Why are reviews so important to my business?

It's often said that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool out there. It's true too, but this extends beyond friendly chats between friends at the pub. A study carried out in the US in 2014 found that 88 per cent of consumers use online reviews to determine the quality of local businesses. This alone proves it's something you need to think about.

More interest

Well, as the stat above shows, people seem to trust online reviews, and why wouldn't they? Anything you say on your own website is likely to be taken with a pinch of salt, as it's probably biased in favour of your products. An anonymous reviewer, however, has little to gain by talking your company up.
People are understandably careful with their money these days; they want to make sure they can put faith the products and services in which they're investing. If they see only positive reviews online, there's a lot more chance that they'll be ready to part with their cash.

A chance to understand your audience

Years ago, you'd only really have access to professional reviews in magazines and newspapers. These days, though, everyone's a critic. While this can be a curse, it's also a blessing. By reading what your customers are saying about you and your products, you have a chance to react. It may be a case of offering more support to ease certain issues, or perhaps refining a product to ensure it meets people's needs more effectively. Either way, (the majority of) the feedback you receive will be invaluable.

A fruitful online presence

Reviews don't only allow you to build bridges and learn more about your customers, they can also help make you more visible online. With more people writing positive things about your company and its offerings, search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing are more likely to notice you. This should push you up the ranking pages a little, making you easier to spot for potential customers.

Reviews last forever

You should see reviews as a form of marketing, just like conventional word of mouth. The difference here is that reviews published online last for a lot longer than a passing mention or a full-blown marketing campaign.
Once somebody has said something positive about your company on a platform like Google+, or even on TripAdvisor, it stays there for years to come. So every time a potential customer looks for information online in the future, there's a chance they'll land on it. Just be aware that the same is true for negative reviews as well.
...So how do you get reviews?
Unfortunately, reviews don't always just happen by themselves - especially the positive ones. You'll need to go out of your way to encourage them. Start by simply asking your customers to leave some comments on a certain site, or even on your own, and make it as easy as possible by providing the necessary links. Don't expect results from your first attempts either; be prepared to follow up.
Still not getting enough feedback? Create a regular competition, offering to put reviewers into some kind of prize draw. Use your own products as rewards, and you may even get more kind words!

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