by Erin Schroeder

It’s not a new concept. We know that people have always put a lot of stock into what their inner circles have to say about products and services. If a friend has a bad experience, this could easily sway another friend – and would-be purchaser – right on over to the next brand.

But what about the opinions of a complete stranger?

According to an article in the Consumerist, nearly 70% of shoppers are now turning to online reviews as part of the purchasing process. They’re not just clicking “add to cart” or choosing a company to do business with after landing on the first solution that interests them. Instead, web-savvy buyers are reading the scoop shared by others and studying reviews before making a commitment.

So with the surge in online reviews and their relevance nowadays, what does your business need to keep in mind? Here are three fundamentals:

• Know what people are saying. Always be monitoring. You should be informed about the reviews floating around out there – good or bad – with mention of your brand. Although we can’t control what people say in the online space, we can use that feedback to address any issues or concerns.

• Know what channels they’re using to say it. Where is your customer base most likely to leave a review? If you offer any sort of local service, take a look at Google My Business, Yelp or Angie’s List. Depending on your industry, check specific forums like TripAdvisor or Reseller Ratings, too.

• Encourage genuine reviews from your customers. Have some really happy customers? Encourage them to leave online reviews! The more positive comments people see, the better your chances for winning some new business.

With today’s online shopping experience, word of mouth is still a really big deal, but it’s not just our friends and family who affect purchasing decisions anymore. Anyone can be an influencer, so it’s essential to stay on top of how people are talking about your brand and where they are having those conversations.