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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Thum, Ph.D., CCXP

New Research: 4 Ways Marketers Can Use Online Customer Reviews to Unleash Sales Opportunities

Updated: May 2, 2021

From a business perspective, online customer reviews have always been a fantastic source for gathering customer feedback and competitive intelligence.

Now, there are more customer reviews to look at than ever before.

In 2020, at the onset of COVID, shoppers moved into isolation and started buying more frequently, online from home. Almost overnight, the number of written product reviews on—where millions of people shop online—more than doubled. Retail giants like Walmart and Target also saw a surge in reviews.

Understanding the power and potential of online reviews

What we've learned in the last year is that online reviews can be a source of competitive intelligence, product development ideas, and customer feedback. But we're also learning that these customer-written public gems are about far more than just words on a screen.

Scholarly research is telling us more. That means we have more than just gut instinct to go on when making strategic decisions about online reviews.

Here are four recent takeaways.

1. Shameless self-promotion ruins your chances for repeat purchases.

Negative feedback is common with online customer reviews. Here is how you shouldn't respond:

“We are sorry for your negative experience. Here’s a coupon for 25% off your next purchase at our sale next week!”

Don't do it!

This study showed that self-promotion as a response to negative feedback has a detrimental impact on the relationship with the customer. Repurchase intentions decrease when you do that.

That's because it seems like you're more interested in promoting yourself than you are in really listening to the customer's feedback.

Listen up. Save the self-promotion for another time.

2. Honesty sells. Even when it isn’t perfect and pretty.

Honesty has a positive influence on customers’ intentions to purchase based on online reviews.

For example, sometimes customers make mistakes when they order something online. Sometimes they will write in their review that they made a mistake in ordering. A marketer’s initial reaction may be to delete that review because the customer's experience wasn't perfect.

Let the "imperfect" online review stand, as is.

This study found that shoppers were likely to perceive a reviewer as being credible, even if they admitted they made a mistake in ordering. Shoppers were then more willing to buy in the face of an honest, credible review.

3. Mobile reviews may have special selling power.

Have you, as a customer, ever tried to write a review from a mobile phone?

If so, then you know how much effort it takes (unless you're using voice to text!), compared to if you were writing that same review on a computer keyboard.

A study of customer reviews on a travel website found that customers were more likely to be influenced to buy based on a review when that review was written from a mobile device.

Why? Because it's usually harder to write a review from a mobile device. Customers perceive mobile reviews to be more credible because they know how much effort it took for someone to write the review.

4. Trust is always on the customer’s mind.

Customers are smart. And skeptical. They are looking for honest reviews written by well-informed customers.

Across the board, studies show shoppers look for credibility in online reviews. When they believe reviews have been manipulated, they become uncertain about buying.

From a marketing and sales perspective, honesty and transparency is the best policy for building trust with customers and for your brand.

Honesty sells.

So, here’s to getting 5 stars, legitimately, with every review!

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