Why should businesses manage online reviews and reputation?

If you think that public relations only works with clients, the media, or builds a positive relationship with government agencies, then you’re having a big misunderstanding. PR practitioners also need to take care of and manage consumers’ online reviews. Why? Consumers are also one of the key components of the company’s publicity. Online reviews, which are publicly visible, could significantly affect brands’ reputations. Managing reputation is one of the main functions of PR departments, so why would you leave out online reviews?

Online reviews made by online customers or visitors about a product or service, has become one of the most important and relevant criteria in making a purchase decision. Whether brands notice it or not, review sessions now reflect their reputation and credibility through objective third-party opinions. To maintain a professional image, PR practitioners and marketers should not leave consumers’ reviews unattended. This article will show you the importance of managing online reviews, and how it contributes to brand reputation.

Online reviews as a key criterion in customers’ buying decision

The soar of e-commerce proves consumers’ shopping habits have changed in such a digital way. Compared to 10 years ago, consumers mainly went shopping directly at stores and/or markets and decided to buy things based on physical touch (material and form). Consumers nowadays, on the other hand, prefer shopping online due to its convenience, and their buying decisions mostly rely on online reviews.

According to the recent report “E-commerce in 2021: Adapting and quickly overcoming obstacles from COVID-19”, the percentage of Vietnamese users active on e-commercial platforms has a tendency to strongly grow, with 97% of new consumers using services and 99% of them tending to keep using them in the future.

The good or bad sentiment of reviews of businesses and services on the internet will strongly impact consumer decisions. According to Power Reviews, nearly 100% of consumers said that they would search for an overview of a product before making a decision.

The reviews given by real customers are believed to be more reliable because they are not paid to leave a good or bad review about the products, and they do not receive any benefits from this. In fact, not many consumers totally trust what a business says about their products. Therefore, online reviews from peers could be a more trusted source for them.

Most customers agreed that they are more likely to purchase products and/or services if many five-star reviews and complimenting comments are included. Conversely, one-star, low, and negative reviews of businesses and services on the Internet make them confused and hesitant to purchase.

A survey conducted by The Harris Poll about the impact of negative reviews shows that more than 76% of American respondents say they would not be likely to purchase a product or use a service with a one-star or less online review rating.

Impact of online reviews on business reputation

Because of the importance of online reviews in gaining customer engagement and reputation, businesses must manage those influential comments about their products. Managing does not mean manipulating consumers’ opinions, but as PR practitioners, we need to maintain a positive conversation with consumers when they’re engaging with the brand, including online feedback.

In a study from researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), customers are willing to pay 22% more for products if the company has a good reputation. Online reviews could impact companies in many ways.

To begin with, one of the major advantages of online reviews is that they allow a company’s online visibility to transcend beyond its website and social media channels. Third-party websites, such as Google, Facebook, and others, can provide further information about the brand and its items to consumers.

Secondly, as it is mentioned above, online reviews have an impact on both customer purchasing decisions and a brand’s reputation. Consumers prefer businesses with more positive online ratings when making decisions. According to a study conducted by Northwestern University researchers, products with only five reviews are 270% more likely to sell than products with no reviews at all. So PR and marketing departments should encourage or give out incentives for consumers to leave reviews after purchasing brands’ products or services.

There are positive reviews, and there are also negative reviews. The way brands respond to feedback (especially the negative ones) could affect the public’s perception of brand reputation. Even when consumers leave negative comments, PR and marketing professionals should be courteous in addressing the problem – show that you’re recognizing their problems and explain how you’re trying to improve it for them. A review panel could also be considered as “the face” of the brand, therefore, managing online reviews have become an important part of public relations.

Third, reviews support the authority and expertise of your business. When potential leads read positive customer reviews about your products and services, it demonstrates that you are a trustworthy firm, making them more likely to believe your promises.

Finally, through E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, customer reviews play an important role in raising Google’s algorithm ranks. When Google sees a lot of positive reviews of your brand on a variety of third-party sites, it knows you have a solid reputation.

For businesses to engage customers and keep their loyalty, a brand’s reputation is critical, and customer reviews play a crucial part. Online reviews have the ability to boost sales, develop trust, assist customers in making decisions, and even contribute to SEO efforts or Google’s algorithm rankings. They are thought to be the most important factor to consider if firms wish to expand their operations online.

To be able to manage online reviews from customers, you need to respond quickly and in the appropriate tone, be informed about social media, keep up with all the reviews, and have review management software to assist with the process. In public relations, these methods can be utilized to reinforce the relationship between businesses and customers. That means consumers will highly appreciate and retain their loyalty to your brands if you are well-managed with their online reviews and your reputation.

In summary, when e-commerce becomes an important part of modern daily life, many rely on peer reviews to make purchase decisions. Whereas it’s positive or negative, brands should make an extra effort to acknowledge consumers’ online contributions and manage their reviews as well as brands’ online reputation.

Written by Chi Duong, a PR Executive at EloQ Communications.

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