What beats online ratings and reviews?

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Today’s prospects will have undoubtedly hit the internet to research a potential boat purchase from a dealer(s), which begs the question: Do online ratings and reviews really have any impact and influence the outcome? The answer: yes, but prospects trust their colleagues more.

I suppose the question comes to mind because these days it seems like we get asked to rate and review just about every business we deal with from the car-service department to my bank. And, of course, they pretty much ask for a positive rating.

Maybe it’s all because recent research indicates many people will actually spend hours looking online at product information or for just the right deal. And many will quickly drop consideration of any product or dealership unless it has accumulated enough positive ratings and reviews.

So, online ratings (normally stars) and reviews are important and, accordingly, something marine dealers should monitor in the general course of today’s business. Indeed, experts advise if you get a bad review, responding to it positively and immediately is very important.

All that said, however, a majority of US internet users say above all, they trust their family, friends or colleagues for buying recommendations, according to February 2019 data from Oracle as reported by eMarketer. Put another way, the study showed internet users trust their inner circle far more than they'd trust any fellow online consumers, sales people in a store, or even influencers. It clearly gives added importance to keeping up good relationships with existing customers.

Drilling down demographically to look at our primary targets for boat sales, the study revealed: 87 percent of Baby Boomers (age 55-75) cite family and colleagues as tops for trust and influence; 87 percent of Gen Xers (age 40-54) and 86 percent of Millennials (age 25-39) cited the same. In contrast, when it came to trusting in-store employees, it was Boomers 25 percent, Xers 24 percent and Millennials 27 percent.

Further, in trusting fellow consumers online, the numbers actually dropped to Boomers just 14 percent, Xers 22 percent and Millennials only 24 percent. Now I don’t point that out to imply it’s unimportant, just putting it in perspective.

It’s also notable that nearly seven in 10 internet users surveyed by a community-driven online review platform, Brightpearl and Trustpilot, said they primarily focus on star ratings when judging a brand or retailer. Moreover, the number and age of the reviews also are important. About 61 percent of respondents said the quantity of reviews influences them while 44 percent focused on only on the most recent reviews.

Can the system be gamed? Of course. According to Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer: “Consumers understand that online ratings and reviews can be gamed. They view the quantity of reviews as a way of immunizing from the distorting effects of fake reviews, while also serving as a proxy for a brand having an established track record. They also know that products and experiences can erode over time, so they place additional weight on the most recent reviews. In the absence of direct social proof from a trusted friend, applying these mental filters allows shoppers to overcome the trust hurdle,” he contends.

So, are online ratings and reviews important? Yes, and should be attended to. But, far more central are the positive relationships every dealer should strive to maintain with existing customers who, after all, could be those most trusted friends and colleagues a prospect may turn to.

Speaking of Digital Marketing

While we’re on the subject of digital marketing today, dealers in general and particularly those located within a reasonable distance of Tampa should plan to attend the third annual Grow Boating Marketing Summit, an Special Event at IBEX on Monday, Sept. 30.

Entitled “Digital Marketing: Charting Your Course for Success,” attendees will: Learn about the forces shaping the digital landscape; Gain insight from leading marketing experts; Discover actionable strategies to engage your customers; and Hear about emerging trends and technologies. Presenters & sessions will include:

  • Mari Smith, Mari Smith International, Inc.: “Facebook Marketing in a Changing World: What you Need to Know”
  • Heather Lutze, Findability University: “Findability: Accelerating Your Online Results”
  • Marcus Sheridan, Marcus Sheridan International, Inc.: “The Shift: How Sales, Marketing and Customer Experience have Changed Forever and What Businesses Must Do About It”
  • Jack Ellis, Info Link Technologies, Inc.: “The Who Behind the How: The People We Need to Reach with Digital Marketing”
  • Steve Pizzolato, AVALA, A Rollick Company: “The Boomer & The Millennial: A Generational Conversation on Digital Marketing”
  • Julie Hagemann, ICF Next: “The Boomer & The Millennial: A Generational Conversation on Digital Marketing”

There is special Early Bird pricing ending August 15. REGISTER HERE

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