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The importance and the power of online reviews

Many businesses feel uncomfortable with managing customer reviews; afraid to receive negative feedback or no reviews at all. However, as with a great following on your own channels, customer reviews are something you need to chase. Both are aspects of user- generated content, a prerequisite to drive customer engagement. It is important to receive customer reviews for your online visibility and engagement, which ultimately leads to more sales.

How do people look for reviews online?

Customers often leave their experience online in the digital world today. Additionally, in the buying process, 95% of hotel visitors base their booking decision on online feedback (TrustYou research 2016). This already shows how important online reviews are for you when you offer any kind of accommodation services.

There are two common methods used to find reviews. Search engines are most preferred, the other method is using a third-party review site like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, Facebook and many more.

When reading reviews most attention is paid to the star rating of the particular company or product - a rating indicated by stars (usually 1–5), the highest number of stars indicating the best quality or service. Another important aspect of the review for a consumer is the recency: a three-month-old review is not considered to be relevant anymore.

The number of third-party review websites used by your customers to leave feedback could be more than one. TripAdvisor is an important one for the travel industry, of course, but there are others. For instance, you should not underestimate the power of Google. Reviews from customers through a Google My Business profile will show up at the top under your business’ name. This is, therefore, one of the most important platforms to get reviews on. You can create a custom Google review link to share with customers to leave their feedback.

If you have not managed your online customer reviews so far, start by first searching your own business in Google to see what kind of reviews your customers see when they search for your business, and where your business is appearing so you can , define which platforms are the most important to focus on.

Negative online reviews

When you receive positive feedback from a customer online, this is free publicity for your business. When feedback is negative, however, it leaves you with repair work to do. The best thing to do in this case is respond quickly - not only for the customer who left the negative review but even more for sequential people reading that review. You should at least manage your negative reviews if you are struggling to find the time. Always compose a professional answer and try and leave out any negative emotions, this way you maintain or restore a reputation of professionalism and friendliness.

While it can be difficult to receive negative comments, it is important to realize that reviews are in fact very constructive feedback and a chance for you to hear where your business needs improvement.

How can online reviews positively affect my sales?

As aforementioned, a positive customer review serves as a great showcase. It holds even more significance when displayed on third-party review sites, which is, simply, extra visibility. It serves an extra possibility to drive people to your own website and increase bookings.

For the travel, hotel, and entertainment industries, TripAdvisor is the main platform in this industry. As the largest travel site in the world, a profile on this review site is a necessity for your business. Most review sites, including TripAdvisor, also allow a website link on profiles, which means you indirectly drive traffic to your website just by having a profile.

It is not uncommon to ask customers to rate your activities on third-party review sites. An option is to do this through emails, or after customers have finished their activities with you. In case you choose the second option and do this in person, you then already have an indication of what their feedback looks like.

Boosting visibility on review sites

The key with your profile on review sites like TripAdvisor and Google is to reach the top of the popularity index, so your listing is highly visible for people that search for information in your area. To take the example of the TripAdvisor popularity ranking, it is based on three key elements: quantity, quality, and recency of reviews. They are, in fact, the main elements for review management on any of your platforms.

The quantity of reviews is the first aspect. In general, the more ratings you have, the higher your visibility. That is why you should aim at getting many reviews first, without worrying too much about aiming only for five-star rating reviews. Additionally, having more than just a few reviews shows the individual reviews are more credible.

Quality of reviews does not indicate that all reviews need to be positive. This is because negative reviews can also have a positive effect on your bookings. A combination of positive and negative reviews makes you more credible; it shows that you are not trying to disguise anything, and makes the positive reviews look more genuine.

Recency of reviews is another important, and logical, ranking indicator. You should not be penalized for something that happened six months ago, as you probably have bettered that aspect by now. Dated reviews, therefore, even when they include a five-star rating, will not have as much weight in ranking as a review written last week. This holds at least true for TripAdvisor rankings but makes sense from a customer point of view as well. Recent reviews give a more representative image of the experience with your property or activities.

Reviews as input for website testimonials

Another benefit of receiving reviews through third-party review sites is that you can re-use some of the most valuable ones for your web testimonials. Testimonials are the perfect tool to convert skeptical potential buyers into customers.

To sell an experience, rather than a product is what testimonials do, and, in fact, is exactly what your company does, looking at your type of business. Ask your highest rated reviewers or most loyal customers if you can use their feedback in a testimonial on your website.

How to boost sales with testimonials?

Make use of video

Testimonials containing video make for a real-life customer explanation of what made the great experience. It makes a testimonial sincere and very convincing. The online written review of the particular customer is great input to make a short video out of it.

Personal imagery

If video is not an option, at least add a photograph of your customer with the testimonial to make the testimonial look credible and personal.

Include testimonials in email campaigns and follow up emails

You often receive questions through email before people make a booking. It can be hard sometimes to answer all of these questions to the satisfaction of the potential buyer. Include testimonials as a standard part of your emails to make a positive influence in overcoming the buyer's resistance.

Conclusion

Online reviews have an extremely positive effect on your bookings. As seen from the information above, to engage your customers to write reviews is simple and not too scary! So if you haven’t yet, get started today on managing your customer reviews and increasing your bookings.

Bookinglayer helps businesses like camps and retreats with an all-in-one reservation system.