Ask Google for "the best restaurant near me" or any other business of your choosing. What do you see? Only the companies that have enough reviews to be shown. If a company has too few reviews, it's invisible in the most popular business catalogue.
Reviews are a vital part of the modern buying decision making process. Bill Gates once said, "If your company is not on the internet, it doesn't exist". The modern interpretation of this phrase is such: if your local business doesn't have reviews, it doesn't exist. If you think otherwise, consider this: reviews are one of the main ranking factors in Google's search algorithm.
So, if you have too few reviews, you short-change yourself in terms of possible income. Vice versa, if your number of reviews is large, your business is likely to bring in far more money.
Reviews dramatically influence the success of the Customer Decision Journey – let's find out how.
What is Consumer Decision Journey (CDJ) and how do you apply it to local business marketing?
CDJ is quite a popular framework, so we'll keep it short. Moreover, we will consider the model not for business in general, but for local business, which has its own specificities that could be relevant to you.
The Consumer Decision Journey – is a model that describes the key stages of a buying decision. Let's take a look at how it works for a local business. For example, a car dealership CDJ consists of such stages:
- Trigger – an event that shows the need to make a purchase. John's car has broken and he decides to buy a new one.
- Initial consideration set – companies that a consumer already has in his mind. John knows several car dealerships nearby. He heard about them from friends or has seen advertisements.
- Active evaluation – when a customer collects information about companies he wants to buy from. John reads reviews on Google Maps about the companies, visits their websites, and maybe even goes to offices.
- Moment of purchase – John has chosen the Clive Sutton dealership, goes to the showroom and buys a car from them.
- Postpurchase experience – defined by how a customer is satisfied with the product and postpurchase company's service. John likes his car. When he had some questions about it he received a quick response from the sales manager. He was so satisfied with the purchase that he even wrote a review about the company on its Google Maps profile.
Loyalty loop – if the customer is triggered for purchase again he skips the consideration and evaluation stages, buying again from the trusted company. When the time has come to buy a new car, he goes straight to the Clive Sutton dealership.
As you understand, this model is a more sophisticated version of the customer sales funnel. And just like the funnel, CDJ also has a conversion rate at each stage. A lot of factors influence them but customer reviews are one of the main ones. Let's find out why.
Pluspoint Case #1
A dental clinic in London had a low rating and many negative reviews in spite of being focused on quality of service. The clinic owners thought that most of the negative reviews were made by competitors since they didn't represent real situations. Google refused to remove those reviews as they didn't violate their terms of service.
Using Pluspoint to proactively collect customer feedback, the clinic's owners identified unsatisfied customers and resolved issues before they led to negative word of mouth and reviews. Vice versa, they encouraged satisfied customers to leave reviews and share their experiences publicly.
Result (3 months):
Total reviews grew by 315%. Negative reviews fell by 25%. The overall score improved by 0.96 (from 3.11 to 4.07). The clinic has seen an 8% increase in appointments from new patients. Even though the clinic couldn't entirely get rid of the negative reviews, their number compared to positive ones dropped dramatically. This change allowed the clinic to join the list of clinics with an average score of 4+ stars.
Rocket fuel for buying decisions. How do customer reviews increase conversion at each stage of the Customer Decision Journey?
Reviews influence each stage of the CDJ, so you can consider it as "the one tool to rule them all" for local business marketing. Let's see use cases at each stage:
Trigger. Reviews induce people to think about buying something more often. Use cases:
- John opens Google Maps and sees a new barbershop near his house. He remembers that he wanted to have a haircut. The thing is that the barbershop is not new! Simply, due to using Pluspoint it finally received enough reviews to become visible.
- A friend of John leaves a positive review on Facebook about a car repair shop. John sees it in his news feed and remembers he also wanted to have his car checked.
Initial Consideration Set. If your business has a lot of reviews, it's more possible that it's gotten into the "companies to buy from" list of your target audience. Here is how it can happen:
- Usually, local media conduct ratings like "Top 20 restaurants in Docklands" or "The best new hotels in Windsor" and so on. Often, they find these places by looking for places with the highest number of testimonials on review platforms. When your audience reads such an article with your company name in it, you get into their Initial Consideration Set.
- If your company has enough reviews, it's usually shown on Google Maps and review platforms like Yelp. Users nearby see it while exploring maps or looking for something else – your company becomes "familiar" with them. So, when they need your services, your company will be on their list.
Active evaluation. This CDJ stage is the most sensitive to reviews. Do you remember any purchases that cost $500+ and you haven't checked the reviews? Such things happen very rarely – 95% of people check reviews before making a buying decision. Here's exactly how reviews increase conversion at this stage:
- People compare ratings and reviews of different companies before most of their purchases, even before downloading a free app.
- If your potential customer sees a review from an acquaintance or a public person, then the chances for conversion increase dramatically.
Moment of purchase. This is the moment a customer comes to your office. Reviews can influence decisions at this stage also:
- You can print the best reviews and display them in your office. This move really increases trust in your brand.
- Your sales manager can show the digital versions of reviews during the sales process.
- You can analyze existing reviews to define phrases and advantages your previous customers used to describe your product. Include this into your sales process and you will be talking with the new customers in a common language! It's a powerful persuading tool.
Postpurchase experience. Okay, the customer made a decision in your favour. But now you can leverage a positive buying experience to attract more customers. Ask your customer to leave a review on a review platform. Of course, when you have a lot of customers and locations it could take quite a lot of time. Use Pluspoint to automate this workflow and do it in seconds.
Loyalty Loop. The last link is a repurchase. It would seem that reviews have no power at this stage – the customer already knows a lot about your company. But reviews still hold their magic. Giving a review raises the possibility of recommending you to friends and buying from you again. People tend to feel that now it's 'their company' too because they invested their time and effort into it.
Pluspoint Case #2
A barbershop in Dubai had 12 organic reviews with an average rating of 5. The barbershop was located in a premium location but its client base mostly consisted of loyal customers that had been their clients for several years. They lost a significant number of customers due to COVID and needed to get new clients to keep the business afloat.
They come across Pluspoint and decided to use it in order to grow their customer base. They added QR codes on mirrors and sent an automatic SMS to their clients asking to rate their service. They gave a 20% discount on the next visit for every new review.
Result (3 months):
185 reviews on Google and Facebook in 3 months with a 4.8 rating. 30% of their appointments came from new customers.
Wrapping up and defining the next steps. How do you increase the number of reviews dramatically?
Now you know how the Consumer Decision Journey applies to local business marketing. It's a very useful framework that you can use for different types of marketing channels or customer experience improvements.
We looked through the lens of CDJ at customer reviews – as you can see, it's one of the most valuable assets a local business can get. Think about it: on average, an increase of 1 star of your rating equals a 5-9% increase in revenue!
We help companies like yours to automate review generation, raise their rating number and, eventually, company income. Grow your business, and get started with Pluspoint now.