Online reviews: The real-time voice of the customer

How increasing investment in online reviews unlocks a wealth of opportunities.

Consumers today engage with brands through value driven experiences. Although not a new premise, the digital world has rapidly increased the importance of engineering a marketing and customer engagement strategy to compliment and reinforce a brand’s value add.

The explosion of social media is often referenced as the catalyst in driving customer conversations from the call centre to a plethora of online platforms. A development of this digital transition is the emergence of online review platforms where customers can publicly air their feelings about an organisation, good or bad.

As people publicly showcase how great a business or service is, the realisation of how valuable that endorsement can be is rapidly gaining interest amongst business decision makers. Online reviews are not only a customer engagement tool; they are a branding tool for smart marketers.

You don’t define your business, your customers do

To quote WPP’s legend, Jeremy Bullmore, “people build a brand like magpies build a nest”. A brand today is a collective of peoples’ views largely based on what they’ve experienced first-hand. This means that it’s become increasingly critical that public customer forums and, more recently, online review platforms are now a vital component of protecting and developing business value.

>See also: Is now the time for an email amnesty?

Reviews provide an opportunity for businesses to actively engage, respond and most importantly, listen, to real anecdotal experiences, as well as spot trends in scores and key word association. Some have recognised this, and do so extremely well. Look at Mazuma Mobile for example, a business model based on trust and transparency by the very nature of its service.

They have set themselves apart by embracing customer feedback– both positive and negative – turning it into a model for long term planning and a showcase for its brand values. In many cases, dealing responsibly with a negative review for example can have a larger, more confident, impact on both prospect and existing customers than receiving one positive review.

Why should anyone care?

If the proof isn’t in the pudding, the support from the financial markets should be. Investment into the industry is ripe. At Trustpilot we recently announced over $73m worth of investment through our series D funding round and others in the market are also benefitting from this wave of rapid growth.

Attention has been grabbed, and the journey we, and others, are currently on in growing this market, is becoming difficult to ignore. The business of trust has become a currency no one wants to jeopardise.

>Related: Keeping promises to your customers key to e-commerce success

Online reviews are growing worldwide, 77 per cent of all UK consumers consult online reviews before making a purchase. Why is that important for anyone outside of Trustpilot or our industry peers? It signifies the stamp of approval and recognition from the wider business community that reviews are not just a growing trend, but a fully formed, international evolution in customer communications.

Combining insights to drive business decision-making

The economics of trust can reap rewards for businesses going beyond developing a transparent dialogue with customers. Albeit of great importance, they also provide unique data points around customer behaviour and engagement. As any rapidly growing business will know, insights have the ability to set you apart from the competition.

Combining insights from across the business will keep you abreast of the total picture and provide you with information that can be used to inform business decisions. Online review platforms are powerful tools that offer a litmus test at any given point in time on how your business is performing. What’s working? What’s clearly not working? Where are the opportunities for growth?

These are all questions that, if listened to, the voice of the customer can answer. Where online reviews go further is they turn those few seemingly simple sentences into an actionable set of instructions that can be used to improve your business processes which, in turn, will create a better customer experience.

Growing together – the ripple effect

Forward thinking organisations recognise that using online review data provides an opportunity to be proactive with customers. Today, brands need to provide tangible value to customers and proactivity can provide a real-time advantage. As the industry grows, so do the opportunities available for businesses.

Now is the time to take customer communications strategies to the next level and those that ingrain online reviews into their wider business models and marketing strategies will be on a fast growth trajectory. Dip your toe in the proverbial waters of reviews and see the ripples spread.

Further reading: Six tips to develop a high-growth mindset

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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