As winter approaches, shopping in-store will become more difficult for consumers. That’s why it’s important for your company to have online reviews – they’re your secret to a successful Holiday season! If you’re an online shopper like myself, you trust online reviews as you consider them real experiences from real consumers, which impact your purchasing decisions. Before a customer begins a trial offer / purchases a product they read online reviews, which influences their final decision.


During the Buyer’s Purchasing Cycle, the consumer moves through 6 stages before they buy a service or purchase a product.


The Buyer’s Purchasing Cycle:



It’s crucial to target content at each stage in their journey in order to keep the customer engaged and moving through the process. Otherwise they’ll hop off Santa’s sleigh, and you’ll have to head back to the workshop.

Once the consumer reaches the researching stages, they’ll seek online reviews to influence whether or not they purchase what you’re offering. Let’s make sure those holiday researchers are delighted when they see not only great reviews, but how well you handle the negative ones too!


The 6 Stages of Online Reviews:


Consumers consider online reviews at each stage in the cycle, and as their supplier you must understand when and where they’re doing this. When shopping online for the holiday season, products are not touched and tried out as they are in-store… in fact other than reviewing online feedback, your customers are purchasing based on pictures and a short description. Not much to go on but this where online reviews comes in handy. Thank your customers that leave great reviews, and respond appropriately to those who address problems or concerns.

So whether your business is well-established or just starting up, the six stages of online reviews can either make or break a successful holiday campaign!


1. The Contemplation Stage

(AKA window shopping): When a customer does a once-over just to see all the available options on the market. While browsing their options, consumers are more likely to consider online reviews, and more of them are reading reviews prior to making purchases. In fact, 85% of consumers will read online reviews when considering local businesses, and the majority of them are young consumers (approx. 16-34 yrs). Since online reviews are accessible virtually everywhere, consumers are forming opinions and making decisions faster, which means they’re reading fewer reviews before they make a final decision. Unlike the older generation of consumers (55+), young consumers rely on and trust online reviews as part of the crucial decision-making process. They’re more likely to read online reviews because they grew up using the Internet, which means it’s second nature to them.




2. The Reviewing Stage

Reading a variety of reviews prior to making any purchase is actually a logical step before you finalize any decision. Online reviews are awesome for this because as a consumer, you can find reviews for any company from any industry. Consumers find value in reviewing other customers’ insights as they consider them beneficial for their purchasing decisions.

73% of consumers trust a business because they read positive online reviews, and also saw how the business responded to negative feedback.

Having a positive online reputation is a crucial element to successfully convert leads into customers, but that’s only half of the package deal. To have an impressive online rep, as a business you have to absorb the feedback and respectfully respond. Company online reputations are more public and accessible than ever before, so consumers really get a sense of a business’ true personality through shared experiences. They also look at how a business responds to complaints, in addition to its praises – the company needs to act quickly and positively to build the customer’s trust. And guess what? Once the customer trusts your company and decides to do business with you, they’ve chosen your company out of all your competitors! Woohoo!



3. The Customer Service Stage

Customer service is the number one secret to establish consumers’ trust, online and in-store! And customer service not only influences how much a consumer trusts a company, but it also affects how much revenue is generated. So it’s important to correlate customer service and marketing in order to respond to positive and negative reviews quickly and efficently.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking and yes online reviews will increase SEO and organic searches, but that doesn’t mean you’ll jump straight to number 1 on Google. Did Beyonce’s song “Crazy In Love” go straight to number 1 on the Billboards? No, it sure as hell did not! You gotta start from the bottom and work your way up. That means you gotta go online and respond to your company’s reviews. Local buzz about businesses is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, so many factors in addition to online reviews contribute to your page placement.


Woah, slow your roll! It’s still early in the season, the holiday mayhem is still brewing. Yes, the number of online reviews counts, but your business should focus on quality service rather than quantity. Be patient, and the positive reviews and new customers will come!


4. The Recommendation Stage

Once the online reviews start pouring in, these customers now become your business’ greatest advocators and cheerleaders! Word-of-mouth marketing is still the primary method of recommending local businesses. In fact, it’s the strongest recommendation channel yet – 72% of consumers will recommend businesses to friends and family if they had a positive experience. But don’t think consumers will blindly trust just any online review… most people exercise judgement to determine genuine reviews.



#HolidayMarketing Fun Fact: While 21% of consumers do not trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, 79% do! And interestingly enough, both have the exact same impact as personal recommendations!

A Google study found that businesses with 3+ star ratings receive 87% of clicks, and increasing your business’ online rating by 1+ star, increases total revenue by 5-9%! More recently, Facebook and Twitter are beginning to grow as recommendation channels. In truth, 92% of the world’s consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more so than other forms of advertising.


5. The Tough-Love Stage



86% of consumers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by negative online reviews.

So what do you do with negative reviews, and how should respond to them? First of all, you have to understand that negative reviews are not a negative thing. Don’t think you need 5 stars across the board to earn your consumers’ trust – you’ll earn their trust by how you handle constructive criticism. No business is perfect and whether you’re starting up or well-established, consumers expect mistakes from time to time. They’re aware negative reviews will happen because one company simply cannot satisfy everyone, but constructive criticism helps build a reliable online rep.

Whatever you do, don’t delete or hide negative reviews that are posted*! Instead consider the criticism and respectively respond, then use that feedback to either better your services or company. This is your golden opportunity to win your customer back, plus attract and gain new ones with your awesome customer service!


Be aware that while 35% of consumers will share negative reviews via hosting websites, almost 50% will share their negative experiences using social media. So be careful what you say – you wouldn’t want one accidental slip to go viral now, would you?

* Of course everything’s within reason, including negative reviews. If the reviewer is writing non-constructive criticism, including personal attacks or threats, take down and report those types of incidents. Be sure to check various hosting websites for features to flag or report unconstructive criticism towards your business.

And while you’re catching up in replying to the tough-love, you might as well take the time to respond to the positive reviews too! If you can, “Like” the comment or respond with a quick thanks. After all, they are your biggest fans… you might as well show them some holiday cheer!


6. The Buyer-Beware Stage


Don’t cut corners by hiring an individual or company to write online reviews for your business; most hosting websites are able to detect and remove non-genuine reviews. Hosting websites such as Yelp and Google are continuously developing new ways to find fake/paid reviews and remove them, so don’t do it! No one likes a spammer! Consumers want to read real customer experiences on how they were treated by your company, and fake reviews lose that credibility. Like I said, just be patient and the reviews will come.