This article is written by Mimrah Mahmood, Regional Director of Enterprise Solutions at Meltwater.

We’ve all been in either one of these scenarios:

1. You come across a movie trailer that caught your attention… until you saw that it was rated 30% on Rotten Tomatoes along with many negative reviews. Nah, not worth it, you thought.

2. You are searching online for accommodation for your vacation in Bali and come across a listing with great pictures. You scroll down to the review section and read that they have low hygiene standards. Nope, you close that tab and continue your search.

These experiences are not uncommon, and they both demonstrate how detrimental a single user review can be in diminishing the credibility of a brand or product. A single review can change the minds of consumers even if the Marketing team has done a good job with promoting it.

User reviews have always played a crucial role in the consumer decision-making journey, and due to a few recent developments, their influence will only continue to grow. The first is Google’s optimisation of their review feature, which is now closely linked to SEO rankings for both web and map search. Also, Google has made the review process more seamless, adding in prompters to consumers to ensure they give a clear review that will benefit other consumers. With Google making it much easier to share and read reviews, we can expect the volume of Google reviews to grow over time.

The next driving force is the growth of social and e-commerce platforms. E-commerce companies have been around for some time, and a large part of their business model relies heavily on users sharing their experiences through reviews. User reviews assure shoppers that the product or service they are intending to buy can be trusted, reducing risk and uncertainty in the buying process. As e-commerce companies move towards social commerce, the volume and speed of user reviews will see a boost.

Review tracking – now a business must-have

User reviews are a type of word-of-mouth, but unlike speech that disappears once it is spoken, these reviews remain online. A user review can range from generic ones like “I love/hate it”, or in-depth ones that go into detail about what exactly they like or do not.

When brands start tracking reviews and mining this data at scale, they are essentially listening to the organic voice of their consumers. Customer pain points, what they care about and their buying behaviour are insights that can be derived from tracking these conversations. No longer do companies have to pay big money to market research firms to get this kind of insight – that information now exists online and in huge volume. And this is why is it crucial for companies to engage in text mining to extract that data.

Problems with review tracking

The strange thing is that despite many brands acknowledging the need to track user reviews, it is still not a mainstream practice for many organisations. I believe this is attributed to several factors:

1. The perception that it is not practical

As the saying goes – you don’t know what you don’t know. And many organisations do not know about the existence of companies that provide review tracking services as scale.

2. Many organisations believe they can rely on manual tracking

The first thing that people think about when I mention review tracking is keeping an eye on reviews on their own brand on a limited number of platforms. This manual process involves randomly visiting review pages and transcribing any new user reviews onto an Excel spreadsheet. It is a time-consuming process that limits the kind of data they can get.

3. No best practice or methodology in place for organisations to scale

Let’s say your organisation takes the first step and engages in a review tracking service to extract all that data. The next question to think about is what they should be tracking. Not many people can begin to imagine the scale of this task at hand.

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of what should be tracked – let’s imagine we are a B2C electronics company. Think about the various products we own and the variations of each product. These multiple product listings sit on different e-commerce platforms and discussion forums. Next, to truly understand our consumers, we also want to track reviews of our competitor’s products, and the number of competitor products out there feels almost endless. Manual tracking doesn’t seem so viable now, does it?

Here comes Meltwater

User review tracking seems like a huge undertaking, but the good news is that Meltwater can automate the entire process to give you the relevant insights. As I have shared during the FUTR Asia event, Meltwater has the ability to do web crawling at scale. We can extract user reviews from any site with HTML pages such as Google reviews, TripAdvisor and e-commerce platforms such as Lazada.

More importantly, our powerful Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology enables attribution tagging. What this means is that it automates the reading, analysing and categorising of user reviews with near-human accuracy.

When this data is exported to Meltwater’s analytics platform, what you get is a comprehensive report that gives you a deep understanding of your consumers in an instant. It is exciting to imagine the potential strategies and initiatives brands can drive with the new knowledge and insight they get from external data.

If review tracking is something your organisation would like to explore, feel free to reach out via LinkedIn or email me at mimrah.ch@meltwater for an exploratory session.