Online reviews have become the most powerful form of business marketing in 2021 as more consumers purchase online during the pandemic, according to the Australian Institute of Internet Marketing Services (AiiMS Group) co-founder and client experience director, Janty Mohammed.

“Reviews are now an essential part of the path to purchase for shoppers. The online environment is more competitive, saturated and fragmented. It is literally open warfare online as businesses vie for position to get the attention of shoppers and gain their trust,” Mohammed said.

“Shoppers are now 40% more likely to purchase from a brand online they have never heard of before. They are finding these new brands through online searches, forums, advertising and referrals from friends and family.

“Once they come across a new brand, they are then undertaking research online to find out more about them and this is where reviews will either support the path to purchase or kill it.”

Mohammed states that over 90% of shoppers read online reviews as part of their research process to decide on whether to purchase a product. He has provided tips on what to look for when researching reviews.

Independent platforms

“While it is important for businesses to showcase positive feedback from customers on their own website, it is also essential for shoppers to research independent review platforms as well, such as Google reviews, Product Review, Trust Pilot and others. Businesses need to ensure that they are managing and monitoring all review sites to ensure comments are responded to – good and bad,” Mohammed said.

Current reviews

“Current reviews matter as 85% of shoppers believe that online reviews older than three months are not as relevant. When researching reviews, look for businesses with current reviews,” he said.

Read the good and the bad

“It is important to look at the good reviews as well as the bad. While positive reviews are nice to read, reviewing the negative ones will give you an idea of the types of experiences or issues customers have with the business and how well the business deals with the customer issues. In 2021, more than 50% of consumers believe the quality of reviews is important, up from 35% in 2016,” Mohammed said.

Look for plenty of reviews=

“Almost two-thirds (65%) of purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews. This means that shoppers are more likely to purchase a product if there are positive reviews and more of them. This is why it is important for businesses to ensure their customers are happy and to encourage them to leave a review. Shoppers are 21% more likely to leave a review if they have had a negative experience rather than a positive one,” he said.

Fake reviews

“Even though creating fake reviews is against the law, sadly this still happens. When doing research on a business, product or brand, and every review is 100% positive, this should ring alarm bells. The good news is that consumers are getting better at identifying fake reviews. If all reviews for a business are very positive, 95% of consumers think they are fake.

“Look for balanced reviews and where there are negative reviews – read through them to understand whether the business is making a constructive and genuine effort to address and resolve concerns. Naturally the positive reviews should out way the negative ones,” Mohammed said.