women checking customer feedback

Online Reviews: Leveraging Feedback to Grow Your Small Business

Jake Eisenberg | August 14, 2023


    Online reviews are word-of-mouth in the digital age. Online reviews influence your business image and consumer decisions, shaping your reputation.

    Do not underestimate the power of online reviews. They significantly impact your brand's visibility, credibility, and ultimately sales. Customer reviews are often the first point of contact with potential customers.

    Whether you are running a hotel, a restaurant, or an e-commerce store, online reviews are vital. As a business owner, this is one of the key metrics I pay attention to. 

    When we ran our hotel, I built systems to get customer reviews. Email follow-ups, surveys, and questionnaires were all designed to capture feedback and, ultimately, that coveted positive review.

    What steps are you taking to capture customer reviews?

    Key Takeaways

    • Online reviews influence customer purchase decisions, build brand loyalty and establish trust.
    • Collect customer reviews where your customers find you online, whether on google maps, Facebook, or Twitter.
    • Encourage customers to write reviews using surveys, follow-up emails, or your invoice. Incentive programs and rewards are a great way to encourage customers to leave reviews.
    • Accepting negative reviews and dealing with them properly is a key to business success. Negative reviews can be great learning opportunities and a chance to show your customers you value their input and are willing to grow and improve.

    Why are Customer Reviews So Important?

    Studies have shown that customer reviews positively impact consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. Here are some key findings on the impact of positive reviews:

    1. Influence Purchase Decisions: Research has found that online reviews can significantly influence consumers' purchasing decisions.
    2. Emotional Trust and Confidence: Positive customer reviews generate emotional trust and increase confidence in a product. They have a strong persuasive effect on consumers.
    3. Increased Purchase Likelihood: Positive online customer reviews increase the likelihood of a purchase and directly impact sale conversion rates.
    4. Perception of Credibility: Positive reviews can enhance the perceived credibility of a product or service.
    5. Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Customer reviews serve as a form of word-of-mouth marketing, generating positive buzz and attracting more customers.

    Customer Review Research

    The numbers clearly show that online reviews are essential. The following findings are from Bright Local's 2023 Consumer Review Survey.

    • 76% of consumers "regularly" read online reviews
    • 87% of consumers used Google to evaluate local businesses in 2022
    • Google is the most trusted review platform across all industries.

    As a business owner, you aim to meet and exceed customer expectations. Reviews are an essential part of any successful business strategy. Reviews drive engagement and sales and provide valuable feedback that you can use to improve the customer experience.

    Understanding Online Reviews

    Now that we understand the importance of online reviews let's take the time to understand what makes a good review, where to get reviews, and what platforms to post them on.

    What Makes a Good Review

    Consumers are intelligent; people can read between the lines. They can see fake reviews from a mile off.

    Reviews should be honest, detailed, and helpful to other consumers. Reviews need to provide useful information about a product or service.

    Quantity of Reviews

    The more reviews you have, the more social proof you collect. Aim to have at least 30 reviews for your business, as this is the minimum threshold necessary to begin collecting meaningful data.

    Where to Get Reviews

    It may seem obvious, but you want to collect as many reviews as possible from your happy customers. Reach out online or in person and ask customers if they'd be willing to write a review for your business.

    Platforms to Post Reviews

    Your platform of choice for collecting reviews will depend on your business type. Consider your ideal customer. Where do they go to find your business? Do they see you with Google Maps, a hotel booking site, or Facebook? Your goal should be collecting reviews on your customers' platform. Here is a list of some of the most popular review platforms:

    • Google My Business 
    • Yelp 
    • TripAdvisor 
    • Trustpilot 
    • Facebook Reviews 
    • Amazon Reviews 

    Encouraging Customer Reviews

    While you want authentic reviews, you can encourage your customers to leave reviews. There are several techniques businesses can use to follow up with customers and collect their reviews.

    Customer Follow-up & Surveys

    You can use customer follow-up emails and surveys to gather customer feedback and encourage them to leave a review.

    Email follow-up and surveys are my favorite method. It allows you to filter results and request reviews from people who have provided positive feedback.

    Checkout Sign

    When customers come to purchase something from your business, it's an excellent time to ask for a review. Add a sign asking customers to leave a review at the checkout counter or your service desk.

    Your Invoice

    Include a request for a review at the bottom of your invoices. This is a great way to remind customers of their experience with your business and encourage them to share it online.

    Social Media Ask 

    Don't hesitate to ask your followers to leave reviews if you have an active social media presence.

    Email Blast

    Email customers who have had a positive experience with your business and ask them to leave you a review. You can also use automated emails, newsletters, or blog post updates.

    Send A Text Message

    Like email, you can create automated text messages or send one-off texts asking customers for reviews. This is a great way to remind customers of their previous experience with your business and encourage them to leave feedback. 

    Discounts & Incentives

    Offer customers discounts, incentives, or rewards for leaving reviews. This will encourage them to leave positive reviews and incentivize them to do so promptly.

    Dealing with Negative Reviews

    The dreaded negative review. It's inevitable; it's part of the business.

    When you shop for something on Amazon, do you read just the good reviews, or do you like me and always check the 1-star reviews before purchasing? I never trust a business with only good reviews (it makes me think the reviews are fake).

    Accepting negative and learning to deal with them correctly is a high-income skill. It’s an opportunity to listen and learn from your customers.

    Here's how I deal with negative reviews:

    1. Take a deep breath: A customer may have just lambasted your business on Google, but responding emotionally and defending yourself, or worse, attacking the customer, is not the right thing to do. Take a step back, and calm down. Remember, every business needs negative reviews; it's part of authenticity.
    2. Acknowledge and Apologize: Even if you think the customer is wrong, apologize for their bad experience. It's essential to show your customers that you take their feedback seriously and are open to making changes.
    3. Take Action: After acknowledging and apologizing, take action to rectify the situation. This could mean giving a refund or discount on the product or service or simply doing something to change the customer's opinion.
    4. Take the Feedback: Ask yourself what you could have done better. Every negative review, even if wrong or misguided, can be an opportunity to learn and improve. 

    Negative reviews can be good if you handle them properly! By responding quickly and professionally, you can turn a negative review into an opportunity to build trust and show potential customers that you take customer feedback seriously. 

    Leverage Online Reviews for Growth

    Small businesses can make the most of the customer feedback they receive through online reviews to drive growth and success.

    Incorporating Customer Feedback into Business Decisions

    Don't just respond to customer feedback; use it to improve your business.

    • Analyzing Reviews for Valuable Insights: Small businesses can extract valuable insights from online reviews, such as product/service feedback, customer preferences, and pain points. By closely monitoring reviews, companies can identify areas of improvement and make data-driven decisions to enhance their offerings.
    • Enhance Products and Services: Positive reviews validate product or service quality. On the other hand, negative reviews can reveal areas needing improvement. Businesses can use this feedback to effectively refine their offerings and meet customer expectations.

    Using Reviews as Social Proof for New Customers

    • Trust and Credibility: Positive online reviews act as social proof and boost credibility. When potential customers see that others have had positive experiences, they are more likely to trust the brand and be inclined to purchase.
    • Integrating Reviews on Website and Marketing Materials: Small businesses should prominently display positive reviews on their website and marketing materials. Testimonials and reviews can reinforce the value proposition and strengthen the company's reputation.

    Enhancing SEO and Local Search Visibility with Reviews

    • Local SEO Benefits: Online reviews are crucial in local search engine optimization (SEO). Positive reviews can improve a business's local search ranking, making it more visible to potential customers searching for products or services in the area.
    • Keywords and Phrases: Encourage customers to use relevant keywords and phrases in their reviews to improve search rankings further. For instance, if your small business is a bakery, having reviews that mention "best cupcakes in town" can help attract more customers searching for cupcakes in the local area.

    Responding to Reviews and Engaging with Customers

    • Timely Responses: Engaging with customers through review responses demonstrates that the business values feedback and cares about customer satisfaction. Timely and personalized answers to positive and negative reviews can leave a positive impression on potential customers.
    • Addressing Negative Reviews Professionally: When responding to negative reviews, remaining calm and professional is essential. Acknowledge the customer's concerns, apologize for any inconvenience caused, and offer a solution or way to address the issue offline. This shows potential customers that the business is committed to resolving problems and providing excellent service.

    Monitoring and Managing Reviews

    • Using Review Management Tools: Various review management tools help small businesses track and manage online reviews from different platforms in one place. These tools can provide analytics, sentiment analysis, and email notifications to stay on top of customer feedback.
    • Encouraging Ongoing Feedback: Regularly encourage customers to leave reviews and feedback, even after their initial purchase. Continuous feedback helps businesses stay connected with their audience and make necessary improvements as they grow.

    By leveraging customer feedback, small businesses can enhance their offerings, build trust, and gain a competitive advantage. The insights gained from reviews can be a driving force in shaping the growth and success of a small business, provided that the feedback is consistently monitored and acted upon strategically.


    What is the concept of online reviews?

    Online reviews are customer feedback and ratings about a product, service, or business. They are often posted on review platforms, social media, or company websites.

    How do online reviews affect businesses?

    Affirmative online evaluations boost brand visibility, build trustworthiness, and influence purchasing decisions. Conversely, negative ones can harm reputation and sales.

    How critical are online reviews?

    Online reviews are an essential part of modern marketing. They provide valuable insights that can inform and improve business practices, and they can influence customer behavior. Businesses should take online reviews seriously and strive to ensure the best customer experience.

    The Bottom Line

    Online reviews are essential for any successful business in today's digital world. They act as social proof, driving purchase decisions and boosting sales volumes. Their power doesn't stop there; they also increase your brand's visibility on search engines like Google and Bing.

    A steady stream of positive online feedback builds trustworthiness, converting views into traffic and sales.

    Each review is an open line to your customers - a chance to engage with them directly.