There is a conversation taking place right now. Somewhere on the web, a consumer is giving an honest review of your brand and that review is influencing another consumer’s intent to purchase. Participating in this conversation is paramount to success: 84% of consumers will research online before making a purchase, and 7 out of 10 people will read online reviews prior to making an online purchase.

Consumers are turning to each other for answers to questions like what to buy, where to shop, how much to spend. When brands allow these conversations on their websites they are increasing on-site engagement, building trust with consumers, and capturing priceless shopper data. Here are three simple reasons why brands need to open up to reviews, now.

Reviews are happening, whether you’re participating or not.

Words of mouth communication is an essential part of life. Humans communicate with each other about everything—especially products, goods, and services. The social nature of modern culture facilitates this communication and cultivates an environment ripe for the sharing of UGC. If you don’t think consumers are reviewing your brand, just check YouTube—you’ll see a number of video reviews.

Negative reviews are a reason many brands are hesitant to allow a ratings and review platform on their site. The old adage, “one rotten apple can spoil the bunch,” is no longer accurate. Negative reviews, when responded to appropriately, can increase sales and retain the customer. So when brands encourage customers to review their goods or services, they’re creating a customer-centric environment that will accomplish both.

Engagement builds trust and affinity.

Customer opinions are more than just information, they are an opportunity for brands to engage with their shoppers and build long-lasting relationships. People want to know they are being heard. When other customers view negative reviews and see a brand’s response, it proves that’s the case. Seeing a branded response to a review makes 41% of consumers think that the brand really cares about consumers. Shoppers who trust your brand have the potential to become brand evangelists, promoting you to other consumers.

Shoppers who read reviews across our top-performing clients show 82% higher conversion than those who don’t. By allowing ratings and reviews on websites, brands are giving consumers the information they want, while increasing on-site engagement and trust.

Actionable data yields smarter decisions.

Consumers are telling you what they want (and don’t). Take advantage of this feedback, real-time data, and intelligence to guide decision making. A recent study from Venture Beat found that 42% of marketers can’t link together data at the customer level to optimize marketing communications. Customer opinions can provide insight into people’s behaviors, preferences and needs. This review data can be digitally archived, analyzed, and used to better serve the needs of consumers.

For example, L.L. Bean uses customer review data to determine shopping trends among their customers. Their product managers monitor ratings daily, and take appropriate action based on those ratings to better address the needs of their shoppers. Information like gender, age, and persona can be collected in addition to sentiment. This data can then be used to create consumer demographics, allowing brands to craft a more personalized shopping experience. Accenture found that 75% of online shoppers preferred when retailers used customer data to personalize the shopping experience. The successful application of review data can deliver improvement to customers’ satisfaction, while at the same time benefiting the brand.

Overall, a customer-centric approach to website content can produce long-term loyalty, retention and increase the life-time value of shoppers.

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