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Online Reviews Are The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Small Businesses

With unlimited access to information online, there’s never been a time when consumers have had so much influence on a brand’s reputation. We now live in a world wherein products and services are defined by those who experience them, rather than by those who own them. Online reviews can mean the difference between success and failure for small and medium businesses.

Consider this: Yelp, a popular crowd-sourced review forum, has been recognized as a major force in local commerce. With 186 million users each month, the site received nearly 150 million business reviews and counting. The multibillion-dollar business directory service is basically built on the interactions between local businesses and consumers.

But Yelp isn’t the only review site that enables consumers to create content about small businesses and share it with millions of people from around the world. Yelp is joined by dozens of other review sites designed to help shoppers find businesses nearby. What Yelp achieved, however, is becoming the best marketing channel for small local businesses.

If you are running a small business today, particularly a restaurant or hotel, you should take advantage of this opportunity to get more exposure and bring in more customers online. Take control of your online review score on sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google My Business, FourSquare, and even Facebook.

Mobile Is Driving Local Ecommerce

The biggest impact of mobile on e-commerce may be that it has dramatically expanded opportunity. Until smartphones and tablets became prevalent, online shopping was constrained by location. A consumer could only shop using a desktop computer that had an Internet connection. This has all changed today. Internet usage in the U.S. has doubled since 2001 to nearly 300 million users. Smartphone penetration increased from 20% in 2010 to 69% in 2017 among consumers.

Mobile devices can be always connected, allowing us to shop from anywhere. This has led to dramatic shifts in consumer behavior. It also helped break down walls between physical retailers and digital sellers. While 90% of global sales still happen in physical stores, 97% of consumers browse the web to look for local businesses. Three in four people who use their phones to search for a nearby shop end up visiting one within a day.

A study also revealed that while foot traffic in retail stores has declined by 57% in the past five years, the value of every visit has tripled. This means consumers first figure out where they want to go with the help of the internet before spending their money on a local shop. Thus, each visit is prompted by a real purchasing intent.

Online Review Sites Can Attract Customers 

In this digital age, having a great product or service isn’t enough to get a good flow of customers. You have to help people find you. And the work doesn’t stop there, another challenge is how to retain them. In the past, small businesses relied on push methods such as radio ads or flyers to attract new customers. The ad message usually conveys a sense of urgency to convince customers to spend money.

Review platforms like Yelp, Google My Business, FourSquare, etc. are quite the opposite. What prompted a customer’s search is the decision and urgency to purchase. They help pull customers toward nearby shops precisely when they’re actively looking to spend money. This is an invaluable opportunity for small businesses with tight marketing budgets.

Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth although the conversation has moved across the web. Let’s say you’re in need of an auto mechanic or want to eat at a new restaurant, what do you do? You would probably ask your friends or family for recommendations and at the same time do a “near me” search on Google, Trip Advisor, or Yelp. If you have no reviews, customers won’t find you.

Yelp Works For Small Businesses

Some local businesses have their blinders on when it comes to online reviews. But to say online reviews are all bad is just a myth. The truth is, two-thirds of all Yelp reviews are rated four or five stars. This means there are more customers who log-in to rave about their great experiences with local shops.

Small business owners should do their best to maintain high-star ratings on popular review sites to attract more customers. People who read Yelp reviews are already on the verge of becoming a customer and a couple positive reviews will be enough to get them knocking down your door. A survey found that up to 90% of customers say their purchases are influenced by positive online reviews. Around 94% will choose a business with at least four stars.

Yelp gives businesses more control over their ratings. First, they can proactively encourage customers to share their experiences about a product or service. According to the Local Consumer Review Survey, 68% of customers will leave a review if asked. This can help activate the happiest customers and ensure a healthy review ratio.

Second, companies can respond and interact with customers publicly or privately. Should you receive a negative review on your Yelp page, it will be easy to address. You can show empathy to those who have a bad experience which can still leave people a good impression of your business. It means you are invested in each of your customer’s journey and responsive to their complaints. Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will give the business another shot 70% of the time.

Conclusion

Leaning into online review forums might be the only marketing plan a small business needs these days. Online reviews provide an opportunity for business owners to join the word-of-mouth conversation and engage consumers. Companies can respond personally which gives them the chance to build a relationship with an audience for future transactions. Positive dialogue goes a long way in gaining people’s trust which turns them into paying customers.

Now that you know why gathering more online reviews is important, the next question should be how do they get them? Check out Smart Review tool, and find out how getting more reviews has never been so easy!