3 ideas to build your online reputation and drive sales

How your online reputation is earned in the digital age is a constant question for marketers and business owners. A 2011 report by the Australian Centre for Retail Studies showed ratings and reviews to be the second most important influencer for online shopping (after free shipping incentives), and 65% of consumers said they’d be more likely to make a purchase if it had product ratings and reviews (Bazaarvoice).

User reviews are proven sales drivers, particularly in the travel, hospitality and retails sectors but any business can benefit from positive customer endorsements.

Here are 3 ideas to help you build your online reputation and drive sales:

1. Be Proactive

Make sure you have a website. This is usually the first stop for interested consumers to find out a little bit more about you. It helps search engines point people to the right place and gives you the platform to establish your brand and what you offer. It’s also a great place to publish a few of your glowing endorsements.

If you’re an online retailer why not make product reviews and ratings available directly on your site? These will add credibility to your site and save consumers the hassle of locating product reviews externally. Which they will! Remember, the more time they’re on your site, the less time they’re on your competitors’.

Shoebuy: Shoebuy is the world’s largest site for shoes. They display customer comments and ratings directly below each product, helping new customers to assess fit, design, and comfort levels before buying. They also reward customers for leaving comments with a points program. Allowing enthusiastic customers to earn discounts on their site. As they add more buyer friendly features their online reputation continues to grow.

2. Embrace The Negative

How you approach negative feedback is just as critical as building positive comments when it comes to your online reputation. Remember that potential customers will see your response and form opinions based on your reaction. If you can turn a customer’s opinion around they could become one of your best brand advocates.

A four-step, face-saving, approach will help you deal with any bad reviews:

  1. Thank the reviewer for their feedback
  2.  Acknowledge their dissatisfaction (and anything you are doing to avoid the same situation from happening again)
  3. Point out some of the positive aspects of your business
  4. Invite them back (preferably encouraging them to contact you personally)

You might also be surprised to know that negative reviews handled well can actually encourage customers to make positive purchasing decisions. “Negative reviews increase perceived authenticity of websites review systems and convince customers they have researched thoroughly enough to make a purchase decision” (Frank Gilbert, managing director, Solutionists).

3. Build a Brand Ambassador Program

If you’ve been in business for a few years and have some loyal followers you might want to consider launching a brand ambassador program. We all know how powerful word-of-mouth is, so give your most influential customers their own outlet to help you grow your online reputation. Approach customers who already promote your brand by sharing it with friends, tweeting, posting or commenting on how much they love your products or services and reward them for their endorsements. This doesn’t mean overloading them with gifts or freebies mind you. Instead, show your appreciation in thoughtful ways. You might want to host “ambassador only” events or sales. Or allow them to product test new items before they are released. You could even dedicate an area of your website or Facebook page to your ambassadors so they can submit their own content and ideas publicly.

Fiskars: Fiskars is a global craft and stationary products brand. In 2006 they established a community led program for their Fiskateers – ambassadors of crafting and Fiskars. The Fiskateers’ website offers new ways for Fiskateers to showcase their work, share their passion, and be inspired by the papercrafters around them. They host regular events and classes, have an open craft forum and their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, and it’s all driven by 1000′s of passionate customers.