Consumers would pay more for a product if guaranteed a better experience

Consumers have access to an unlimited amount of information about products and services to help them make purchase decisions -- which is why online reviews matter so much for a brand's reputation.

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Make sure your business is represented on the online review sites that matter most for your industry. This may be Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, Google, or industry-specific sites.

If businesses want to stay ahead of the competition, they need to embrace online feedback from their customers. They need to know which online review sites are used by their customers and take advantage of the information posted.

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Customers are far more savvy and use more social platforms and mobile devices than they did five years ago. They have access to online reviews and will make decisions about your business before they have even engaged with brands.

Utah-based reputation management company Podium has released its State of Online Reviews research report. It surveyed over 2,000 consumers and uncovered some interesting consumer behaviours around online reviews.

The report shows that 93 percent of customers said that online reviews have an impact on their purchase decision. These ratings have the power to make or break a potential sale. On average, 3.3 is the minimum star rating of a business that a customer would want to engage with.

It found that more than two-thirds of consumers (68 percent) would be willing to pay 15 percent more for the same product or service if they could be guaranteed a better experience.

Online reviews are an integral part of the shopping experience. Almost 60 percent of consumers look at online reviews at least once a week and 21 percent of consumers look at online reviews multiple times per week.

Consumers place great stock in others' experiences with a product or service, and they are investing their dollars (or not) based on the expectations shaped by review sites. Two-thirds of consumers would not trust online reviews on sites they are not familiar with.

Consumers are not just looking at the star rating of a business; they take the time to consider what other actual customers have to say before making a purchase decision.

In fact, 82 percent of those surveyed indicated the content of a review has convinced them to make a purchase.

Almost four out of five of consumers surveyed also said they would be willing to leave a review if they were asked to. They want to inform others about their customer experience, help other people make decisions, or let the business know about their experiences.

There is an interesting learning here for business owners, showing that reassurance, rather than cost, can be the deciding factor at the point-of-purchase.

Optimising businesses for online reviews is important -- as is optimising your presence for local search.

Make sure your business is represented on the online review sites that matter most for your industry. This may be Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, Google, or industry-specific sites.

As 87 percent of consumers have logged into one of the big three sites (Google, Yelp, and Facebook), having a presence there is important too.

If you have discrepancies in your total number of reviews and your star rating, you need to work out where the discrepancies are and use it to adjust your strategy.

Businesses without a good reputation across multiple online review sites could be overlooked and left behind, as consumers move to brands with great reviews from a wide set of consumers.

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