Managing your reputation and understanding how and why customers feel the way they do about your company takes a customer-first approach. By considering your customers in nearly all aspects of your business, you’re ensuring all decisions are being made to accomplish the same goal: making customers happy and keeping happy customers.
In the mortgage lending industry, customer trust and satisfaction is an absolute. Prospects coming to mortgage lenders are making a major life choice and they can’t afford to make the wrong decision. With such an intimate and life-changing opportunity, how a customer feels about a mortgage lender should be considered across an entire company. This kind of thinking is what led HomeBridge, one of the top 10 mortgage companies in America to come to Trustpilot to start collecting reviews.
HomeBridge adopted a customer-first strategy and identified three major goals:
- Establishing credibility with clients
- Streamlining customer success processes
- Track benefits accrued from an improved reputation
Learn How Trustpilot Can help You Increase Your Organic Search Traffic
By working with Trustpilot to automate their review collection, HomeBridge was able to learn from their customers’ feedback, improve their service, customer experience, and also gain tangible benefits such as an increase in traffic and an improved reputation.
To learn how HomeBridge was able to achieve success this way, check out the recorded webinar below!
The critical role of reviews in building internet trust
How can you build trust at first sight? What should brands care about that? And why should you approach reputation management a little like dating?
First, let's talk about the rise of "Near Me". What is "Near Me"? "Near Me searches" is a term basically used to talk about consumers and how they search today. When someone types in a search like "coffee near me," or "clothing shop in my area," something like this, that is a "Near Me" search. It's proximity. It's something that consumers want to visit now, in the area near me.
A little stat for you. 60% of all Google searches are mobile, currently today, and that matters because mobile devices have become our indispensable personal companions. They're super important. We take them wherever we go, and that has definitely changed the way that consumers search and behave, as you may well know. And because of this, it's an always-connected world. Consumer behavior has changed dramatically, and businesses and brands all over the world need to change dramatically as well.
So, welcome to the age of "Near Me". The three trends that are currently driving "Near Me" is, first of all, the rise of searches with local intent. That's consumers searching online locally for stores, and the increase in fragmentation. This means basically that when a consumer conducts a search today, they don't just search for the same queries.
They understand that when they type something into Google, Google understands their intent, and so these become very conversational, and different. So, brands also have to have information current online to relate to these searches. And lastly, what we're here to talk about today, the dominance of social validation. Why reviews really matter is because they make consumers engage with the brand, and actually ultimately, lead to a purchase.
So, navigating the internet trust landscape, such a big topic and something that's obviously very close to Trustpilot's heart. And in these interesting times, when we hear about fake news, and there's so much content on the internet, I think people's attitude to what they trust and don't trust is ever-changing.
As a result of that, we actually commissioned a research company called Canvas8, and asked them to poll consumers in the UK, in the US, and in France. In fact, we researched over 2000 consumers in each of those different countries.
I think the results are very interesting. The report covers people's attitudes to trust online. Also, how those play into reviews. The implications for different types of review platforms, et cetera.
The erosion of trust
That's the first thing that we delved into within the report, trying to understand what's actually in people's heads. How are they understanding what they're reading online? And also, their attitudes, if you like, to everything that they see.
As well as interviewing consumers, we also interviewed at length some experts from different walks of life, and experts in these sorts of fields, one of which was Professor Jonah Berger from the University of Pennsylvania. And one of the quotes he gave during the interviews was, "People are more and more aware now that mainstream news has an agenda, and isn't unbiased."
And we asked people to rank their trust in different institutions and sources of information. And not surprisingly, political parties came seventh out of seventh. So moving forwards, so what's the implications for us then? Who are people actually turning to? So, what we found was, was that because of that, people's eroding trust of traditional institutions, whether it's the media, religious groups, governments, et cetera, who are they turning to?
And increasingly, they're turning to their peers. As Karen Cook said, trust is definitely eroding society and it's becoming more polarized. And this is a trend that we can see certainly being led in the US. And what we found was, is that within different types of sources, actually consumer review websites themselves are actually the second most-trusted, after friends and family, in terms of who people would actually trust when they're looking for important recommendations and information.
That said, I think it's important to point out that everyone, I think, on the internet, is being scrutinized by consumers. People who are looking to the big social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, et cetera, with a very critical eye. I think they also apply that to open platforms and review platforms like Trustpilot.
And I think we take that very seriously, and one of the things we've done recently at Trustpilot is, increased the transparency that we have. So, when consumers go to the business profiles on Trustpilot, you can now see additional information that shows you how many reviews were reported by that company. So, how many are they saying might be fake?
Because we don't want for businesses to be reporting all of those different reviews. Also, we now provide information there in terms of who those business are inviting for reviews, so consumers can actually see how many review invitations are being sent, and who they're sending them to. And again, all of this, we think, will help people then trust in the reviews that they're seeing.
Overall, the study showed that people, through technical innovation are optimistic for the future, and I think that they expect platforms on social media and review platforms to be providing more and more scrutiny, so that they can become trusted.
So, what's this mean for brands? Well, I think the challenge for brands is that essentially, you could get roped in with everyone else, if you like, in that ... and what we saw from the research, that only 71% of people trust consumer brands. So obviously, 29% are not trusting in the messages that they're receiving. So, I think there's a challenge there for brands, and something that people should bear in mind when they're putting together their digital strategies, et cetera.
So, how does that play into different age groups? So, what we saw was that there's an overall decline of 11% across the age groups. For those, there were differences within the age groups, as you can see in the graph, holding up best between 25 and 34, but eroding certainly more in older groups.
But also, interestingly, in younger people as well, so people from 18 to 24. 21% of consumers within that group said they trust brands less than they did a year ago, so I think that's obviously a critical sociodemographic group to target, and again, something that you shouldn't just assume it's older people. It's actually younger people as well, can be more critical and maybe not as trusting as maybe we might perceive they are.
What does this mean for review platforms?
Well, as we've said, in a general decline in trust, people are increasingly putting faith in peer-generated content, and obviously reviews. One big part of that, so you've probably seen stats like this before, but obviously from a review company perspective, we're always polling to understand how people are reading reviews, et cetera.
And so we're pleased to see that that is really holding up. In fact, it's increasing. An overwhelming majority, 89% of consumers are now checking reviews before they're making purchases. And it's interesting, so 45% indicating that they're looking at more now than they have in the past. Certainly, looking at those reviews is more important than ever.
Jonah Berger said, "As more people are shopping on the internet, and for more things, the need for these reviews grows." And also, what's interesting is, we're seeing a lot of new brands coming in, into disrupting new markets and industries, and they're definitely the ones that are using reviews to help build their brands.
And we've seen this at Trustpilot, with many of our customers in the estate agent world, or in, say, some of the new banks, et cetera. They're coming in. They're building brands. They're not as well-known to consumers, so they're absolutely embracing it. They're probably some of the first customers that we come across in a new industry like that are the disruptors, and they're using review brands to help build trust around themselves whilst they build up their brand. And that's certainly a trend that we've seen.
The impact of online reviews
So, when we're looking at purchasing drivers, what's the impact of reviews in general? And it does differ a little bit across different countries. Certainly, in the US and the UK, it's seen as the second-most important factor, when people are making those consumer decision, behind a reliable product or service obviously being number one. Obviously, sounds like within France, there's still a little bit more trust in what people hear around them. Obviously, environment issues more important. It would be interesting to see how that changes over time.
So, when we're looking at consumer review sites themselves, they came out as being that second-most trusted source, behind friends and family, third when it comes to globally. Karen Cook said, "People are getting more cautious about information, certainly in the US. Regulation bodies and others aren't viewed as trustworthy. As people question their motives, depending upon who's in charge of them now, it makes sense that consumer review sites are most trusted than, say, expert reviews, because there are a lot of them, and people look for a consensus."
So, I think one of the things we've seen is that people think that, in many bodies, whether they're expert reviews or governments, people tend to have an agenda. Whereas actually, when they're looking at consumer review websites, they are seeing those as being quite independent, and therefore it's that independence that's gaining the level of trust.
And as we've mentioned already there, so you can see, those review sites are now the second-most important thing that people are looking at, behind friends and family. A little bit further behind, in France, but you can see how that changes over time.
So, consumers are obviously looking for independence and honesty, and just to reinforce the point again, that they're seeing that from independent websites, more than other sources. However, what we also saw is that there are many sources of reviews. There are reviews on social media sites. There's reviews on eCommerce websites, et cetera. In many places.
But actually, there are differing levels of trust. And so, even though people are using social media more, they're not necessarily trusting what they're seeing. So, I think our message is that, from the research, is that not all reviews all the same. Not all review websites are the sames.
And so, trust plays differently depending on that level of independence, and I think therefore, as a brand, you should probably be considering, "I could collect my own reviews, but are those reviews going to be as trusted as maybe those that are coming from an independent site?" And these states just reinforce that. That usage is going up, but overall, trust in everything that people here on consumer social media isn't necessarily being trusted.
So, that's just reinforced the point, really. I think, from a Trustpilot perspective, not all reviews are the same, and we very much encourage brands to look at their social media or review strategy, and just think, "How is that coming across to consumes? Are they seeing that as truly independent or not?"
So just to summarize there, these are some of the key stats from across the report: 11% decrease in trust overall. People are still very much using reviews, 89%. We haven't gone through it so much so far in this webinar, but in the report, you'll see there's a lot of information there about how companies engage with reviews, and how those review platforms behave.
Certainly, what we saw, 62% of consumers would really think long and hard if they understood that a brand or a review system was allowing reviews to be censored. That would go down very badly with consumers that think somehow, they're being manipulated.
And we see that how businesses and brands interact with reviews is very important, and we see that the 64% of consumers are really interested in saying, "It's not just having a great score, but it's how that business responds to reviews, and is seen to respond, is really important." And 55% of consumers globally would prefer reviews that come from an open platform.
So, that's just a short summary of that report. I encourage you to read it.
Why are location reviews important?
A lot of commerce is done in-store. But of course, increasingly, people are still looking online to assess who they should go to, et cetera. So, having reviews and scores for locations, as well as businesses on the internet, is something that's very important to us, and that's why we launched location-based reviews last year.
What this basically allows is for business to create location profiles on Trustpilot. Those profiles then create a score for that business across all those different locations, whether they're car dealers or bank branches or retail stores. Those location-specific pages can then have embedded rich snippets, which is very important in terms of being seen.
We know then we can create local TrustBoxes, which can be added to websites, which we know increase conversion. And also then, you can start to use that data to actually compare and contrast the overall score and reviews for specific stores and locations, and so you can see how the different locations are doing, and that's something that you can view within Trustpilot, and also, with our partnership with Uberall, within your Uberall dashboard.
So, just a couple of customer quotes there from people that have already benefited from using Trustpilot location reviews, something that we're really hoping will grow very quickly, as we're starting to see more and more and more of our existing customers engage and start to collect reviews on a local basis.
How to build trust at first sight
Obviously, the central thesis here is that reviews are very important. So as we go through, we're just going to talk a little bit about the Uberall study, and why that is so important. So, lets get cracking.
First of all, let's conduct a little eye test about reviews. And specifically, our study was on GMB, so we're just going to look a little bit at Google My Business profiles. Star rating, volume, pictures, and information are all listed. And these are some of the factors that are really important to building trust.
There are a few different businesses. And obviously, if some of that's in German, that's because I am stationed in Berlin, so these are a few of the locations around my area. The first one, immediately when you look at it, the culture of reviews and how we define "good" and "bad" has evolved over time.
Like I've said, the volume of reviews. Some of these businesses have high volume, but some of them have almost 400, versus 100. But how much does volume matter between business to business? If you have five reviews versus 100, it definitely matters. If you have 400 to 300, probably not so much.
Pictures are also really important. As you can see at the top, it's a little dark. The one below that, it's a bit lighter. The decor's nicer. And if you could look underneath that again, there is beverages. There is food. So they actually show what you can actually purchase there. So there are some different ways businesses show what they do, and there are different indicators to customers as to how you want to purchase.
Lastly, information. If you look at the one on the bottom, they say, Nguyen Kitchen says they do sushi, noodle dishes, other Asian fare. So you understand what they're giving out. If you look back at the top there, you understand it's a takeout restaurant, but not much more than that. So, the more information you have, the more insight consumers have to click on you and choose you at first sight.
And also, you can lead a horse to water, but it's search for validation that makes it drink. And the horse in this situation is the consumer. So, what we do know? Well, we know that 95% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase. There's been a lot of studies on this, and they all pretty much come out to the same conclusion: Reviews are super important. Also, 88% of consumers trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
So just to give you an insight into how interesting these stats are, a YouGov survey on how many people believed that the world was round or flat, 84% of respondents believed that the world was round, meaning that there was 16% that thought that the world was flat.
What does "local search" mean for businesses?
So we understand that reviews are important, but when a consumer conducts a search, how does that all work into it? So, what we do know is, from Google, is that 76% of "Near Me" searches lead to a store visit within 24 hours, and also 28% of those initial searches also lead to a purchase in that same period.
So, consumers are searching for things near them, and when they are doing that, they're motivated to buy, or they're motivated to visit a store very quickly after they do that. Lastly, also, it's important to note that 89% of all retail sales ... This is a US stat, but it's still an interesting stat, that 89% of retail sales are still offline, meaning that offline sales, local journeys, consumers looking online, they're motivated to purchase, and they are purchasing offline.
But what has changed? Well, what I'm thinking and what I'm talking about is that the revolution will not be televised. So what does that mean? Well, big brands, in the old days, they used to spend millions of dollars on TV advertising, billboards, radio, newspapers, and there was a lot of brand wars. McDonald's versus Burger King, and Pepsi versus Coke. But when consumers today look online, 90% of them are not certain of the brand that they are looking for.
And what that means to me, and what that suggests to me and how consumer behavior has changed, is that reviews have leveled the playing field. And what does that mean? Well, I'd like to think of it as a street fight, a local street fight. Meaning that proximity, when consumers are conducting searches in their area, they are looking for stuff in their area, and they're choosing small businesses, because they can verify them as well as the bigger brands.
So, social validation happened. Consumers can instantly verify, then also consumers can get information everywhere, any time, with their smartphones, and also lastly, that's because local search was a game changer, and it completely changed the way that consumers search. So it also should completely change the way that we market to customers.
And one of the reasons we looked at producing our own global benchmark report on reputation management and reviews, was because we wanted to answer some questions. And those questions were: What exactly is the power of a review? How reviews turn consumers into customers? How do business replies impact reviews? And what factors increase online engagement?
And with this study, we analyzed 64,000 locations in four different countries. Small, enterprise, and global businesses. We measured star rating, reply rate, and review volume, and we defined "consumer engagement" as a consumer that engaged with the GMB profile and asked for directions, made a phone call, or clicked on the website directly.
What did we find? We found that review star rating really matters. Even an increase of just 0.1 stars can increase engagement by 25%. If we look at the data a little bit more deeper, we find that this 25% increase happens from a 4.3 to a 4.4, and also that engagement peaks to businesses at around the 4.9 mark.
Interestingly enough, though, it drops at the five star rating, because we think that it's a trust factor. Consumers don't trust businesses that have pure five star ratings. But when we also look at across SMB, enterprise, and global, we find that the five star-rated global brands actually have a bump, probably because consumers trust that they're not going to have so many false reviews. But also, we see that SMB, small businesses, have higher engagement until the 4.4 mark, and then the larger brands tend to take over, and have a rise in their engagement.
So, a little bit about Google's rankings and the algorithms. So, a high star rating actually helps you rank for quality searches. So an example of this is when a consumer puts in like, "top, highest, best of." So you know, "best coffee shop in my area, highest rated florist near me." These type of things.
When people put in these searches, unless you have a minimum of a 4.0 rating, you are not considered to rank in the Google three pack for these very qualitative searches. And also, what we find is that, if you want to be in the three pack, you sort of have to have a rating around the 4.4 to 4.6 mark.
Responding to reviews increases customer engagement
Reply rate is your golden ticket to engagement. What I mean by that is, businesses that reply have a lot more engagement than businesses that don't. The ones that are replying to around 10%, so basically one in 10 reviews, are achieving 80% less engagement than those that are replying to every three out of every 10 reviews. So it's a massive increase of engagement, but also it suggests that brands really need to take action here, and start engaging their customers and replying to their customers online. Not just on GMB, but on all the review platforms where your customers will be engaging with you.
Who replies the most? It's SMBs on average, and global brands are the worst. Also, which ratings get the most replies? Well, if you see there, one and five star ratings tend to get the most. That's because humans kind of like extremes. We like to answer back to those that gave us really negative reviews, and we like to pat ourselves on the back for the five star ratings that we got.
But there is an opportunity in that two to three star rating mark, where if you're replying to lukewarm reviews, there's probably a ... You may get a consumer to change their review to be more positive, if you're replying to somebody who had a lukewarm experience, if you promise to improve, if you offer to solve the problem. So, we also think that replying to two and three stars is definitely something that brands should work on.
Let's just quickly look at the findings across the markets. What we found was that the US actually gets, from consumers, highest engagement, and that the UK has around about half as much engagement as consumers in the US. Also, Germany is coming down there at a lowly 1.5%, doing the worst. Why is this, though?
We see that it actually correlates quite well with which businesses engage which customers the most in which country. So, 23%, that's the average engagement rate of US businesses, versus 13% in the UK. Again, almost double the average reply rate in the US to the UK.
And the US versus UK by business size. We also found that this was really interesting too. Global brands in the US actually reply on average the most, and that's the only market where that happens. But in the UK it's completely different. Only 0.2% of our global brand locations reply.
They almost never reply, and this is obviously not great, but it's a massive opportunity for global brands to understand what they can do to reach more customers, and also a massive opportunity for everyone else to get in there because of the fact that global brands aren't replying to reviews, but also a large portion of the market aren't really doing a good job either.
Why you should care?
Not specifically just about reviews, but about the findings in our report? Well, a top-down approach will no longer suffice for larger brands. So thinking global, and neglecting local is not a great recipe for success. Global brands that reply tend to get higher engagements than SMBs and enterprise, so you kind of need to think about integrating them into your strategy.
SMBs can beat the big boys up until the 4.5 mark. So again, really need to think about that. And lastly, like I've just said, only a small portion of businesses reply to their reviews, so massive opportunity for every business size across the board there, if you get a reputation management strategy in place.
How can you improve star rating and engagement? Well, firstly, it's good to represent your brand's location information accurately online, making sure that what you promise online, the information that you have, actually matches the in-store experience has, so that when they come back online and give you a review, that it's more likely to be positive.
Also, having an authentic brand personality online. The tone, how you speak to consumers. Others customers read those reviews as well, or consumers. So, making sure you have that authentic brand personality and that you are visible online. And also, lastly, engaging customers everywhere they are talking about you and to you is also very, very important, not just, for instance, on GMB.
Google uses reviews to match businesses with search intent. So I just did a quick search as well for "cocktails best service in San Francisco." And I found, interestingly enough, that they bring up related searches. Once I choose a business, they bring up related reviews to what I've actually searched.
So if I've searched "best service," the reviews that come up are "excellent service" for one, "super helpful manager and great staff," "tasty cocktails and quick service." So, Google actually uses reviews to match search intent, so that's super interesting too.
How can you approach the process of building trust?
Well, let's take a look at ... I looked at a blog recently that showed some tips for dating, and they actually match up really well with how we talk about reputation management and how we should think about it.
So, some of the main things here. Mutual respect, trust, honesty, good communication, and a sense of playfulness. All these things are key in finding the right partner, but also the right customer too. Now, to look at a few of these dating tips and match it up with businesses.
So, firstly, you're supposed to present your authentic self. And like I've already talked a little bit, if you're going to fill out a dating profile, it's not like, "I like long walks on the beach," or "I enjoy a coffee." If you want the right partner, you need to be engaged in saying exactly who you are and what you want out of that partner, and that same thing is true for businesses.
Your online information needs to be correct. You need to say what you offer the world, and what you offer your consumers, so that you get and attract the right customers. Also, having accurate information is a major factor in ranking for more unbranded search. We have a petrol company that we work with, that they don't just obviously do petrol, but they also have a coffee brand. They also have a supermarket brand.
So, by optimizing their locations online and having that information also accurately represented on maps, we can help them to rank the searches that involve "coffee near me," "supermarket near me," "petrol station near me" as well. And they also start ranking for products that they serve as well. You know, "sandwich" or something like this. So, it's deeper than just at the brand level. It's about products and services that you offer as well.
Also, customers are willing to change reviews, when a business responds. When you talk to them, it's amazing. 33% of them who leave a negative review will post a positive one if you reply. And 34% will delete the negative review altogether. That's from a study in 2011, but it is still very relevant today.
Tip two, deal with trust issues. If you are listening, learning, and trying to solve problems from your customers, they might give you a second chance if you've done something wrong. This has been proven time and again. It's not based on nothing. This is literally best practice about how to engage with customers online, and also, make sure you're aware of the scorned customer. They can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. They can go and tell everyone not to go to your location, or go and tell all their friends and family that you are amazing, and that they'd bring you home to the folks.
Tip three, nurture the relationship. Invest your time in the relationship with your customers. Understand the value in doing so. A good relationship, like I said, gets you brought home to the family. They show all their friends, and that's better than just having customers send a review and for you not to reply. If you are replying, they read it. Everyone else reads it, and the value of that, the value of creating that customer evangelist, is it just them, or is it 50 others that they might bring in? This is the way that you have to think about every reply that you give to a customer online on all the review platforms.
Tip four, handle rejection gracefully. So they don't like you. That happens. You try and solve the problem, and they're not interested. Again, it happens. Don't take it personally. See if there is any way to improve for next time, so that they don't have that bad customer experience in the store in the first place.
How can you get more good reviews?
Well, you can start by giving customers cards in-store, telling them to go back online and give you a good review. I mean, they've got their phones with them, so they might do it right there. Get customers to sign up to mailing lists, and email customers who you know will give you a good review as well. Be present wherever they are talking about you, and ask them directly for reviews on all the major review platforms like Trustpilot.
And also, how do you do that? Well, third party platforms like Uberall do help you to manage your information and your reviews, making that process a lot easier at the location level. Final thoughts, engaging across a spectrum of digital platforms. So, this is what a fragmented ecosystem online look like. Many different platforms out there, and these are all the platforms where consumers go to find answers.
That's why it's important to manage your listings online, and to also engage with them on the many review platforms there, that they're also engaging with you, wanting answers, but also giving their verdict on your brand location. And also, just to talk a little bit about the "Near Me" experience, the "Near Me" brand experience, Uberall is the "Near Me" brand experience platform. We offer businesses a better experience at every touchpoint.
But how is this different from location marketing? So, we feel that location marketing focuses on business locations and optimizing them. It doesn't so much take into consideration every touchpoint of the consumer journey, which is what we focus on primarily. That's ensuring that, not only do consumers find you and like you, and also eventually buy you, but that they recommend you afterwards, and that they come back later.
So we're looking at the entire consumer journey, that they are going to give you positive reviews. They're going to then encourage others to come to your brand, and building a solid brand experience across every single consumer touchpoint. That's what our brand does.
And at this point, I'd like to just bring Peter back in again to discuss the Uberall and Trustpilot partnership. Peter, if you'd like to talk us through a little bit about how we work together to create this "Near Me" brand experience and help our customers with reviews and reputation?
Choosing Trustpilot reviews
We absolutely understand at Trustpilot that we're not on our own. Using Trustpilot for reviews can't be your whole social media and reputation management strategy. So therefore, we embrace and engage with companies like Uberall, who support businesses that, of course, are pulling their arm around all the feedback they're getting, and providing one system where they can see the reviews and feedback they're getting across multiple channels, and then reply to that, which is obviously very efficient if they can do it from one system across multiple channels.
So therefore, at Trustpilot, we have a number of integrations with the market leading players, in terms of customer service platforms and location management systems, and so we're very pleased to work with Uberall, so that our joint customers can see their Trustpilot reviews within their Uberall dashboard, alongside Google and Facebook, and other types of reviews. They can then understand that on a location basis, as well as a whole business basis, and then allow different people within that organization to apply and understand exactly that sort of functionality that we will provide.
And I think we announced our partnership not too long ago, and we've already got a number of customers that we're supporting together, so we're very excited for the future. I think the next slide just shows a little bit more detail, but essentially, once you're within your Uberall dashboard, the Trustpilot reviews will be organized by the particular location, and then whoever's responsible for that location can then read those reviews, understand a local score for them, but also most importantly, then be able to respond.
Obviously, the more localized that response is, I guess the more personal it is, and therefore the more effective it is. But also, I guess those roles and responsibilities, you can have a centralized team as well. That gives you help to tone of voice, and more.
If you'd like to learn more about reviews and the importance of social proof today, check out our blog post below!