How important are online reviews?

Written on March 3, 2020

How important are online reviews?

You’ve opened your doors to the public and served your first customer. It’s a big day on your entrepreneurial journey. Shortly, a notification grabs your attention. It’s your first online review and it’s less than flattering. Should you freak out?

That depends. It may not be as bad as you think.

Some businesses like hair salons and restaurants rely heavily on their online reviews to drive foot traffic to their locations. They need paying customers to walk through the door. Some studies show, however, that these ratings may be less important to some online consumers. And, with the monitoring reviews across multiple sites and responding to patrons being very time consuming, the question arises: is the time investment worth it? According to the Journal of Marketing Research, 70% of consumers do not read reviews when buying products or services online. It’s suggested that most people skim the summary statistics available on a product, if they look at it at all. The study also finds that juggling the order of available reviews had about the same effect as a 1.6% price cut on sales.

When are reviews important?

As consumers, we’ve all been there. We want a product or service and start looking online for some sense of direction. The study found that although consumers do not read reviews all the time, they do rely on them for products that are expensive or of uncertain quality. Restaurants fall squarely into the quality category. How do you know the prime rib is good without paying $45 for a meal and eating it yourself? You check the online reviews. Your uncertainty is either confirmed or debunked with a quick Google search. This insight aligns with another finding from the report: consumers depend more on review content when the market is more competitive, immature, or when brand information is not easily accessible. Since 80% of restaurants fail before their fifth year, it’s safe to say it’s a competitive industry.

Reviews also hold weight in service environments. When a company sells products, consumer complaints can often be placated with discounts, refunds, or complementary items. It gets a little more challenging for service centered businesses. While most businesses rely on credibility and reputation, this is even more important for service ventures.

One element that can impact overall reputation, reviews, credibility and business growth is your organization’s brand.

How can branding impact reviews?

The aforementioned study found that aesthetics, or the look and feel of the product, have a greater impact when mentioned in the review. But how do you incorporate aesthetics into a product in such a way that buyers feel compelled to mention them?

The answer is in making sure you have first rate branding and a compelling brand story. The brand you build represents who you are and should resonate with your customers. Think of it as the personality of your product or service. The brand story tells how you got where you are and humanizes your corporate values. Consumer trust depends deeply on branding and brand stories. When consumers trust a brand, they appreciate the aesthetics, the messaging, and the product itself more. People build relationships with brands. They’ll say, “I love that product.” If we broke that down, they don’t love a physical, tangible item. But, they do have an emotional connection and a relationship with the brand and expectations of what that brand should deliver.

Consumers, overwhelmed by information such as product reviews, are more likely now than ever to make emotional decisions rather than sift through tons and tons of information. The result: consumers make decisions based on feelings. It’s easy to make the argument that people buy with their hearts. They buy based on how they trust or feel about a brand and then they justify that purchase in their mind.

Your brand should be consistent so that it’s building value and equity from the moment you put it out there. Having a great brand allows you to set expectations with your target audiences. Overall your customers’ experience with your brand, with your employees, and with you personally, all contribute to these expectations.

Have branding or credibility questions for the Cayenne think tank? Contact us today and let’s start a conversation.