Online reviews: How important are they to UK businesses?
Published on 16/05/2022 by David Jani
Companies rely on reviews for many reasons. However, customer reviews management requires significant time and resources. There are also many different strategies to manage this essential feedback.
In this article
As we saw in our last study on online reviews, the public still has some doubts about the trustworthiness of the reviews that companies have on their own websites. This raises interesting questions about how small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) collect and manage the consumer feedback they receive.
To find out more about how this works, Software Advice surveyed 401 employees, owners, and founders who are responsible or aware of the process of managing online reviews. We asked for their insights into how companies handle the feedback they receive on the internet.
The full methodology for this research can be found at the bottom of the page.
How valuable are online reviews to SMEs?
Our results showed that the vast majority of employees surveyed see value in collecting and managing online reviews.
56% of those in our sample saw online reviews as “very valuable” in terms of the time and monetary resources invested in their collection. Another 39% regarded them as “a little valuable”, showing that almost all 95% feel that they are useful in some way to their company.
On the other hand, only 4% reported that they felt that online reviews were “not very valuable” and 1% had no way of being able to measure their value.
Additionally, the option of “not valuable at all” only received a single response (in the results this made up 0.25% of the total responses) from our entire sample, suggesting that online consumer reviews have at least some value for almost all businesses.
How do SMEs use online reviews?
Overall we found that online reviews are commonly used by businesses for improvement purposes and promotional reasons.
The majority (59%) of our respondents said that they use the feedback gathered from online consumer reviews to enhance and improve their services or products. However, we also uncovered several other uses, as seen below:
- 56% of respondents said their company uses online reviews for promotional purposes on their website.
- 51% use reviews to promote themselves on social media.
- 31% also leverage online reviews to publicise their services via company assets such as email signatures or email marketing campaigns.
- 27% use the online reviews they receive to influence new ideas for products and services.
How do online reviews help businesses improve their services?
In practice, online reviews can be used to enhance many elements of a small-to-medium-sized business. As Mention highlights, some of the big advantages of online reviews include benefits like social proof of sales to foster trust in your product/service or increased visibility. They also greatly improve communication between consumers and the business.
When we asked employees how online consumer reviews are helpful to their businesses, 62% of the employees in our survey said online reviews were beneficial for improving customer services.
A significant number (58%) also reported that online reviews were helpful in bettering their product or service. Another 49% said that they assisted with improving their company’s brand image whilst another 39% considered them useful for increasing client interaction and engagement.
A smaller number (25%) also reported that online customer reviews helped to increase profit and revenue.
What resources do SMEs dedicate to online reviews?
Most of the employees we surveyed said their companies had dedicated staff for collecting and managing online reviews. More than half of our participants (54%) worked for companies that have a dedicated member of staff for reviews, and a third (32%) have a dedicated team for them.
Tips for SMEs: Online reviews best practices for staff to follow
Social media management software provider Sprout Social, outlines a number of strategic guidelines for employees managing online customer reviews.
These include best practice tips such as:
– Replying to online reviews promptly (no matter if they’re good or bad.)
– Responding to bad reviews in a friendly and understanding tone.
– Identifying the review networks that matter the most to your business based on the number and quality of responses received.
– Creating a social media listening strategy to find where your business is being talked about.
These are all tasks that require a lot of company time and resources. It is therefore advisable to have dedicated staff on hand to handle your reviews.
A fraction of businesses (12%) didn’t appoint a single member of staff or use an internal team. Instead, they allowed any member of staff to respond to and monitor the online consumer reviews collected.
Just 3% of our sample worked for companies with absolutely no staff available to manage online reviews, although indicated they were planning to appoint someone to do it.
How do SMEs manage online reviews?
As we’ve already seen, reviews are a valuable resource for SMEs. They are also something that companies may dedicate significant resources to, considering we found that a combined total of 87% of consumers read the responses to online reviews.
This raises the question of how organisations can manage online feedback in the most effective way possible.
Overall we discovered that companies use a variety of online tools to manage and collect online reviews. However, there were some popular choices that stood out more than others.
When asked to select all the methods used to gather and manage online consumer reviews, over a third (39%) of our participants said their company uses social media platforms or social media analytics tools for the purposes of collecting and checking reviews. Another third (32%) use their own website or system to collect and analyse their reviews.
Using software to manage reviews
22% of employees surveyed said they use dedicated reviews management software and 30% use a tool that has an online review collection feature. Only 27%, however, use external independent review platforms such as Trustpilot or Sitejabber to manage and examine their feedback.
What software can companies utilise to manage online reviews?
– Social media management software: can be used to post content, respond to reviews, and monitor their business’s online community.
– Social media analytics software: can prove practical when analysing and interpreting the overall sentiment of your userbase.
– CRM software: can be used to outreach to recent purchasers to encourage reviews on their curated platforms.
– Helpdesk software: can be used by companies to assess consumer sentiment and respond appropriately.
– Reputation management software: can assist employees in collecting reviews, by sourcing mentions of your company and spotting the places where feedback is being left.
Whilst most employees surveyed tended to use an online platform or software that featured a built-in review collection or analysis feature, 56% of those who don’t already use one expressed an interest in using a review management tool.
Only 16% of respondents said they were not interested in using a dedicated review software tool and 28% said they didn’t know.
What does review management software do?
Review management software allows businesses to collect, track and respond to online reviews from multiple sources on a single platform. This centralises the process of managing online consumer feedback.
This software allows businesses to take advantage of features such as:
– Response management
– Review monitoring
– Review notifications
– Sentiment analysis
– Review response templates
– Performance reporting
– Review requests
How do SMEs collect online reviews?
So far we’ve looked at how companies manage reviews as they come in. However, another essential concern is making sure customers write reviews about your product or service in the first place.
In practice, businesses rely on many different methods to request and collect online reviews from their userbases.
Almost half of employees surveyed (48%) said their company is proactive in asking for reviews at the end of an email or a call with their customers. Another 47% collect reviews as part of their email marketing process by requesting reviews via email after a purchase has been made.
Other consumer engagement methods include the following:
Only 7% of our sample reported that their company had no active form of outreach in place for online reviews.
Where do online reviews for companies appear the most?
Companies monitor many places for online reviews, which customers can use to leave feedback.
The most commonly used medium reported by our respondents is search engines, with 59% of respondents saying their company receives reviews from this source. 55% of respondents said their reviews come from social media, and a further 42% said they are collected on independent review platforms.
It was interesting to contrast these findings with data we uncovered in our previous look into consumer opinions about online reviews.
This showed that the public, on average, trusted independent review platforms and online marketplaces highly. However, only 24% of the employees we surveyed said that their company collects online reviews from marketplaces.
Consumers also showed a lack of trust in social media sites’ online review content. Yet this is a collection method companies rely on very commonly.
Therefore, it seems that the most dependable sources for online customer reviews remain somewhat underutilised by businesses given the results seen above.
There also appears to be an over-reliance on social media platforms, which while easy to use from a business perspective, are not seen as very trustworthy for online reviews by the public.
What volume of reviews do companies receive from the public?
There was quite a wide variance between the number of reviews that companies have received from the public.
Small-to-medium businesses were most likely to have a total of between 5-50 reviews for their products or services across all platforms, according to our findings. This was the case for 27% of those asked.
However, the picture varied across our sample with other companies reporting the following volumes of feedback:
What can be seen from these results is that the combined majority (65%) of employees surveyed work for businesses that have received over 50 reviews across all platforms. Furthermore, in 43% of cases companies have received volumes in the hundreds.
This is interesting to compare with our previous findings that showed that the majority (42%) of consumers trusted products/services that received 6-20 reviews the most.
It seems that despite the fact companies are collecting volumes of online customer reviews that sometimes number in the hundreds, less can sometimes be more when it comes to these figures.
Our research into how companies receive and manage online reviews highlighted a number of key findings.
These include the following takeaways:
- Most businesses use online reviews to improve their services or promote their products.
- More than half of small businesses regard online customer reviews as “very valuable”.
- Companies most commonly manage the reviews they receive via social network platforms, their own website, dedicated software, or independent platforms.
- Most company reviews are collected from search engines, social media, independent review platforms, or marketplaces.
- The majority of companies have received over 50 reviews for their services, with many more receiving hundreds of responses.
In our upcoming 3rd article examining online reviews, we will study how companies respond to consumer feedback and how this correlates with customer expectations.
Data for Software Advice’s Online Reviews Survey 2022 was collected in April 2022. Results comprise responses from 401 UK employees. To be eligible for this survey, participants had to be:
- Aged between 18 and 65.
- Employed in the UK by a company with under 250 workers.
- Working for a business that receives, manages and leverages online reviews for a product or service.
- Responsible or aware of their company’s process for managing and monitoring online reviews.
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