In the internet age, few things shape purchasing decisions as much as online reviews. And why not?
They provide authentic and honest insight that no marketing campaign could ever replicate.
The modern equivalent of the all-important word of mouth, customer reviews can make or break the reputation of a local business – and make a huge impact on sales numbers.
Not convinced of the importance of reviews for small businesses? Here are some key online review statistics you should know:
- When shopping online, more than 99.9% of people read reviews at least occasionally.
- 91% of consumers acknowledged positive reviews made them more likely to support a business.
- 79% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- Only 13% of people would consider using a business with a two-star or less rating.
Online reviews provide social proof of the quality of your offering, establish your expertise, and build trust – which makes it extremely important for local businesses to have as many positive ones as possible.
Here are eight techniques you can use to encourage reviews for your local business,
1. Collect Email Addresses During Billing
Asking for the customer’s email address and phone number at the time of purchase is a big step toward landing a review from them.
Usually, if someone is willing to share these contact details with a business, they have likely had a satisfactory experience and, thereby, are quite likely to share their experience with others.
Once you have their email address, send a friendly follow-up after a week and ask them to write an honest review about their experience with your business.
Important: Always review and follow the latest official guidance from the review platform on soliciting reviews:
- What Google says about getting reviews.
- What Yelp says about getting reviews.
- What TrustPilot says about asking for reviews.
2. Use In-Store Placards To Encourage Reviews
Being a local business with a brick-and-mortar store, you can use in-store signage to spur reviews. This can be in the form of banners, flyers, brochures, and window clings.
You can also include a review request at the bottom of the bill receipts.
Furthermore, you can have a kiosk with an in-store app that can direct customers to a page on the business website to leave an on-site review.
Or, you can even have a QR code that, when scanned, points to a list of review profile links that enable them to choose the platform of their choice to write a review.
These are clear cues to customers about your desire and appreciation for online feedback, proving you care about their opinions and the continuous improvement of your services.
3. Verbally Mention How Much You’d Appreciate Honest Feedback
Train your employees to mention how much an honest review would be appreciated, especially if a customer seems satisfied.
This tactic won’t be effective if there’s a line of customers and the person at the counter keeps repeating the same “Please review us” message to everyone.
But when the time (and rapport) is right, a friendly staff member should be authorized to use their judgment to say, “It’d be great if you’d consider dropping a review about <business name>.”
In this case, a request for a review will sound heartfelt instead of pushy.
Keep in mind that this applies to both in-store staff and online/phone support.
4. Offer Incentives On Future Purchases
While your most loyal customers are hopefully already evangelizing about your brand to their friends and family, some others may need a friendly nudge to get them to leave reviews.
One of the best ways to do this is by offering them discounts, coupons, or other incentives in return for a review.
Just be aware that Google looks down on fake reviews and other types of engagement it views as ingenuine.
That’s not to say you can’t offer incentives – you just can’t offer incentives for positive reviews.
So long as you’re giving the two-star reviewer the same coupon as the five-star writer, you stay within the guidelines.
5. Include Review Reminders On Your Website
The easier you make it for your customers to leave a review, the better the odds you have of landing more reviews. It sounds obvious, yet so many businesses aren’t making any effort to simplify the review writing process for their customers.
You see, most people don’t leave a review because they don’t want to spend time “learning” how to do so.
Even if they know how to, it’s just viewed as an unnecessary tedious process that they can’t be bothered with.
So, make it as straightforward as you can for your customers to leave their valuable feedback.
Use call-to-action buttons and pop-ups (not in an annoying way) on your website to lead them to your Yelp or Google Business Profile review page.
Consider using a direct link generator tool like Supple to generate a unique Google review link for your business and send it to your customers via email.
Clicking on this link brings customers directly to the URL on your Google Business Profile, where all they have to do is write the review and post it.
Don’t expect your customers to follow an elaborate path for writing reviews, as it’s highly unlikely they’d do that.
6. Leverage Social Media
You can use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to post specific questions regarding your business’s performance.
Interested followers can be directed to leave a review on their choice of review platform.
For instance, if you have a restaurant business, you might informally ask if there was an older menu item that was discontinued that your followers really miss. Then, you could encourage customers to mention that in their review as a “vote” for bringing it back.
This technique empowers customers to share fun stories in the form of reviews while boosting the social media engagement of your brand.
7. Thoughtfully Respond To All Reviews
No matter how busy you are, it’s your duty to respond if someone takes the time to review your business.
And, while it’s always advisable to avoid sounding robotic as a brand, even a simple, timely “thank you” can encourage customers to stick around with your business.
In other words, your response should ideally be personalized and uniquely worded.
When people see that you respond to every review – good or bad – it gives the impression that the business truly cares about consumer sentiment, thus providing an incentive for new customers to take a moment to share their own experiences.
Also, don’t feel dejected by negative reviews – they help make your brand more authentic.
If all the reviews are sunshine and rainbows, there’s almost always something fishy. People would start doubting the authenticity of those reviews.
Here are some guidelines to follow when responding to negative reviews:
- Respond as quickly as you can.
- Acknowledge your mistake.
- Explain your point of view courteously.
- Write a meaningful and personal apology (even if you think it’s not your fault).
- Provide an immediate resolution or compensation (such as a refund, voucher, etc.).
- Request to take the matter offline if things seem to be getting out of hand.
Use bad reviews as an opportunity to improve your business and show that you care about your customers’ satisfaction.
Go back to the drawing board and fix the root cause of the problem.
Long story short, follow the golden rule of responding to reviews: always respond and never respond harshly.
8. Delight Your Customers With A Great Experience
Your customers’ in-store experience is pivotal to the amount and quality of reviews you’ll receive.
If a customer is awestruck with your product, service, or the experience they had, they’ll feel obliged to leave a review.
Delighting customers and exceeding their expectations is key to generating more, and better, reviews.
So, if you strive to deliver the best possible customer experience, rest assured it will pay off.
Find Reviews For Your Business
If you’ve already been soliciting, monitoring, and responding to your reviews, congratulations! You’re ahead of the game. If you haven’t, there’s no better time to start than right now.
The first thing you should do is figure out what your customers are already saying about you. That means checking the top review platforms.
For nearly every business, Google Business Profile, Yelp, and Facebook will factor in your online reputation.
Depending on your field, you may also have industry-specific review sites to manage.
For example, Capterra is well-known as a software review site, while TripAdvisor keeps tabs on hotel experiences.
For a detailed explanation of how to find reviews for your local business, be sure to read Matt Southern’s piece here.
Online Reviews Can Change Your Business Trajectory
Online reviews are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening with your business, gather feedback, and expand your customer base.
And this is true of both the good and bad ones.
Good reviews tell potential customers how great you are, and why they should do business with you.
Bad reviews give you an opportunity to take accountability, identify shortcomings, and turn negative experiences into positive ones.
Online reviews are vital for any business’s success, particularly on a local level.
By describing actual interactions with your business, they give potential and current customers insight into your operation and provide an authenticity you can’t find anywhere else.
- 11 Tips For Promoting Your Local Business On Instagram
- 18 Online Review Statistics Every Marketer Should Know
- Local SEO: The Definitive Guide to Improve Your Local Search Rankings
Featured Image: Black Salmon/Shutterstock