In case you haven’t heard, customer reviews are all the rage, especially for us marketers. Online reputation directly correlates with online reviews and is an important part of doing business.
In fact, businesses who reply to reviews at least 25% of the time have an average of 35% more revenue (Womply, 2019) and consumers spend up to 49% at companies that reply to reviews (Womply, 2019). Calling all customer marketing managers!
So whether you manage a B2B SaaS business or a local mom and pop shop, consumers will be looking online for you, especially on social media.
And understanding the ins and outs of customer reviews starts with mapping out the customer journey, which varies according to the underlying buyer profile. Even the same customer will not always take the same journey to make their next purchase. The steps, progression, and variations of a customer journey can help refine marketing efforts and grow your business.
One of the first steps a prospect will take in any customer journey is to research your business. They’re primarily looking for accounts of first-hand experience with your product on customer review sites and retailers that feature reviews. Since so much of the purchase process now involves a brand experience, these reviews also help illuminate how others perceive brand interactions.
In this blog, we will explore the importance of reviews in the customer journey, what it means, and how to level up your customer marketing experience.
What Is Customer Experience?
Before we talk about customer reviews, understanding customer experience and its importance is step one.
Customer experience is how your customer perceives your company treats them. These perceptions impact their behavior and drive their decisions.
The Temkin Group found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in customer experience. So it’s easy to see why companies are investing in CX.
But before your customers can like you, you need to get to know them. When you understand the details of their personality, you are able to provide a better experience across the entire customer journey.
Getting the data on your customers doesn’t just happen overnight, you need to research, collect, and analyze the valuable insights to understand their story. The good news is that improving your customer experience increases revenue, retention, and most importantly, satisfaction.
So where do you start to improve your customer experience? Here are three quick steps to follow:
- Invest in it: implement customer experience projects.
- Omnichannel experience: interact with customers on multiple different channels.
- Hello mobile: there are 5.16B mobile users at the start of April 2020, that says it all.
Now that we understand what customer experience is and why it’s important, let’s dive into the power of customer reviews.
Why Are Customer Reviews so Powerful?
We’ll state the obvious here - customer reviews are powerful because they are coming from a real person, it’s like word of mouth marketing, but online. And the seen interaction of people with a brand, builds or breaks, trust. People will rely on it to learn about your products, in fact, the most valued source of information is from personal experience. (Talk Triggers – Chatter Matters).
And consumers love leaving reviews for many different reasons. The common thread being it shows their customer experience and customer satisfaction.
The main point? Customer reviews impact your bottom line—reviews are empowering, helping them make an informed and thought-out decision. And to be honest, customers no longer base their loyalty entirely on price or product, they stay loyal due to the experience they receive. So it’s no surprise customer experience is exciting.
Take a look at this Walker study. By the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.
The Customer Journey and Reviews
As we said, customer reviews are a big part of the customer journey. Here we outlined some of the ways reviews impact a prospective customer at different points along the customer journey:
Before information collection happens, the journey may start with the customer simply having a type of product or service in mind. This customer will usually start their research on a search engine or review site without much—or any—awareness of existing brands that meet their needs.
Companies with reviews will show up in the results and your potential customer will gravitate toward those, rather than products with no reviews. The next step in their journey may be to go to a specific brand’s website and social media profiles. If your brand doesn’t have reviews on such sites, then it will never even make it to the prospect’s shortlist.
Why are customer reviews so important? Their content provides insights from an outside source, and therefore, they are seen as authentic. Your existing customers are assumed to be independent and free of both bias and marketing buzzwords.
Social media is not just about personal connections and getting more likes on Facebook. It can provide validation that directly influences purchase decisions. Asking about a product or service they’ve already read reviews for can be a way to join a conversation or start a new one. It isn’t only about following the crowd. It’s also about belonging, seeking acceptance, and potentially becoming part of a new community based around what your product represents.
If customers see numerous positive reviews, it’s possible that they may cut their journey short at either the information collection or social validation stage and proceed directly to purchase.
Likewise, if a user doesn’t find relevant independent reviews in Google search results or on a review site, then it could potentially prolong their decision and lead them to other options and away from your brand.
Impact on Customers and Other Prospects
The customer’s journey also involves post-sale interaction. Here again, reviews are critical. First, they validate customer satisfaction. Conversely, a review could provide insight into what should be improved, which is just as important. Those improvements could be just what a company needs to take its product or service experience to the next level. The success of these efforts can be measured by the sentiment expressed in future reviews.
Engagement and Reputation Management
So what should you do when you get a negative review? They not only provide an opportunity to make improvements, but they also allow the company to let reviewers and their readers know that the company is aware of their opinions and is interested in what they have to say.
Reviews then become a mechanism to gauge whether a company values their business and takes accountability for any shortcomings. Without the dialog between customer and company that reviews provide, prospects cannot see in advance how a company addresses customer feedback.
Customer Review Sites
Customer review sites are essential for businesses to engage with as they are the tool that drives the (feedback) conversation between you and your customers. Through reviews, businesses can see which products or services they should be boasting, which needs work, and even discover employees who rock at customer service. Customer review sites publicly show the level of customer satisfaction of your business, which is a big deal.
Some brands are hesitant to invest in managing review sites because they don’t want to end up having zero reviews, receive negative feedback, or no personnel to manage the sites.
But as we stated earlier, reviews are a powerful channel in the customer journey that brands should already be investing in.
Here are the top review sites in 2020 worth exploring for your brand:
*Tip: Always remember to ask your customer to leave reviews.
Customer Review Examples
Customer reviews come in many different forms, from quotes to social media, to even case studies. Here we will go through three noteworthy examples that can help your brand:
Quotes are one of the easiest and common ways to demonstrate customer satisfaction with your brand. They make for great content to go on your website or social media. Here’s one from us, that sits on our Meltwater homepage:
These short (typically only one to two sentence) overviews of how your product or service impacted a company helps give your brand credibility. With quote testimonials, those impressive claims you’re making actually sound believable because they’re backed up by someone who’s, well, not you.
90% of brands use social media to build brand awareness, 77% to manage brand reputation, and 61% to increase conversions and sales (Hootsuite). With that said, it's easy to see why using social media as a channel for customer reviews is a no brainer.
Customers are using their accounts to share opinions and reviews. One of the biggest benefits of having reviews on social networks is that prospective customers can get a feel for who the customer is in ways they can’t with testimonials or peer-to-peer review sites
Here’s an example from a customer tweeting to the athletic brand lululemon:
They literally bought the brand’s clothes because their friend recommended it. This checks the boxes off of high customer satisfaction and a positive review. Also, lululemon did a great job engaging with them in their reply. A+ for this interaction.
User-generated content (UGC) is a great way to prove authenticity as a brand. And with 75% of people feeling user-generated content makes a brand more authentic (the drum), it would be silly not to tap into the power it holds.
User-generated content includes anything from social media posts, videos, images, audio, or other kinds of content created by—you guessed it—a user of your products or services.
Here is an example of a brand who has nailed the art of user-generated content:
Starbucks encourages customers to share their summer drink of choice by tagging the brand when they do, and then uses the photos as a source of content for their Instagram feed. Putting their customers’ experiences front and center. Genius.
Monitoring and Tracking Customer Reviews
Marketing and communications teams should keep a careful eye on customer reviews, to better understand brand perception, fine-tune future brand messaging, and ensure that any valuable lessons are shared with their colleagues in customer service and product development.
Ready to find out what people are saying about your brand online? Meltwater provides media monitoring, not only for social channels and editorial content but for many review sites. Contact us to learn more about how you can proactively find, measure, and respond to reviews—taking the lead in shaping brand perception and growing your business.