Small businesses have always depended on word of mouth to succeed. Without multimillion dollar marketing budgets, an entrepreneur’s best bet is happy customers willing to communicate their experiences to the world.
In the Internet Age, word of mouth about products and services takes the form of online customer reviews. These can be hugely influential on the decisions consumers make about which brands to trust and what to buy.
We sat down with Zachary Pardes, the Head of Media & Communications for Trustpilot in North America, to discuss the importance of online customer reviews to developing brand trustworthiness and credibility.
A Crisis of Trust
Trust is one of the most important commodities in today’s economy. Yet according to many surveys, trust appears to be declining overall. “We’re in an age where trust has never been lower among consumers,” Pardes explains.
Pardes points to studies like the Edelman Trust Barometer, which shows that trust is in crisis around the world. “We can actually see trust declining as fake news continues to be an issue, and questions proliferate about what constitutes ‘authentic content’” Pardes says.
As trust grows more scarce, it becomes an even more crucial ingredient in developing customer loyalty. “This affects every industry,” Pardes notes, as customers are always on the lookout for products and services that match up to how they are advertised.
Before customers make a purchase, they look for brands they can trust. Online customer reviews are one of the key ingredients in creating an authentic bond of trust between a company’s brand and its potential customers.
The Power of Crowdsourcing
Trustpilot has been on the leading edge of consumer trends, analyzing the way people
crowdsource their purchase decisions. Before clicking buy, many consumers “ask for advice through social media, through friends,” Pardes says.
Consumers increasingly rely on the power of the crowd to assist them in deciding what to buy and who to buy it from. Being aware of this power will enable a small business to develop an effective strategy for strengthening its brand image online.
Pew Research recently published a study showing that half of all consumers routinely look at online reviews to learn useful information about brands and products, affecting how they spend their money.
Pardes describes how many people perceive online reviews in the aggregate: “Consumers look at brands as a whole – what is it like to do with business with this company?” In particular, they look at negative reviews to see if a company rectifies bad consumer experiences.
Fortunately, small businesses CAN do something about this. “You can convert 70% of customers with negative experiences to returning customers just by responding and taking action to assist unhappy customers,” Pardes explains.
Lessons for Building a Trustworthy Brand
Small business owners can draw some important lessons from Trustpilot’s analysis of how consumers are making purchase decisions.
First, focus on developing a bond of trust with your customers. This is key to credibility. “The most successful brands will engage and showcase the fact that they’re trustworthy,” Pardes says.
Honesty and candor play a significant role in creating a shared sense of trust between your business and its customers. With that in mind, do not try to hide or remove negative reviews posted online. Instead, you can salvage customers who may have moved to your competitors by addressing their concerns with humility and respect.
You’ll want an active presence on any platform that offers a useful forum for your customers to communicate their experiences. “The future of online customers reviews will be on the platform that offers the most authentic, genuine content…that’s where the consumers will go,” Pardes predicts.
Proven Ways to Obtain Positive Reviews
Here are some specific strategies to cultivate positive reviews for your business:
- If you’re in a brick & mortar retail environment, have your employees, especially your cashiers, ask customers how how their shopping experience went. If it’s favorable, ask them to leave a review on Yelp (or whatever review platform you feel would benefit your business the most). If it wasn’t, you can address their concerns before they leave your store and potentially post a bad review.
- Have store and field personnel hand out a card when the sale is complete, with a request for them to place an online review.
- If you’re not already collecting customer emails, start doing so. This not only allows you to market to them in the future, but it would also provide you with another avenue to follow-up on their purchase experience and request a review.
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The information shared is intended to be used for informational purposes only and you should independently research and verify.
Note: Prior to January 23, 2020, Mulligan Funding operated solely as a direct lender, originating all of its own loans and Merchant Cash Advance contracts. From that date onwards, the majority of funding offered by Mulligan Funding will be by Loans originated by FinWise Bank, a Utah-chartered Bank, pursuant to a Loan Program conducted jointly by Mulligan Funding and FinWise Bank.