A New Age of Consumer
Business transparency is on the rise with a rapid increase in online customer reviews. Customers are more internet-savvy than ever, with many having used the internet for most of their purchasing lives. In fact, research shows that more than 80% of all purchases for goods and services start with a search on the internet! (Neilsen Netratings) We all know that more and more consumers are engaged in online conversations and use various platforms like Facebook and Twitter to voice their opinions on a minute-to-minute basis. But when consumers want to find businesses, they’re increasingly turning to reviews sites like WOMOW.com.au – Word Of Mouth On the Web – to find businesses that other consumers recommend.
As Fiona Adler, WOMOW’s co-founder, explains “The internet makes it easy for consumers not only to search for businesses, but to praise or sound off about them. It’s a way for consumers to have a voice and help fellow consumers get great service or avoid a bad experience.” And as avid reviewer Rachael Bain put it, “I think it’s a trend giving the power back to the people.”
Consumers Trust Reviews
When a business waves their own flag and says “we’re great” using carefully crafted copywriting or testimonials, today’s consumer tends to filter that information and regard it with an increasing dose of scepticism. But when a business is endorsed by one or more fellow consumers, those comments carry a lot of credibility.
“Normal advertising is there to convince you to use their service or product, I love reviews from other people just like me who just want to get good service without having to deal with bad experiences along the way. Reviews are more honest!” – Cassie Sheppard, reviewer
“Any business can espouse and exaggerate their own virtues, and we would be none the wiser until we actually try them out. Thankfully, through sites like WOMOW, we can get a real description of what the business is like to interact with. Nothing-truer spreads like word of mouth.” – Krystle Yeap, reviewer
Backing this up, Nielsen research also shows that customer reviews are the most trusted form of marketing - above testimonials and advertising, and coming second only to personal recommendations from friends. Our reliance on reviews looks set to continue with Trendwatching.com saying “we ain’t seen nothing yet!” and explaining that the surge in online customer reviews means that fallacious reviews will be outnumbered and therefore neutralised. Meaning that as reviews increase, the level of trust people place in them will increase even further.
Customer reviews increased sales of books on Amazon, and are the reason we trust individual, unknown sellers on Ebay to take our money and send our goods. They help consumers make truly informed decisions about businesses before they try them. How else can you find a mechanic that won’t rip you off, a hairdresser that will give you a great new style, a restaurant for that special occasion, or a physiotherapist that really knows their stuff? Smart consumers are embracing online reviews as a key tool in their lives.
Trendwatching describes the movement as a “‘forever need’ among consumers, one that's now being satisfied in a superior and previously unattainable fashion. In this case, the need is for trusted advice and recommendations—for feeling in control, for knowing the facts, for avoiding mistakes and disappointments”. (http://trendwatching.com/trends/transparencytriumph/)
The days of opening up the Yellow Pages and randomly choosing a service provider are over. Review websites are fast becoming the new generation of business directories as they provide real information and take the risk out of choosing a business. Over the last 12 months, WOMOW.com.au has grown by 73% and estimates that 1 in 4 working Australian’s used their reviews to help with a decision in the last 12 months.
Consumers want more than a list of services and prices. They want to know whether the product or service is appropriate for them, the level of customer service; the details of the type of service they provide, and how they provide it. Customer reviews fill the void, as they put more focus on service and quality outcomes.
Customer reviews also help improve customer service across the board. Businesses take note when their competitors with great reviews start getting all the customers, and it provides a pretty direct incentive to lift their game. The only losers are the businesses with poor customer service and negative reviews.