•Online business reviews are second only to personal advice from a friend as the driver of purchase decisions; user business reviews are more influential than third-party reviews. (“Web users and web community,” Rubicon Consulting, Inc. October 2008)
•86% of consumers read online business reviews before making purchasing decisions; 90% of whom say they trust these reviews. (Kudzu.com survey of 600 users, December 2008)
•Almost two-thirds (62%) of consumers read consumer-written business reviews on the Internet. (Deloitte & Touche, September 2007)
•When asked what sources of information they are “very likely” to consult before making a decision about their entertainment options, 62% named Web sites with business reviews as their top choice, even beating out a knowledgeable friend (59%). (Marketing Sherpa, July 2007)
•Seven in 10 (69%) consumers who read business reviews share them with friends, family or colleagues, thus amplifying their impact. (Deloitte & Touche, September 2007)
•74% agree-including 14% who strongly agree-that they choose companies and brands based on what others say online about their customer service experiences, the survey shows. (Society for New Communications Research, May 2008)
•More than eight in ten (82%) of those who read reviews said that their purchasing decisions have been directly influenced by those reviews. (Deloitte & Touche, September 2007)
Reviews Services vs. Testimonials
Businesses in the age of social media can’t properly manage their reputations with testimonials. Consumers realize testimonials may be manufactured and not credible.
Consumers realize any negative feedback the business might receive from customers will not be displayed on the business website as a testimonial. Consumer motivation to see the bad, as well as good feedback, has driven the proliferation of review services.
You need not remove testimonials, but customer reviews on third-party websites are much more persuasive to prospective customers.
Businesses should realize that potential customers may not visit their websites if they encounter negative reviews during the search process. Usually local listings, and links to reviews for each listing, are placed on the first page of search engines. Consumers read those reviews and use them to decide which company is worth visiting.
Some businesses are afraid to get involved with reviews services and operate under the illusion they still control their reputations. If you realize that the social web has vastly improved the power of word of mouth, you’re much better off developing a strategy to encourage online customer recommendations from loyal clients.