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“The business value of online customer reviews has emerged in recent years as one of utmost importance for marketers. Consumers are increasingly using their phones to find stores, compare prices in the aisles, and qualify their purchase decisions by reading online customer reviews,” –

Word of mouth information, also known as word on the street, is a powerful medium in human society. This form of oral information represents a potent means of communication that reflects popular opinion on any subject matter. Informally called the ‘grapevine’, word of mouth information can significantly impact personal, business, and commercial fortunes and prospects. In fact, human beings have always resisted a negative focus developing through word of mouth channels because it can affect their personal lives. In modern times, PR firms and publicity strategists are engaged to expand ‘reputational management’ exercises by commercial organizations and celebrities. In a similar vein, online customer reviews carry the power to make or mar the commercial prospects of a product or service. We will examine some of the dynamics that enable such reviews to affect offline fortunes in the paragraphs below.

Commercial brands and modern businesses must pay attention to the reviews they receive in the online domain. This is important because a majority of modern consumers study these reviews before arriving at purchase decisions. Positive online customer reviews can significantly boost consumer opinions about a product or service. This helps prospective customers to size up market offerings and settle on a choice of merchandise. For instance, a commercial organization that sells consumer electronic devices should ensure it garners the best online customer reviews. This action ensures that the commercial operator gains more customers and this helps to expand the business. In contrast, negative comments can drive away customers and potential shoppers, thereby forcing a business to cede market share to the competition.

Social media has emerged as the new arena for online customer reviews. A large number of brands and businesses operate a commercial social media handle because modern customers are persistently active on multiple social media platforms. Consumers that have a positive brand experience can wax eloquent on social media idolizing a certain product or commercial offering. This naturally attracts online curiosity and attention to the brand or product in question. These online customer reviews have the effect of positively boosting offline sales at stores and retail locations in the real world. In addition, influencers and brand advocates can pen serious reviews on social media, thereby hugely impacting the commercial fortunes on shopping shelves and retail aisles. We note these reviews can generate a lot of trust in a certain brand and boost shopper enthusiasm, thereby enabling it to perform spectacularly in the real world.

In recent times, online customer reviews are also known as ‘consumer generated content’. Market observers note that such content exerts varying levels of impact on different categories of products. This creates a narrative on the essential nature of trust and yields deep insights into modern consumer behavior. Market surveys indicate that an estimated 70% of polled consumers tended to repose trust in online customer reviews that hinge on low-cost consumer products such as toys and games, foods, beverages, health and beauty products, baby merchandise, etc. On the other hand, an estimated 90% of polled consumers trusted such reviews before they invested in high-value products such as automobiles, high-end electronic gadgets, kitchen appliances, and branded apparel. These numbers underline the fact that customers invest significant time and effort in perusing the opinions of other customers, as opposed to blind belief in commercially sponsored marketing campaigns.

Business operators must operate with caution in these connected times. They must conduct due diligence in terms of making correct product information available to customers at all times. Consequently, they must invest in top-notch inventory and ERP systems that offer a persistent single view of products in real time through all channels. This is important because the power of online customer reviews can dent business reputations and brand images in case of any discrepancy. For instance, an online reviewer might pen a scathing review of lackadaisical product availability in online stores. This can inflict severe damage on carefully established brand reputations and create setbacks in sales figures. The fact that products are readily available at retail shopping destinations is of no consequence in the face of negative online customer reviews. In light of the above, we note brands and businesses should pay special attention to their online reputations.

The enormous influence of online customer reviews is gaining momentum each year. Recent market trends indicate the number of consumers that extensively read product and service reviews prior to a purchase decision is increasing exponentially. This means that the ubiquity of mobile broadband usage and the pervasive use of smartphones is creating a deep impact on consumer behavior. This also indicates modern brands and businesses can no longer afford to rely on publicity campaigns delivered through traditional marketing channels. Ergo, they must leverage the power of online customer reviews to position their merchandise in a positive light. For instance, the flagship website of a business enterprise must offer consumers and customers the choice to author their own experiences with a product or a service. These unvarnished compositions should feature prominently on websites, product pages, and social media handles. The intent is to leverage the voice of the customer to broadcast the positive attributes of a product or service.

E-commerce operators can use the power of online customer reviews to boost brand reputations and safeguard their brand equity. These businesses primarily operate through mobile apps and can create separate pages for customer reviews. Alternatively, they can append the best reviews to the images of various products offered for sale to their customers. This action is driven by the intent to inform the customer about the experiences of fellow customers. In addition to the above, e-commerce operators can offer customers, the choice to pick up products from designated offline locations after completing the payments process online. We note these choices strengthen customer confidence in online business operators and encourage them to author glowing reviews in the online domain. In light of the above, we may state modern businesses must ‘earn’ their spurs in terms of garnering positive online customer reviews.

Trends in consumer behavior can deeply influence business performance, brand reputations, and market outcomes. Keeping this in view, as also the ubiquity of the mobile Internet, modern businesses should invest in easy-to-navigate, fully-functional websites. Experts note this strategy bears the potential to generate enhanced sales and conversions. Consumer behavior indicates that businesses that operate websites with the aforementioned attributes tend to perform significantly better than their competitors do. Websites with fully-geared shopping sections encourage customers to browse and transact, thereby adding sales momentum to offline business operations. These businesses tend to register favorable online customer reviews, which spur deeper market traction. In light of these facts, we recommend modern businesses to invest in online presences with a view to boost offline performance.

In the above paragraphs, we have examined some of the dynamics that attend the modern online customer review. Every commercial operator should work to gain the trust of its customers and encourage them to post reviews on the Internet. This trend will grow in time and early movers should win in the markets of tomorrow.

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