It’s no exaggeration to say that positive online customer reviews are the holy grail for most food and drink businesses – whether you’re selling products online, you have a store or you run a restaurant or bar.
According to BrightLocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, making them the single most trustworthy and credible source of “advertising” out there.
The same BrightLocal survey also found that positive reviews make 73% of customers trust a business more, and 57% of customers visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews.
What this all means is that for businesses to grow in today’s competitive, online-first marketplace, they need happy customers sharing positive reviews of their experiences in order to even get visitors coming to their website or eating at their restaurant for the first time.
So what do you do about it? Well, there are lots of options for collecting customer reviews, as well as platforms where you’ll get reviews whether you want them or not. So it’s time to get to know the key players…
1. Google reviews
Who is it for? Everyone
Noticed those stars which pop up when you search Google for a business these days? Those are reviews gathered via Google My Business.
Google uses distance and location ranking parameters to deliver improved local search results. So, in order for your business’ website to be properly optimised for search, you’ll want to set up a verified account with Google My Business. Getting reviews, comments, pictures, and so on, especially on Google, can give you a boost in search.
You can manage your reviews via the platform – and by manage, I mean you can respond to reviews and also invite customers to leave you reviews using a generated link.
Anyone can leave a Google review, and there have been reports at various times of abuse of the system with fake reviews. But with Google dominating the search market, and the internet in general, the question for businesses in this particular instance is whether you can afford not to use the service.
Price: varies, although you can get a free trial
Who is it for? Online retailers
Feefo is pretty straightforward. A person comes to your site and buys a product. Feefo then sends an automated email requesting a review, and a simple form is provided for the user to make the review.
The ratings are published on your site and show up on search engines. And you can also share them on social media. You can also send out review requests, and access various other management tools depending on the type of plan you select with them.
Feefo reviews are also submitted to Google, Bing and Yahoo which is great for your product SEO.
Who is it for? Online retailers
Reevoo works in a very similar way to Feefo, although it’s a younger company and not as popular in the UK as Feefo by a stretch. However, Reevoo tends to be used by mid- and enterprise-sized companies, whereas Feefo is better for small- and mid-sized companies.
Price: Free plan available, but with limited features – other plans available
Who is it for? Everyone – with a long list of companies in the food and drink industry
TrustPilot is one of the big guns of the online review industry. It’s a community-driven platform which helps companies collect customer reviews.
As well as being able to send out requests for reviews, and feature those reviews on your website, there is also an active TrustPilot community where users go directly to the site to review companies.
While they have a basic version for free (this lets you create a profile page and collect customer reviews, as well as respond to them), their paid versions allow you to create customisable review invitations, share ratings and reviews on social media, and link review data to your internal business systems.
TrustPilot is a well known brand in the UK, and therefore has clout with consumers. But beware of over managing your profile in attempt to bump up your score – this will look suspicious to consumers who are becoming savvy to the ways of online reviewing.
Price: Variable depending on which features you want to use
Who is it for? Restaurants
OpenTable is specifically for the restaurant industry, and isn’t just a review platform. From a consumer point of view, it allows them to find restaurants and book a table with them.
From the restaurant’s point of view it provides a range of software that, at the basic end, helps you manage reservations. At the complex (and pricier) end it’s pretty comprehensive, providing everything from a searchable guest book to monthly business reports.
The problem with OpenTable for many restaurants can be balancing the upfront cost of the platform against the additional bookings they may get through using the platform.
Who is it for? Technically, everyone – but in the food and drink industry, it’s mainly used by restaurants, bars and cafés.
Any business can set up a profile on Yelp for free, and users can set up their own free profiles to review a business. And you can respond to reviewers too.
It’s worth being aware that Yelp has faced criticism over the past few years for some questionable practices, like incentivising businesses to advertise with them in exchange for gaming the search results for their business.
Because Yelp profile information contains things like opening hours and location information, your profile will often turn up when people Google your business. So it’s worth being aware that it’s more visible than it might at first appear.
Another thing worth knowing is that Yelp does not post all of the reviews you get. Instead, they have an algorithm that determines which reviews appear and in which order. This mostly depends on the user – it favours users that have given a lot of reviews, have photos, and have Yelp “friends”.
In practice, this means that if one of your customers gives you a review and they’ve just created a profile to do so, with no picture or information on their account, it’s likely that the review may not be displayed.
Price: Free, but with lots of added features if you pay
Who’s it for? Restaurants, cafés, bars
If you aren’t actively managing a TripAdvisor profile at the moment, that doesn’t mean your business isn’t on there. So you might want to see what’s being said.
TripAdvisor is the largest travel site in the world, with over 400 million reviews, opinions, and photos taken by travellers. A lot of people look there before making deciding where to eat – especially if they’re visiting somewhere new (whether that’s for a holiday, weekend away or a business trip).
To be successful on TripAdvisor you’ll need to make it as close to the top of their popularity index as possible, so that people searching for information in a specific place see your listing.
You can manage a profile and respond to customer reviews for free, and they also provide things like a widget for your website and bringing reviews across to your Facebook profile. However, they do offer premium services for restaurants too, which gives you the opportunity to make your profile stand out.
Who’s it for? Everyone
Anyone logged into Facebook can post a rating or review of your business. All they have to do is go to the Reviews section of your Facebook page, click the grey stars to choose a rating, and then write an optional review.
Unlike other parts of your page, you can’t remove the reviews section, so it’s worth putting the effort into making sure you have some positive feedback on there.