The internet is like a tsunami in the ocean. While it’s easy to assume that it is the result of a technological surge or some sort of digital phenomenon, in reality, it’s driven by people, and despite what an organisation may try to do to resist, the wave cannot be stopped. Customers are consuming information millions of times a day searching for content, browsing for information and hunting for reviews, and the access given by platforms, portals, websites and apps are all merely surfboards in facilitating these interactions.
According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey in 2014, 88% of people search for online reviews to determine the quality of a business. This means that, despite expensive advertising and mainstream marketing efforts, customers are still taking the word of others to assist them in forming an opinion over most other communication methods. The younger generation of Marketing professionals appreciate this, as they’ve grown up with this being an integral part of their lifestyle, however the older generations still unfortunately undervalue the power this type of content has on customers.
In the same survey, it was found that 87% of people also trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation; a statistic which has grown in the last four years from 40%! This is a phenomenal shift in the way that people are utilising the internet when making purchasing decisions.
Consumers are driving this shift. They are quickly changing the way they inform themselves via the internet, and Marketing must learn to adapt to utilise this medium effectively by encouraging reviewing systems, promoting testimonials and enabling brand advocacy. It’s a positive thing for industries, as it simultaneously provides a free PR campaign that is often far more powerful than any paid advertising, and keeps organisations accountable for their products and services.
After all, according to the Harvard Business Review 2013, 57% of decisions are made by customers before they have even made contact directly with an organisation!
This is why a lot of organisations, such as RateMyAgent.com.au, ProductReview.com.au and Zomato.com.au have spawned- to create an accessible platform where people can log in and even use their own social media accounts to offer their feedback, which others are very willing to read and trust.
With this comes the obvious legitimacy issue. Reviews must be truthful and genuine, otherwise they can backfire on the organisation. Interestingly enough, consumers have developed a natural instinct when selecting and interpret reviews. The new culture sees people read all ranges of reviews and then naturally dismiss silly, unwarranted, fake or even old feedback, and seek out the legitimate ones.
Peer-to-peer reviews are increasingly becoming the most trusted source of information on the internet when it comes to an organisation’s products. It’s therefore essential for Marketing to not only encourage and manage these, but also ensure that the product deserves its positive reviews, and then promote such reviews to other potential customers in order to capitalise on this medium. This kind of crowd-sourcing is relatively inexpensive and very powerful in creating a strong brand-advocacy message.