Recent reports show that customers are paying attention to online reviews more than ever.
A recent survey of how Americans are using the Internet to search for business reports that nearly 70 percent of people trust businesses more when they have positive online reviews. That's a huge change from 2010, when almost half of survey respondents to the Local Consumer Review Survey stated that online reviews didn't influence them or they didn't even pay attention to them.
In addition, a whopping 80 percent of respondents say online reviews influence them just as much as personal recommendations from people they actually know. With over 40 percent saying they search for local businesses online at least once a month, it's become very important that getting positive online reviews is becoming a necessary business strategy.
They survey also asked what consumers do after they view positive online reviews. Fourth-eight percent say they will visit your business website; about one fourth will actually visit your business, 21 percent will 'shop around' (maybe because they're still in the research stage) and 9 percent will call your business.
This is also why it is imperative that your business website matches the online reviews. After all, the best reviews in the world won't help you if, when customers do take action and visit your website, they're frustrated trying to find their way around or it's not optimized for mobile devices.
As an example: Hungry customers are out and about, looking on their mobile phones for a place to eat. They read a great review of your restaurant, then click on your business website to check the menu, but can't pull it up on their phones. Odds are that they are going to get frustrated, give up trying to see your menu, go somewhere else for lunch.
Now imagine the opposite: When they click on your website, they go to a mobile-friendly version of your site with yummy photos and see a 'click to call' button that makes it easy to tap on the phone and reserve a table ahead of time. And the numbers back this up: More than 60 percent of those surveyed say they're more likely to contact a local business if its website is mobile friendly.
Reviews are increasing being read on mobile devices, rather than just computers. The survey reported that nearly 40 percent of U.S. Internet users read online reviews on their mobile phones using a browser, 29 percent on tablets, and 25 percent in a mobile app on their smartphones.
Even when visiting your website on a desktop or laptop computer, there are some things to make sure that your website fully takes advantage of good online reviews:
- It provides clear contact information, including your business address, hours of operation, phone number, and directions/a map.
- Is up to date with the latest information about products, services, events and prices.
- It promotes a positive image of your business. For example, consider posting testimonials from customers, linking to reviews and ratings of your business, and linking to your social media accounts from your website so customers can easily access more information about your business to help them make a purchasing decision.
If you need some help in making sure your website is up to par or monitoring your online reviews to generate positive buzz, consider visiting SCORE and check out their mentoring program. SCORE offers the nation's largest, network of free, expert business mentors.