confirming the credibility of your own website and business will increase the chances of you being seen by more potential customers in the search results.

As all four platforms provide these eye catching review stars, the real question becomes; which review site has the greatest authority in the eyes of the search engines and will, therefore, bring the most credibility to your own reviews.

Table highlighting the relative authority of four online customer review platforms; Trustpilot, Feefo, Trusted Shops and Ekomi

Trustpilot is far and away the most dominant platform in this space across every metric. They have a 600% advantage over second place Feefo and have had this lead for several years.

Given the fact that you can create a Trustpilot account for free and start collecting and responding to online customer reviews this really does feel like a sensible tool to add to your SEO armoury to help deliver higher traffic volumes to your website.

Improving conversion

Getting more people to your website is just the first step. Your search listing has stood out, your business offers the product or services your potential customer wants, but now they want to find out more detail about you, how you operate and what it might be like to be a customer of yours.

Robert Cialdini famously created the 6 principles of influence, with one of the most powerful being social proof. When we are uncertain about what course of action to take we look for cues from people around us in a similar position.

Fundamentally, this is what online customer reviews are emulating. They allow your potential customers to consider how other people with a similar need or problem have experienced your business or the product or service that they are considering buying.

By identifying these key moments of indecision for your potential customers e.g. when reviewing product details or at the checkout stage, and supporting those moments of indecision with strong social proof you can start to turn the dial on your sales conversion rates and get more of your prospects converting to customers.

This, of course, assumes that your business reviews are glowing, but there are some other factors to bear in mind as your potential customers assess your business.

Almost ¾’s of people think reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant, so when you start collecting online customer reviews you need to ensure you are consistent and continue collecting up to date feedback.

There is also a question of volume. Over a third of people read between 4-6 reviews before they trust a business. It’s also important not to put all of your eggs in one basket as almost 2/3's of people check 2-3 different review sites before they make a decision about a business.

So while creating an account with Trustpilot or another third party review website is important, people will cross-reference the reviews you sign post against other platforms like Google reviews or even social media channels in particular any Facebook reviews you have as well as Twitter for general comments and responses about or from you.

Ensuring you have a good handle on all of your potential customer feedback channels will help your business appear consistent and further enhance the credibility of the positive reviews you get.

Improving your business

Inevitably as you embark on your customer feedback journey, you’ll get some negative feedback.

Negative online reviews are not to be feared.

Any negative reviews will likely be the minority and remember, success is a poor tutor.

Negative reviews provide incredibly valuable insight as they highlight opportunities for your business to improve. Fixing issues or improving processes will obviously help improve your future sales as you plug the potential holes that prospective customers could drop out of.

Plus many complainants often find a lack of response to be more irritating and a greater motivator to do harm than the initial issue they complained about.

Unhappy customers are influential, they are three times more likely to share negative stories than positive and the different ways they can distribute that experience via social media etc. can have significant repercussions. Like in 2009 when United Airlines had $180 million wiped off their share price because they broke a customer’s guitar and refused to repair it.

The benefit of grasping the nettle when resolving customer issues is not just limited to that particular transaction at that particular time. Customers that have an issue resolved tell 4-6 people about their positive experience.

Happy customers also buy more, are better advocates for your business and importantly cost seven times less to sell to than acquiring a new prospect.

By asking for, gathering, sharing positive and managing negative customer feedback you can start to use that extra data to identify your most potentially profitable customers based on their satisfaction levels. 'Totally satisfied' customers contribute 14 times more revenue than 'somewhat dissatisfied' customers. Knowing who these people are is critical to focusing potential targeting and maximising the conversion opportunity for relevant up and cross-sell offers.

So there you have it, three ways that online reviews can help you:

  1. Reach more people
  2. Improve conversion
  3. Improve your business

The power is very much in your hands as 70% of people said they would leave a review for a business if only they had been asked.

If you need help setting up your various online customer review sites for inclusion in your Handle report then the team at Trustpilot can help, take a look at this for Facebook reviews and for Google reviews have a read through their guide.

Once activated, you can monitor all of these platforms from the comfort of your Handle feedback report so you'll always know what your customers think and how you can help them to buy more from you.

If you have any questions about the the Handle feedback report or getting your review sites setup then just let us know at hello@gethandle.com.


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