Measurable Impact on Sales of Customer Reviews and Comments

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“Research shows that 90% of consumers read online reviews and 88% of them trust the online reviews as much as personal recommendations,” – Stacey Rudolph

The proliferation of the global Internet and mobile broadband technologies has enabled millions of consumers to shop online for products and services – one of the defining features of the modern age we live in. Online presence, activity, and participation have expanded by orders of magnitude over the last two decades and have brought enormous new forces into play. Customer reviews and comments represent one of the factors that have emerged as critical to the sales figures registered by modern businesses and enterprises. The growing significance of this form of marketing communication also indicates that the voice of the customer has assumed a powerful stance in the world of commerce. Certain observers have noted that customer reviews and comments have emerged as a force of nature that have the power to build powerful sales momentum and can be wielded to demolish the commercial prospects of a product or service.

In essence, customer reviews and comments represent a form of information sharing among legions of online customers regarding the quality, look, and feel of commercial offerings. This information has a direct impact on sales because more and more customers are adopting the practice of perusing online comments posted by other customers. We may state that this category of activities is essentially one customer sharing his or her experience with multitudes of online customers. An old dictum in marketing states that customers tend to trust other customers and this amplifies the power of customer reviews and comments in terms of their impact on business outcomes. These types of communication also represent the coming of age of modern customers because now they have access to an alternative channel of information that can reinforce or conflict with traditional marketing channels, such as advertising and business promotional activities. In light of the above, brands and businesses must pay close attention to online conversations about their products and services.

On their part, brands and businesses should actively work to promote the display of customer reviews and comments on their websites and product promotion pages. Positive reviews have a magical effect of attracting high levels of customer attention, creating momentum in sales, and boosting customer conversions. This is a powerful outcome for most businesses because these metrics represent key business outcomes in any vertical or industry. The rising volumes of sales contribute to higher revenues, and have the potential to generate new editions of customer reviews and comments. Businesses should also work to acknowledge interesting comments because this helps to create an on-going conversation with satisfied customers. That said, we must note that businesses should encourage more customers to share their experiences online because the diversity of feedback and opinions helps to create a healthy ecosystem that can enable brand building and contribute positively to the generation of brand equity. However, we must note that brands and businesses should adhere to the norms of probity and must not engage in questionable marketing practices as far as comments and reviews are concerned.

Commercial enterprises that maintain an active online presence in the form of websites, blogs, and social media handles should make it easy for customers to offer online feedback. This can be achieved by optimising the engineering behind such pages and handles. This stance should be driven by a deep conviction that customer reviews and comments are essentially business multipliers and need to be encouraged at all times. Therefore, website administrators and social media managers must make it a point to attend to all forms of customer traffic on these platforms. Positive reviews should be promptly acknowledged and a ‘thank you’ must be sent out. Customers that expect more from a product or service should be assured that their feedback would be examined and any necessary corrective actions initiated. These threads of online conversations represent dialogue in the public discourse and must be treated as such under all circumstances.

In addition to curating the many instances of customer reviews and comments, brands and businesses must spotlight early, positive reviews for the benefit of subsequent and new customers. This implies that the first five to ten reviews should gain pride of place in websites, online forums, blogs, and social media. Research indicates that these comments and reviews have a disproportionate impact on driving the sales momentum and in determining the commercial success of a product or service. In addition, surveys indicate that positive reviews for higher-priced or premium products tend to boost sales significantly. Therefore, websites managers and social media managers should ideally ‘promote’ such reviews to prominent positions in the said platforms. For instance, retail businesses can choose to spotlight customer reviews and comments pertaining to premium merchandise. This action has the certified effect of boosting customer interest in said items, while lifting the sales numbers of more affordable items listed on the website. We must note that these actions should be the outcome of observed effects and therefore, must be calibrated at regular intervals.

Certain online businesses use the ‘star’ rating system to register customer feedback for online merchandise. Per this system, five ‘stars’ are the maximum rating endorsed by thrilled customers and fewer stars indicate lower levels of customer satisfaction. Consequently, a product that bears the maximum rating tends to attract higher levels of customer approval and therefore registers higher volumes of sale. Some discrepancies may occur between products that earn three ‘stars’ and those with five ‘stars’ but this can be attributed to statistical anomalies or the inequities inherent in online consumer behaviour. In light of the above, we must note that customer reviews and comments clearly dictate the commercial fortunes of a brand or enterprise in the connectivity-driven, data-rich world of modern businesses.

Given the critical impact of customer reviews and comments on business outcomes, we must recommend that small businesses should encourage customers and product users to share their experiences online with a view to engage higher levels of customer attention. Brands and businesses can provide incentives in the form of small future discounts to customers that provide feedback. This can spur more customer interest and subsequently, expand the numbers of customer reviews and comments that can be appended to displays of online merchandise. We may state that in doing so, participating businesses are helping to create certain modes of customer behaviour that operate within the norms of probity and yet bear the potential to lift sales figures.

In the preceding paragraphs, we have examined some of the scenarios wherein, customer reviews and comments can exert a direct impact on sales of products and services. We must note that modern customers represent enlightened entities that are in tune with the multiple offerings of modern commerce and the fullest possibilities promised by global markets. Therefore, businesses should shift their focus from traditional marketing channels to spotlight the voice of the customer. On-going dialogues and conversations with customers and future consumers represent the best strategy for modern businesses to improve their core value offerings and to impart steady momentum to their sales graphs. That said, businesses should exert themselves to improve their value propositions because this can have a central role in creating positive customer feedback, which can translate into higher business outcomes.

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