“SEO is a marketing function for sure,
but it needs to be baked into a product,
not slapped on like icing
after the cake is baked.”

Duane Forrester

Review Sites On The Rise

It’s hard to remember a time where we didn’t use technology for almost everything we do. I mean, where would we be without our friends’ moment to moment Facebook status updates or our DVR’s to prevent us from ever missing an episode of our mindless TV shows?! But on a serious note, technology has drastically improved our lives. Customer review websites have made our daily decisions far more efficient and simpler. We have access to  consumers’ past experiences and opinions on businesses, products, and services, consequently allowing us to make the best purchasing decisions while avoiding bad purchases and negative experiences. From consumer review sites like Yelp, to browsing product reviews on your favorite online store, consumer reviews are plentiful. So the real question  is, why are we now trusting consumer reviews so much?

 

Studies have found that consumers will most often trust a business more after reading a positive customer review instead of a review posted or sponsored by a company. Since a business is biased towards personal gain, they will often only highlight positive things – true or not – in ads and reviews. Reviews delivered to the public through advertising are barely trusted by consumers, in fact, according to Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report, consumers trust customer reviews 23% more than they trust television advertisements or outdoor advertising. Consumer reviews feel far more personal and relatable because the reviews are written by people who devoted their own time and money to a merchant with the hope of having a good experience.

Consumer review websites have a sense of community and authenticity – they are a place where sharable opinions and reviews are encouraged and rated by other users. Collecting and sharing information on brands and services is now being steered by the consumer, rather than by the brand. No wonder Yelp, one of the top internet rating and review services, has over 20 million consumer reviews and over 100 million monthly users!

Many people feel that online consumer reviews are even as trustworthy as personal recommendations. This is important to note since personal recommendations are the top driver of consumer purchasing decisions at each stage of the purchase cycle, compared to advertising, which is normally important in only one of the stages. The basic steps of the purchasing cycle include awareness, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase decision, and post-purchase behavior. We use reviews and recommendations in each step, ultimately creating one repeating cycle between all consumers. The infographic below demonstrates the various uses of reviews and recommendations throughout the purchasing cycle.

Why I like review websites…

Personally, when I read a review written by an everyday consumer, rather than a business, it feels much more personal and genuine. Even if I don’t actually know who the writer is, I feel as if someone is talking directly to me about their personal experience, like a friend. I trust these reviews because, like friends, they are not trying to sell to me, they are simply sharing their opinions and experiences. Reading up on reviews before I make purchases has constantly led me to positive purchases and experiences and has helped me avoid negative ones.

What does all of this mean?

Customer review sites are gaining trust and popularity and are now one of the top sources of information on products, services, and businesses. I suggest posting a review each time you go to a business or use a new product for the first time. Additionally, posting more than one review about an experience will allow each individual experience to be considered, instead of squeezing in multiple visits into one review. The more reviews you post, the more variety of information there is available to people about products and businesses. When other people do the same, you too will have access to these reviews so that you can make the best purchasing decisions while avoiding the biased selling points from a company’s ads. Happy reviewing!

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