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How Can Businesses Benefit from Consumer Review Websites

The habits and behavior of online consumers have evolved over the years, but one of the most noticeable changes has to do with the way consumer advocacy has affected the consumer buying decision process. Writing reviews (positive or negative) or sharing recommendations about places visited, on specialized websites or social networks, has become a second nature.
Social recommendation presents new challenges for businesses, especially when an online communication strategy is lacking. How can a company benefit from consumer reviews? How to be present and active on the consumer review websites? You will find all the answers you were looking for in this small guide.

What is social recommendation?

In the age of social networking and web 2.0, social recommendation is deeply anchored in the habits of Internet. It's only natural for users to assign ratings or share an opinion about a place or business, and it's most likely that their purchases are based on the recommendations from other users.

Driven by the deployment of online platforms specializing in consumer review and rating (Trip Advisor, Yelp, Foursquare, Trustpilot...), the practice is becoming more widespread. This emerging trend affects mostly recreational establishments (hotels, restaurants, bars ...), ¬¬cultural sites, online or retail shops.

What are the new challenges for retailers?

Consumer advocacy plays an important role in the buying process of Internet users. A study conducted by PhocusWright on the behalf of TripAdvisor the online review site in 2014, showed that 53% of travelers have consulted the reviews before making a reservation for a restaurant (50%) or attraction (44%), or books a hotel (77%).

Source (PDF document).

The online review websites pose new challenges for local businesses.You need to listen to what is being said by online users, even if the activity or business is exclusively being run in a physical location (example: a hair salon). You should also learn how to respond in an appropriate manner to consumer reviews, especially when dealing with negative ones. And finally you need to cope with new consumer behavior and habits.

What are the benefits for businesses?

Through the adoption of new behaviors and best practices, businesses can:

Get a better understanding of the expectations and needs of customers.
Improve online visibility by being present on the online review platforms.
Grow the customer base through social recommendation and thus increase their sales.

Being present on consumer review websites

Monitor your online reputation

On some review sites online or location-based social networks, users can add a new physical location (e.g. a shop), if the latter hasn't been registered yet. So it doesn't matter whether you have established an online communication strategy or not, it is most likely that someone has already published a review about your business. You should monitor the opinions shared on social networks and specialized websites, or search engines to look for reviews about your business.

Claim your business on consumer review websites or social network

Some online review platform like Foursquare, Yelp and Trip Advisor, allow the professional to claim their location/website. This is also the case of Google Business. This approach provides access to several features, such as statistics and figures based on users who have visited the online or physical store. It is also a new channel on which you can disseminate practical information about your business (schedules, phone number, website...) and interact with online users (respond to their comments).

How to get positive reviews

Internet users tend to share their opinion when they are unhappy with a product or service, but several levers can be used to encourage a positive response:

Linking the physical store to your profile pages on consumer review platforms. Services such as Google Places, Yelp or Trip Advisor can provide this type of support to retailers.
Interact with users by responding to their comments and reporting that their remarks are taken into account.
Create a profile page for your business social networks and location-based platforms, so users do not have to do it.

Popular location based and consumer review platforms

Yelp is an online review community on local businesses. Features: manage a profile page, respond to online reviews, create advertising campaigns and access visitor statistics.

Trip Advisor provides reviews for hotels, restaurants, attractions and other travel-related content. Features: manage a profile page, respond to online reviews, create advertising campaigns and access visitor statistics.
Booking allows you to read reviews on hotels and also book a room in the hotel of your choice.
Foursquare is location-based social network. Features: manage a profile page and create of special deals for users who visit the physical location.
Trustpilot is a platform dedicated to consumer reviews. Features: manage a profile page and respond to online reviews.

Learn more: Choosing the right social channel for your business
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