Remember, pre-internet, when word of mouth was king? A friend or family member’s opinion carried more weight than advertising, giving consumers the confidence to try a product or service – or the resolve to avoid it at all costs. 

This same concept – called social proof – holds true in the digital age. It just looks a little different, with strangers rather than inner circles offering feedback on services or products through online customer reviews.  

As it turns out, a stranger’s opinion is just as powerful, if not more powerful, than feedback from someone you know: Today, a whopping 66% of Americans say they trust an anonymous online review more than a recommendation from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend! Think that’s bitterness talking? Think again: Inc.com found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust their friends.

So why the sudden importance of online reviews? Unlike influencer culture, where people famous and otherwise are paid for promotions, online reviews are real – written by actual, everyday customers with no stakes in the proverbial game (using discounts or other perks to incentivize customers to write reviews is frowned upon by the Federal Trade Commission, and even punishable). Thanks to their believability, online reviews have gained new, unmatched value.  Ninety seven percent of today’s consumers read them, and they hold serious weight among younger audiences. When choosing a restaurant, Millennials and Gen Z are 99% more likely than Gen X and Baby Boomers to base decisions on social media and online reviews.

For small businesses, then, the takeaway is clear: Assuming the majority of your customers walk away satisfied (an important detail, as negative reviews can hold more power than positive ones, to the detriment of your business), there are plenty of reasons to put processes in place that encourage customers to leave reviews. Still not convinced? Consider the ROI alone: Online reviews are essentially free (low-cost if you enlist apps, texts, emails, software or human resources to encourage customers to chime in about their experience). In addition to their proven ability to sway readers, the mere presence of reviews boosts your website’s search engine optimization (SEO), landing you a coveted higher spot among search engine results and increasing your visibility. 

But don’t stop at collecting great reviews. Once you have them – either on a sales platform like Amazon or on your own site – here’s how to wring reviews dry to catch consumers’ attention and drive business:  

  • Embed customers reviews on product pages. Companies who aren’t selling on Amazon (or on another platform that does this for you) should work with their web designer to post product reviews on corresponding product pages. Ideally the reviews continue with the user, remaining visible as customers click through the purchasing funnel, all the way to the last page they see before checkout. 
  • Repurpose reviews as amazing social media posts. Good reviews are your friend, so share them with friends! Copy and paste glowing raves or snap a screen grab to turn customer feedback into standout social media posts. 
  • Excerpt positive reviews elsewhere. Struggling to come up with the right copy for print or online ads, or other company collateral like your website, brochures, or billboards? Consider snippets from great reviews. (Just be sure to drop or abbreviate customers’ last names or get their permission before using them.)
  • For credibility, keep collecting. 85% of consumers say that online reviews more than three months old lose credibility. Add this to the fact that buyers need to see 40 or more reviews before they believe a business’s rating is credible. These statistics are more reason to encourage, collect, and showcase reviews regularly and indefinitely. 

Standing out in today’s crowded digital landscape can be daunting. Online customer reviews are a proven tool for breaking through the noise. J2 Technology has perfected a budget-friendly way to not only encourage more reviews, but to leverage them to grow your business. Call us at 856.288.9200 to find out more.