What You Didn’t Realize You Needed to Know About Consumer Reviews

It may look small, but one half of a golden star can make all the difference in how a consumer reacts to your company.

Consumer reviews are, in fact, “the king,” as this fantastic infographic claims. Added up, positive reviews can raise revenues by an average of 18 percent and secure consumer loyalty 12 times more than manufacturer descriptions. But reviews are a double-edged sword: a single negative review can lose you 30 potential customers or more.

Consumer reviews impact every industry, pervade social media, and affect not only your consumers but your employees as well. Sound dramatic enough? But by developing awareness and responsive action plans, marketing strategists can harness the power of consumer reviews into positive fodder for your company’s public image.

Industry Variation

Different industries are affected differently by consumer reviews. The food business is most vulnerable to consumer reviews—75 percent of restaurants have been affected by one negative review. Food is closely followed by hospitals, doctor’s offices, and hotels, whose impact from a negative review range from 67 to 70 percent. But these same industries most subject to the nightmares of poor reviews also have the most potential for benefits from good reviews.

Because of their authenticity, consumer reviews are relied on and trusted. Over a third of diners factor in peer reviews when picking a place to eat, and that statistic jumps to over half when the diners are 18–24 years of age. Restaurants rated by a half star more than competitors (on a five star scale) are much more likely to be full at peak times than those lacking that precious half star. This is why it’s important to not only compete with price, but to compete with consumer experience as well. Reviews are used to narrow down products or services of equal price; if you’re known for the better experience by real people with real reviews, you’ll win.

Establishing a Social Media Presence

Consumer reviews have become even more influential via social media. A notable 53.9 percent of consumers use social media while in your store. Over half of them are using it to read online reviews about your company. Social media is the default venue for consumer decision-making. Facebook is a leading resource in this regard, with 55 percent of consumers turning to it for brand comparison. But maintaining an active social media presence on any platform is sure to win you the goodwill of your customers. If consumers notice a well-kept social media account for a company, they’re more encouraged to leave good reviews.

You may be hesitant to introduce your company to the ruthlessness of an open forum like social media. But being easily accessible and updated on social media is not only a prime advertising opportunity, it is also vital to addressing and potentially changing negative reviews.

Effects on Recruitment

While consumer reviews are typically thought to affect consumers, reviews can also have a significant impact on recruitment. Over 75 percent of professionals seeking new employment will research the company (using tools like Glassdoor) before considering job opportunities with that company.

Not only do employment sites like Glassdoor affect recruiting, but regular consumer reviews can too; companies with a one-star consumer rating miss out on 60 percent of potential employees, and companies with three stars or less miss out on a third. So when you consider changing your consumer review strategy, remember this: it’s not only about earning consumers, but also about developing your company culture.

Using Reviews in Your PR Strategy

Given the immense influence reviews have for better or for worse, it’s clear that they need your company’s attention. Learning about the impact of reviews is only the first step. Next you need to make sure you know your industry and where it fits in the world of reviews. On what sites is your company listed? Which ones are more trusted by consumers for your industry? Are there accurate photos and contact information listed under your company’s name?

Once you’ve staked out the most important territory for your company’s reviews, you can begin to implement a strategy. Assign an employee to monitor consumer reviews. Get more customer feedback. Report fake reviews. And, please, don’t hide from the negative ones. In fact, face them head on; a third of negative reviews are either deleted or replaced with a positive one when companies personally reply to the original negativity.

Public relations specialists have a great opportunity to utilize consumer reviews for the better. By starting to use consumer reviews for your PR strategy, you’re stepping into the game of influencer marketing—a tricky but worthwhile realm, as John Schmidt, PhD., states. Ideally, the public will recognize what a great brand or product your offer and give raving reviews. If this happens, congrats. But typically a public relations department will need to keep a close eye on how reviews are affecting their clients.

Be sure to use reviews from every end of the spectrum for your benefit:

  • Poor reviews can be addressed and even changed by personally reaching out to the reviewer. Can’t change their mind? Don’t worry: this article gives great tips on handling stubborn negativity in reviewers.
  • Mediocre reviews are a chance for improvement. Notice the good in them, but pay more attention to the hints of dissatisfaction. Develop plans to better the areas of concern and be sure to thank the reviewer for their help! Public images can be boosted simply by showing you’re really listening.
  • Good reviews aren’t just meant for collecting and looking pretty: a solid raving review is an excellent resource to pull from when marketing your client to other potential consumers.

Finally, being active about your consumer review presence will make it more likely for your company to show up and get more exposure in the review listings. A mixed bag of positive and negative reviews—attentively addressed—is better than no reviews at all.

Your marketing plan is missing something if it doesn’t include consumer reviews. A single negative review may feel like the end of the world, but the long-term benefit to creating an active consumer review presence is invaluable. If you haven’t already seen how consumer reviews impact your company, it’s time to start now.

And fight for that little half star. It’s worth it.