Thursday, 16 January 2014

Online reviews and their importance to e-commerce | Advice for SMEs

One of the implications of the explosive rise in e-commerce is that many companies are compelled to focus on online marketing more than ever before. To the tech-savvy, established online businesses, and businesses with developed online platforms, this is a great opportunity; to those businesses not familiar with online marketing, the rise in e-commerce poses more of a challenge. Either way, the importance of making your brand visible and enticing online cannot be understated.

With more people making an ever increasing volume of purchases online - as was further proved by this year's Christmas sales - it makes sense to use all the tools at your disposal to increase the chances that a potential customer will come across your company while surfing the web. But even if they do reach your website, chances are that many potential customers will be dissuaded from making a purchase if they are not able to find quality reviews of your services written by other customers.

Unless your brand is a huge household name (and at times, even then) many potential customers will be tentative about making a purchase over the internet without being assured by others that you are a viable and quality business. According to studies by 15 miles and Neuestar, 60% of consumers consider online ratings and reviews important when researching businesses and according to survey results released last Decemeber by Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX), 78% of online Americans aged 18-64 said that online reviews influenced their purchases. It's therefore vital that you encourage online reviews as part of your online marketing strategy.

It's not just a case of having as many reviews as possible, nor as many positive reviews as possible. A customer reading your reviews will be seeking quality over quantity - reviews that are fairly detailed and give an honest, balanced report of their customer experience.

At Transglobal Express, we've been working on this for some time, so we thought that sharing our experience could help some of the SMEs that we serve. Here are our top tips for requesting, receiving and reacting to online reviews.

1. Ask all of your customers to leave a review 
Not only is it unethical to ask only the customers your think will give a positive review to write about their experience, it's also better for your business to ensure you put in systems inviting ALL of your customers to write a review. This is because potential customers will want to see an overall assessment of the company - a business that has solely positive reviews is likely to seem more suspect that one that has both positive and negative reviews, as long as the negative reviews are addressed appropriately.

2. Use more than one review site
It's a good idea to spread your reviews over more than one website. This means that potential customers will get a consistent and therefore more trustworthy impression of your business. Sites such as TrustPilot are increasingly popular, and we direct our customers there, but there are also many other sites such as Review Centre and many service specific sites such as TripAdvisor, which you could focus on, depending on the nature of your business.

3. Consider using an online review partner
While asking customers to leave a review yourselves can be effective, we also recommend teaming up with a reviewing partner such as TrustPilot, which sends out the review requests for your via email. Customers tend to be more likely to respond to a third party. Make sure your review invitation stresses how much you value customer feedback.

4. Respond to your reviewers and engage with their feedback
Don't forget that inviting reviews of your service opens a line of communication between you and your customer. Don't just send the review request and leave it at that. Regardless of the rating given, if there is anything in a customer's review that requires attention - from a constructive criticism to an expression of dissatisfaction - make sure you respond. And make sure your response is constructive, helpful and not defensive. Invite customers to email your customer services team if they require further advice or help.  Responding to reviews has two major advantages - the customer who left the review will be glad you have acknowledged their review and are taking steps to respond to any issues, and the potential customer will see that you are a responsive and customer-focused business.

5. Use the reviews as a chance to improve your processes - and advise customers of the changes you have made
This one is self explanatory - assess your reviews regularly, they are an invaluable insight into how your customers perceive you as a company. Does this clash with your own impression of the company? If so, you need to take action. Respond to customer feedback not only via the review site but also within the business - what changes and improvements could you do? Above all, customer feedback is an opportunity for you to improve!

No comments: