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The Impact of Customer Reviews on Online Businesses

Word of mouth marketing strategy ticks all the right boxes for startup companies on a tight marketing budget. Two indisputable aspects of word of mouth marketing — reliability and effectiveness — helped businesses to thrive in the past. Its evolution into customer reviews to fit into the digital world in the era of e-commerce makes it relevant and indispensable. The powerful impact of customer reviews  on online businesses has made it a force to be reckoned with.

92% of respondents reported that a positive recommendation from a friend, family member, or someone they trust is the biggest influence on whether they buy a product or service.” 
― Paul M. Rand, President/CEO of Zocalo Group.

According to a top investment bank, in 2016, 60 million people in India shopped online, but that number is expected to increase tenfold by 2026. With the availability of a plethora of reasonably priced internet plans, online shopping is set to become predominant. It is one thing to sell your product to the customer in person and it is another to do it online where it is impossible to sweet-talk customers into purchasing your products or services.

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
– Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.

Amazon.com carries more than 400 million products; Flipkart.com carries more than 80 million products. Let that sink in for a minute. With more and more people getting online with each passing day, getting used to shopping online, how do you plan on selling your products online or even choosing the best e-commerce platform for it? The answer to the above questions lies in understanding the power of customer reviews, the inner workings of your chosen e-commerce platform, and the importance of having an independent website for your business.

Why are customer reviews important for online businesses?

Online or offline, discerning customers are hard to impress. Even in the past, prospective customers actively listened to their friends and family for customer reviews before they decided to purchase products or services.

“A customer talking about their experience with you is worth ten times that which you write or say about yourself”
      ― David J. Greer, Wind In Your Sails.

The decision-making process, when buying something online is heavily shaped by customer reviews. In order to boost your business online, it’s imperative to understand the vitality of customer experience and customer satisfaction that is readily available on display for prospective customers when they shop online.

How to build trust online?

To win customers online, you need to win their trust from the get-go. When a customer is looking to buy a product online, the first thing they eye on is the customer reviews section. Positive customer reviews wield the kind of power that viral marketing campaigns do. But at the end of the day, viral campaigns can only help so much as creating brand awareness, whereas positive customer reviews are what galvanizes people into buying a product or service.

“People trust people more than they trust institutions”
―Joe Chernov, CMO – InsightSquared.

More often than not, customers take to the platform of their purchase and social media to voice their opinions, especially the negative ones. So, what happens when a customer is thwarted by a bunch of negative customer reviews posted by other customers of their chosen brand?

How do e-commerce platforms work?

Well, this is where an e-commerce’s complex yet robust product recommendation algorithm comes into play. Almost all e-commerce platforms display an array of recommended products to help customers reach a definitive decision, making sales happen by creating what economists would call a spillover effect.

These providers also bundle a bunch of products that are frequently bought by other customers / similar products viewed by them to boost cross-selling. THAT. That’s the sweet spot every startup company wants to be in; one way to get your voice heard in a crowded marketplace that’s bombarded with new products every single day. That spot is expensive — e-commerce platforms are actively looking for opportunities to monetize by including an array of sponsored products along with the above mentioned sections — and not guaranteed. Even if you manage to grab a spot for your product, without positive customer reviews, you cannot fuel sales.

What should you do?

If you are a nascent company selling products, you are tasked with the responsibility of choosing a step in the right direction. Here are a few key points to assist you in the process of setting your online store.

  • Choose a seller platform that’s data-driven
  • Fill in the description box with appropriate keywords
  • Post high-quality photos of your product.
  • Be accurate with technical details
  • Respond to customer queries consistently

If things are done right on a data-driven e-commerce platform, algorithms will love you.

So, you’ve set up your store on an e-commerce website. Business is picking up. Customer reviews start to come in. All is good. You sell some more. Wait, is that it? Yes! — only if you’re a happy go lucky seller. But to be able to vault past your fierce business rivals, you will need the edge that only an independent website can give you.

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