The Wisdom of Crowds: How Online Reviews Can (and Will) Boost Your Business

A recent Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by BrightLocal found that nearly 9 out of 10 consumers rely on online customer reviews to determine the quality of a business. Those same consumers admit that they trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.

However, the root of that trust is split 50/50; while some users are won over by the quantity of good reviews (claiming that a large number of positive reviews directly correlates to their decision to trust that company), others are more concerned with quality (they look to genuine reviews to guide their choices) — and with several big businesses under fire for fake reviews, it’s not hard to understand why.

In either case, the fact remains the same: online reviews, both good and not-so-good, are incredibly important when it comes to promoting your business and attracting new customers.

It’s a phenomena I witnessed firsthand several weeks ago. A friend and I found ourselves driving up and down SoCal’s Pacific Coast Highway in search of a decent place to eat. We had spent our morning running through various airports in a desperate attempt to catch our three scheduled flights, and, having arrived at our destination with most of our sanity (and luggage) intact, we determined it was time to treat ourselves to the best seaside cuisine Laguna Beach had to offer. Which, as it turns out, was a little hole-in-the-wall pizza joint called Gina’s.

Our decision to eat at Gina’s was based entirely on the fact that Gina’s had more than twice the amount of 5-star reviews on Yelp than any other restaurant in the area. On top of that, the reviews seemed genuine and indicated that Gina’s was a favorite among the locals. We weren’t disappointed.

That was only the first of many good decisions Yelp helped us make that weekend; from the hotel we booked, to the beaches we visited, to the food we ate — we relied on the opinions of strangers to ensure our trip was the best it could be in the same way we would rely on a personal recommendation (had we known anyone in the area). But I know we’re not alone.

Think of the last time you booked a vacation; your hotel was probably assigned some sort of star rating, and you probably at least glanced at the reviews to make sure you weren’t getting yourself into some sort of “Overlook Hotel” situation. The same goes for the last time you decided to try a new restaurant; I’m willing to bet you checked up on that restaurant’s ratings, and when you saw that it had several, genuine 5-star reviews, you probably felt pretty good about your decision to eat there.

Unsurprisingly, the same goes for your business. If you’re a dentist, you can bet your new patients are checking out your Yelp page before they ever step foot through your front doors. If you’re a real estate agent, it’s safe to assume your new clients have already measured you up against your competition. And if you’re a gym owner, your prospective members are definitely doing their research before they decide to make the call.

Still think online reviews aren’t important? Think again.

Tell us what you think! Have you ever used an online review to decide the worth of a product or service? Have you already implemented online reviews for your business? We wanna know!

Check back next time for Part 2 of making the most of your reviews.

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