How to build an online reputation
As consumers, we make decisions about who we buy from based on a number of factors including price point and name recognition. However, increasingly, consumers are taking a company’s reputation into consideration. Partly, this is self-serving, for instance if a particular organisation is known to have poor customer service or is caught using low quality goods, consumers may steer clear.
Consumers also make value judgements about the impact a company has on society, just look at the damage caused to Sports Direct’s bottom line because of the alleged treatment of employees. Every so often, a reputational issue hits both spaces. In particular, the Volkswagen emissions scandal affected the social value of the company due to the environmental impact, but also hit consumers’ pockets, as they were probably paying more for diesel than they expected.
But reputation is a tricky thing to manage, and brands only have a certain amount of control. People now have more power over brands than they’ve ever had before, in part due to the rapidly growing influence of third party endorsements. Recommendations from friends and family have always had a great deal of sway over consumer decisions, but the internet and the growth of online reviews in particular have given new credence to the role of research in the consumer journey.
Before a consumer make a purchasing decision, they require a sophisticated level of social proof. Consumers will seek out user-generated content and reviews, looking to find validation for their choices and to better understand the risks associated if something goes wrong.
It’s not just about reaffirming choices though, reputation can also help fledgling businesses build momentum. The best thing any business can hope for is to be talked about for the right reasons, particularly in its early stages when it’s seeking to generate as much positive buzz and get itself seen by as many people as possible.
Not only will a glut of positive reviews help a company differentiate their offer against a better-known competing business, they’ll also experience other, more direct benefits. Our research shows that 83 percent of the online reviews people post are positive, and recent research from Practical Ecommerce has found that as well as the associated reputational benefits, a single positive review can increase conversions by 10 per cent.
To start building this momentum and driving this revenue, the first thing businesses must do is start collecting reviews. Prompting customers is a good way to do this, particularly by sending an email inviting them to leave a review after making a purchase, or when delivery has been made. Not all of these emails will work as well as others though, and best practice dictates that businesses should establish a template and A/B test it to capitalise on what’s working. If the email doesn’t do the job the first time, reminders can be helpful – our customers who use invitation reminders have seen a 35 per cent hit rate of recipients subsequently leaving reviews.
Of course, one of the things that can hold people back from reviews is also a reputation consideration – negative reviews. For as many good reviews as a business will hope for, they’re also bound to get some bad ones too. As a business, it can be tough to read about negative customer experiences, but they can actually be incredibly useful. For one thing, a bad experience is a learning for the company, providing valuable insight on what it needs to improve going forward. Also, a bad review can help provide an element of reliability, by showing customers how bad things get when they do go wrong, and how the company has dealt with it.
The other way in which bad reviews are useful is perhaps less obvious, but people do like to see that the businesses they deal with make the odd mistake. It has the effect of humanising the brand, and as long as the company handles a bad review in the right way, consumers will forgive them for the occasional transgression. Our recent research found that all most people (55 per cent) are looking for from a brand when something goes wrong is an apology, and 46 per cent will forgive a business if it simply shows that it cares enough to try and resolve the issue.
By embracing the power of reputation, online businesses can not only provide reassuring endorsement for customers at the key moment of purchase, but can help drive traffic and conversion in the process. All a business really needs is confidence in its service and products. If it has that, it has nothing to fear from feedback. Even if it does gets a couple of bad reviews, as long as the company deals with them well, the trust customers have in it will only increase.
By Alan Duncan, UK marketing director, Trustpilot
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”