It’s no surprise – buyers are more educated than ever, with new information available daily to influence decision making. And with nearly all purchase decisions beginning online, positive brand recognition is a linchpin to success.
Product reviews provide an effective way for prospective customers to understand real experiences with products and/or services. In fact, it is estimated that 93% of consumers and businesses turn to online reviews when making a buying decision, while 78% trust them as much as personal recommendations. Furthermore, the average customer reads 10 online reviews before making a purchasing decision and 86% of consumers and businesses are willing to pay for a better customer experience.
It’s clear, reading testimonials and reviews is an integral part of the decision-buying process. Yet third-party product reviews often fail to be considered a top marketing priority. Let’s explore the reasons why product reviews should be part of your go-to-market strategy for 2021 and beyond.
Over time, advertising has become flashier and exaggerated. As a result, businesses have learned to trust display ads less. With the appearance of social media sites, these feelings have not faltered. In fact, the appeal of being able to voice one’s opinion has greatly changed marketing.
More Trusted Than Advertising
Businesses have come to understand that they can reliably learn from others and share their own experience to influence decision-making. As a result, social proof has become a symbol of trustworthiness in the digital age. While social likes and shares and social media influencer help, nothing influences a brand’s credibility more than third-party reviews. Positive reviews almost always seal the deal, negative reviews can drive customers away and the absence of reviews can make potential customers doubt the credibility of a company.
There are two types of reviews to consider – first-party and third-party.
First-party reviews, collected by the company itself, are ratings and feedback provided by customers or experts upon receiving a product or service from a company or researching that company. These will often feature real and raw content depicting a customer’s encounter with a store, its services, and its products to give others a glimpse of what to expect.
Third-party reviews are delivered by review specific sites such as Yelp, business.com, G2 Crowd, Capterra and TripAdvisor. While every business believes it offers the best quality, service and/or products, accepting these facts is much easier if it’s delivered from the perspective of another. Some platforms cater to reviews for all types of businesses, however most review sites are industry-specific. While these sites aren’t designed to convince customers to make a purchase, they help improve legitimacy and establish trust in a site’s products/services.
The inherent value of third-party review sites lies in the neutrality and independence these platforms offer to deliver trustworthy and reliable information on products and services to targeted buyers. It is important to do your due diligence in identifying the right platform for your business to ensure that while you are relinquishing power over your message, those tasked with speaking for you will honestly and adequately tell your story to the audiences that matter most to your business.
A Reputation Booster
Good branding and presence demonstrate that a business is reliable. It can help boost a business’ reputation and drive traffic to a company’s site. Although for some, great products and services are enough to build a brand, reviews will also help spread the word faster. Even in cases where products aren’t exactly of superior quality, reviews from experts explaining how they offer the best deal or that they’ve got great customer service can spark the interest of others.
Reviews draw even more attention to a company or product as experts relay their own personal experience or knowledge. Further, if implemented correctly, reviews can drive up the ranking for searches including “product name” + review(s). Also, with raised brand awareness and established legitimacy, there is a high likelihood of customers investing in a company or store. As a result, the number of search results will increase.
While the task of implementing third-party reviews within your marketing strategy can seem overwhelming, there are a few practical steps you can take to get the ball rolling:
- Target a media company, website or platform that has editorial independence and even better authority – even if they don’t describe your company/products/services exactly the same way you do.
- Contact the sales team to learn more about advertising options and understand what outcomes are associated with each program.
- Know what part of the funnel you are trying to optimize and what stage your business is in today. For example, if scaling your business awareness programs is essential to gain market share, but you are pre-launch or just launched, you may want to focus on lower-funnel programs like lead generation.
- Use Google as a research tool. Which websites appear for your product? The platforms and websites that show up on page 1 of a Google search may have reach, scale and audience that you don’t as an individual company. Rely on these platforms to support broader awareness.
This past year in particular has challenged marketers beyond measure, as many struggled amid a global pandemic. According to our recent survey, marketers note a significant decrease in traffic and leads due to COVID-19. As we look to 2021, marketers are focused on finding new opportunities to communicate with customers by being more proactive to their needs and concerns. Top priorities include:
- Increasing focus on customer satisfaction
- Building strong customer and prospect relationships
- Identifying new opportunities to drive better results for brand awareness
- Creating a positive brand presence and experience
This increased focus on the customer experience has helped shine a spotlight on the need for reviews to support this effort, the sales team and make an impact on the sales funnel. Good reviews can help close a deal, build positive brand awareness and generate much needed visibility. Incorporating product review platforms within your marketing strategy for 2021 is not a nice to have, it should be considered essential to effectively scale your business.
Rachel Krug is vice president of growth operations for business.com, a comprehensive business resource for growing companies.