What better way to get the best insider tips and tricks than by asking the folks working in the field? We sat down with two stars of the Reverie®️ marketing team, Sara O’Keefe, our community manager, and Nick Sullivan, our marketing analyst, to discuss the big Rs of retail—referrals, reviews, return customers—and the best ways to earn them.
|Sara O'Keefe||Nick Sullivan|
What are the value of reviews to customers, both prospective and returning?
Sara O’Keefe: Having online reviews of your brand is not just recommended in this digital age, it’s absolutely required. You simply cannot compete unless you have a number of credible reviews to backup your products. We’re not just talking online sales either—90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business.
Simply put, no one trusts brands as much as they trust their peers. Your website could have all the information in the world for a potential customer to make a purchase, but unless they can read credited, valuable reviews, they’re unlikely to checkout. 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Are customer reviews also valuable to the business itself, or just other prospective customers? How can businesses use reviews to improve their service?
SO: The focus of reviews are more often on customers, but they offer a huge value to the business as well.
The first step would be to respond to all reviews, whether they’re positive or negative. Not only is this Customer Service 101, but it will improve your online reputation and have a positive impact on SEO.
The second step would be to collect the valuable feedback and customer service opportunities. This feedback should be tracked and shared with the appropriate teams to impact change.
Should all customer reviews be considered equal? How do you determine what is a worthwhile, quality review from a customer? How do you separate them from low-effort, unhelpful reviews?
SO: As with everything on the internet, you have to take the good with the bad. Of course some reviews that are left are going to be unhelpful, exaggerated, or inaccurate. That said, that won’t stop other customers from viewing them.
The reviews with the most value are going to be public and on high-traffic sites. Many of which are simply out of your control. But what can you control? The reviews that come in on your website and social media pages. There should be a dedicated team to review and respond to complaints on a public forum.
You can monitor your incoming reviews and sort out the ones you find irrelevant or dishonest. However, that doesn't mean sort out the negative ones. If your products have all 5 stars, not only is it painfully obvious to the customer that you’re hiding bad reviews, but it’s also just ethically wrong.
What are some of the best tips for getting customers to return to your store?
Nick Sullivan: One: focus on building individual relationships. Creating loyal customers is about taking the time to learn about your customers individually. Create enduring, loyal, human relationships with customers. They should feel like they’re doing business with you and not just your company. In short, treat your customers like actual people, not just another statistic.
Two: provide a positive customer experience. Having a good customer relationship can mean the difference between a one-off and repeat purchase. After their initial purchase, continue to exceed your customers’ expectations. Taking just that little extra step can really go a long way. Customers remember being treated well, and positive customer experience results in repeat business.
Three: keep your customers engaged with your brand: stay “top-of-mind” with your customers. Email marketing is a great, inexpensive way to do this. Send personalized emails about special offers, a monthly newsletter, or a holiday greeting card. Also, keep an active presence in social media as this will help keep your brand in your customer’s thoughts.
How common is customer loyalty, really? Aren’t customers solely focused on price today? What keeps them from just picking the cheapest seller every time?
NS: 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers and the most important way to get repeat business is with great customer service. Initially, customers may buy based on your price and quality, but their decision to purchase again depends on their past experience with your brand. If you want loyal, repeat customers, you need to provide them with an amazing customer experience. Be approachable and friendly, show gratitude for their business, address all issues quickly and create an environment where it is easy to do business with you. Happy customers are the best advocate of your business.
What influence does a referral have on a customer’s decision to purchase?
Sara O’Keefe: A lot of influence—just think about when a close friend or family member recommends a product or business to you. It means a lot to us because we trust that these people wouldn’t recommend a product or business unless it was of an exceptional quality. If you’re looking for hard numbers, there’s a statistic from Nielsen that tells us 84% of survey respondents listed recommendations from family and friends as the most trustworthy form of advertising.
What are some of the best methods for businesses to encourage referrals from satisfied customers?
SO: That’s the keyword, right? “Satisfied” customers. You have to start there, by giving your customers service above and beyond what they expect. It’s all about surprise and delight. If you go out of the way for your customers, they’ll go out of the way for you and actually advertise for you.
I also really liked what I read in this article from Campaign Monitor which talked about the importance of building a person-to-person relationship with your customers because people are much more likely to refer other people and not necessarily your business as a whole. That’s why having those great sales reps on the floor is so important. If you build a great relationship with your customers then they’re going to want to talk about it.
Finally, though it might seem obvious: Don’t forget to ask. Sometimes we feel hesitant to ask a customer to take an extra step, but you won’t get referrals if you don’t make the first move and ask.
The big picture
Say that there’s a business that already has a steady flow of customers, competitive prices and top-notch marketing—why should they bother with collecting customer reviews and encouraging referrals? And why should they prioritize bringing back previous customers?
Nick Sullivan: Reviews and referrals, at a very basic level, give your business a legitimacy that you can’t get through any other form of marketing. They serve as a big glowing sign to prospective customers which reads “I’m a real person, I loved my experience here, and you will too”. No matter how good your marketing is, in the furniture and home goods industry, there's just nothing as convincing to a prospect as a positive review or a referral from a trusted friend.
Returning customers are simply the most efficient way to grow your business. Research has found that it is five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Customer retention is also a sign that your business is healthy—if all you’re getting are one-and-done customers, your current strategy needs to be reevaluated.
As always, if you’d like to talk about how to manage the reputation of your business, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.