Sophisticated social media campaigns, pricey television commercials, full-page spreads in magazines or banners on a website. Just a few of the many options you can choose to draw attention to your web store. None of these tactics, however, are as effective as the old-fashioned personal recommendation. Nowadays, these personal recommendations are mainly issued by posting an online review.

Online reviews as social proof

Research from BrightLocal reveals that a whopping 88 percent of online shoppers admits to reading online reviews before they purchase items online. In addition, online shoppers indicate that they perceive online reviews the second most trustable source of information, after a personal recommendation from family or a friend. How this works? People are more likely to purchase a product or service when others have had a positive experience with this product or service. This type of informational social influence is better known as social proof.

Different from the rest

As a small or medium sized online business owner, gathering online reviews is an extremely effective way to attract new customers. Your visitor will see the online reviews as a natural and true source of information. In fact you are actually using social proof as a means to convince new visitors. Nowadays people have a lot of choice. When they are looking for a certain product they end up on similar looking web stores. The range of products and style of the various shops are more or less equal to each other. Even though there are small price differences between the web shops, is does not mean the customer will simply choose the cheapest option. To determine which web store is most suitable, the visitor will consult the online reviews.

Dare to ask

If your web store system does not allow to leave reviews right away, consider enabling your customers to talk about your business. There are many tools available online to facilitate the collection of reviews. Just a few to mention: Yelp, the Feedback Company and Kiyoh. For more internationally orientated businesses, I suggest to use a platform like Trustpilot or Reevio. To increase your online visibility, you can also use Google + to create a business page. Customers can rate you, which is visible for all who use Google.

Fear for negative feedback

It is virtually impossible to make every customer completely satisfied. Therefore, it may happen that you receive negative online reviews. Please do not be afraid of them. Negative online reviews do not necessarily harm your business. It basically means that customer service has become more important than ever. As long as the dissatisfied customer expresses his or her disapproval in a polite way, the negative online review has no impact on your sales. There are in fact some tricks to increase the likelihood of your reviewers to behave well.

#1 Do not be afraid of negative feedback

Allow customers to post online reviews on your web site or social media channels. Never remove reviews because they are negative. Up to 67 percent of the readers will perceive your business to be more fair, grounded, positive and civilized when there are polite (properly formulated) negative reviews present. In case of solely positive reviews, visitors can suspect censorship or fake reviews.

#2 Respond to negative feedback in a proactive and polite way

Always be polite and respectful when you answer online reviews. Treat your customers professionally and try to solve problems in a proper fashion. Where possible, you may answer complaints publicly. Possible future reviewers will respond politely when they see that you read and reply to reviews.

#3 Personify your brand

Personification helps you to create a voice for your business. Connect with your customers on social media and do not be afraid to show that you are a person, not just another faceless company. For example, show pictures of the office crew or share behind the scenes moments. This allows customers to see what a day at the office looks like. When people are reminded that they are dealing with honest and real people, they are more inclined to post a politely formulated online review, even if it is negative.

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