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How to Use Online Reviews to Market to Different Generations

If you’re running an online store, you probably know that product reviews are important – but you may not realize just how important.

Product reviews are actually the second most important factor for customers when shopping online.

And local businesses, such as restaurants, have it twice as hard. Not only do reviews affect the likelihood of finding new customers, they also make up around 15% of how Google chooses to rank them against other local businesses.

So, if you’re trying to beat the local competition, having better online reviews could nudge you ahead of the game. This is easier said than done, however, and some businesses will find it harder than others. It all depends on who you’re marketing to!

Different generations have different ways of researching and shopping online – some are more trusting than others, and some place customer reviews above brand loyalty when shopping around.

How Do Different Generations Shop and Review Online?

There have been many inter-generational shots fired about behavior over the years – from “lazy Millennials” to “out of touch Boomers” – but what about online behaviors? Did you know that different generations behave differently in how they navigate, use, and even shop on the internet?

We created this infographic to shine a light on the online review habits of each generation – and to help store owners understand exactly how powerful customer feedback can be.

online reviews by generation statistics infographic

Don’t Count on Brand Loyalty From Restless Gen Zs and Millennials

Gen Zs and Millennials (16 to 34-year-olds) are frequent buyers, but they’re also the least loyal generation – they shop around the most, meaning you need a lot of reviews to win them over. They’re a great audience to target if you want lots of engagement from your customers – but you need to be willing to put the work in too, as they expect brands to interact with them online.

Gen Zs and Millennials may be making the most purchases online – averaging 344 transactions per year – but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax, expecting to see their money consistently come rolling in.

This young generation isn’t afraid to shop around, with less importance placed on brand loyalty than older age groups. 51% of Gen Zs and Millennials research businesses on a daily basis, compared to just 6% of Boomers!

That means companies targeting 16 to 34-year-olds need to work a lot harder to catch – and keep – their customers’ attention and long-term loyalty. Part of that hard work is living up to this generation’s high expectations.

Gen Zs and Millennials are a pretty cautious bunch, and need the most amount of reviews to feel confident in a product. In fact, they expect to see a whopping 181 reviews – that’s 4.5 times more than Boomers!

So don’t expect your young shoppers to rush into any decisions – Gen Zs and Millennials take the longest amount of time reading reviews before deciding whether to make a purchase. Averaging over 18 minutes reading online reviews, Gen Zs and Millennials take almost twice as long as Boomers to feel confident making a purchase.

The Benefits of Engaging Gen Zs and Millennials

Once you’ve won Gen Zs and Millennials over, you’ll find yourself with a vocal, engaged, and socially connected customer base – one that’s prepared to give back in terms of sharing new reviews and rewarding social media content.

For one, Gen Zs and Millennials have the highest digital buyer penetration, at nearly 85%. That means a third more of Gen Zs and Millennials are making purchases via digital channels than Boomers!

If you need to up the number of reviews for your business, Gen Zs and Millennials are the golden generation to target – they leave the most reviews online, with 80% of 16 to 34-year-olds having written online reviews in 2019.

Although often mocked for their attachment to their phones, it makes Gen Zs and Millennials talented on-the-go reviewers, with 50% posting reviews via mobile. This opens up the ways you can interact with your customers – whether via social media, apps, or even videos, mobile presents opportunities for new and fun ways of gaining customer reviews.

You don’t get this level of engagement for free, however – you have to return the favor. Gen Zs and Millennials expect a lot of engagement from brands they consider buying from – on average, they expect to see no less than 13 Q&As on product pages.

So, simply banging out an old fashioned product description isn’t quite enough to win over new generations. You need to be prepared to go above and beyond to engage and interact with your younger customers.

Top Tip!

One of the best ways of engaging with younger customers is to try out new channels, embrace social media, and put your products in the hands of people your customers follow and trust. Yep, you might’ve guessed it – we’re talking about influencers. 

Influencers are all about making themselves heard – and Millennials and Gen Zs listen. Over a third said that their trust in a brand would increase after seeing an influencer promotion or review online.

Apart from being a great way to reach a wider audience, influencer marketing also builds trust with younger generations. And you’re not only limited to Instagram – 40% of Twitter users say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.

Gen Xs: The Unsung Heroes

Gen Xs (35 to 55-year-olds) often get overlooked as the middle-ground generation, but businesses would do well to pay a little more attention to them. Often in the peak of their careers and starting or caring for young families, Gen Xs are surprisingly high value customers. They’re frequent shoppers who are less difficult to please than Gen Zs and Millennials, and who are more tech savvy than Boomers.

On average, Gen Xs only spend about $1k less than Gen Zs and Millennials per year – and they need less convincing to trust your brand in the first place. Gen Xs only need to see 116 reviews before feeling confident enough to make a purchase (that’s 37% fewer than younger generations).

Gen Xs also spend around five minutes less reading online reviews than Gen Zs and Millennials, meaning they’re quicker to sell to.

So, how can you connect with Gen Xs and persuade them to trust your brand and buy your products or services? Well, you’d better dust your cameras off, because Gen Xs want to see more product videos than any other generation.

In fact, on average, Gen Xs expect to see four videos on a single product page – that’s double the amount of videos that Boomers want to see!

Top Tip!

Making the most of video is a great way to attract Gen X customers. And it’s worth putting the effort in – 46% use the internet to research local businesses on a daily basis, so they’re savvy enough to shop around before settling on a brand.

All in all, Gen Xs are an often untapped and under-appreciated customer audience that offer a pretty sweet market value. On average, Gen Xs spend around $60 per transaction – to get in on that action, tailor your marketing across multiple devices, and make use of video to start drawing in Gen X customers.

Boomers: Businesses Who Earn Their Trust Will Get Continued High Rewards

Boomers (over 55-year-olds) get a bad rep for being behind the times when it comes to tech, but this doesn’t mean you should ignore them. In fact, Boomers spend the most per transaction, and are quicker to trust established brands. It’s important to get as many good reviews as possible if you’re selling to Boomers, however, as they’re less likely to trust brands with low star ratings than Gen Zs and Millennials.

If your target audience is made up primarily of over 55-year-olds, then you could have a lucrative customer base on your hands. On average, Boomers spend $5 more than 18 to 34-year-olds in each transaction – and they’re faster to trust brands than younger shoppers.

In fact, Boomers spend less than 10 minutes reading reviews before making a decision. It helps that they only expect to read 42 reviews to feel confident enough to buy a product – four times fewer than Gen Zs and Millennials!

This means Boomers are much less likely to shop around and scroll through every review you have before finally committing – on the whole, they’re less concerned with saving money, so they act faster and spend more per transaction.

Boomers are also less inclined to scour all corners of the internet to find products, reviews, or new businesses. Most over 55-year-olds prefer more traditional channels, so choose your marketing methods wisely – for example, four out of five Boomers don’t know what an influencer is!

Top Tip!

You should make it as easy as possible to leave reviews on your website, as half of Boomers prefer leaving reviews directly on business websites rather than posting on Google. That’s 50% more wanting to leave reviews on your site than Gen Zs and Millennials.

So far, you might be thinking that Boomers sound like much easier customers to sell to than cautious, money-saving Millennials, but here’s the catch – Boomers can be tricky targets for new businesses.

That’s because they’re not interested in being guinea pigs for new or low-rated brandsonly 7% would try a business with one to two stars. In contrast, 26% of Gen Zs and Millennials said they would try a business with the same rating.

On top of that, 48% of Boomers said they would expect a minimum four star rating in order to use a business – so you’ll need to work hard to achieve a high average!

Although Boomers spend more per transaction than Millennials, they also make fewer purchases. This makes them better customers for businesses selling high quality, low frequency products, such as sofas or jewelry.

Building a trustworthy and consistent long-term brand is in your best interests when selling to Boomers – especially when marketing expensive items. 

In comparison to Gen Zs and Millennials, when buying items that cost over $100, Boomers place more importance on knowing and trusting a brand than on product reviews.

How to Market to Different Generations

Once you’re clear which channels your customers are using, you can decide on the best ways to get your products in front of your customers. For starters, you should:

  • Ensure your site is mobile-friendly
  • Stay active on social media – especially when marketing to younger generations
  • Optimize your site for search engines
  • Decide if influencer marketing is appropriate for your audience
  • Make user reviews easy to find and read, no matter the channel (e.g. on your website, on social media, on Google, etc.)

Understanding how different generations find products, and how they make their purchasing decisions, is essential for connecting with your customers. Here are some key insights to help you get the most out of your shoppers…

  • It’s still worth investing in SEO – 52% of internet users still use search engines to find what they’re looking for. 
  • If you’re targeting a young demographic, make the most of social channels! 16 to 24-year-olds are already favoring social media over search engines as their go-to method for online research.  
  • Remember that Gen Xs prefer video to social media, with over three quarters downloading or streaming videos at least once per month. They’re also very connected on the go – 95% of Gen Xs use mobile phones!
  • Nearly 40% of Boomers spend most of their time online in the morning, between 5am and noon, whereas nearly 80% more Millennials and Gen Xs than Boomers are consuming content from 8pm onwards. This can be useful for timing your content more effectively!
  • Although 60% of Boomers follow brands on social media for deals and promotions, 79% said they don’t follow any influencers online – so don’t go overboard with your social marketing if you’re selling to Boomers.

How to Encourage More Reviews

One of the best ways to encourage more customer reviews is to tap into the magic R word – rewards. As consumers, we love rewards, competitions, and exclusive treats, so make full use of this and offer small rewards for leaving reviews.

Here are some ideas to get you started – when your customers leave a review, they could:

  • Get entered into a prize draw
  • Unlock a discount
  • Earn points and “level-up” to become a top reviewer (like on Amazon)
  • Receive a personalized thank-you email

It’s important to point out that these rewards apply to any review, good or bad – otherwise you’re just bribing your customers, which will not earn you trust.

Other simple ways to encourage reviews include:

  • Making it easy to leave reviews
  • Embracing multiple channels and ways of leaving reviews – think social, Google, forms, apps, etc!
  • Sending a follow-up email asking for feedback
  • Making use of surveys 
  • Asking questions and interacting with customers in the reviews or comments sections

Dealing with negative reviews is an unavoidable and necessary part of running a business. Only 12% of businesses said that they respond to every review, meaning that if you can step up and smash your engagement with customers, then you’ll be well ahead of the competition.

Why Customers Leave Reviews

The top reason people leave a positive online review is to help others make better buying decisions, while the top reason for leaving a bad review is to warn others in the online community.

Customers have their fellow shoppers at heart – if you show that you do, too, then you’ll be taking a huge step towards better customer trust!

To further build on that trust, you need happy customers to speak out. The top three factors for increasing trust in a brand are:

  • Company has a good online reputation
  • Company has positive customer reviews
  • Quick customer service

However, that doesn’t mean you should simply ignore – or worse, delete – negative reviews. Take a look at the top factors for decreasing trust:

  • Company deletes negative customer comments or reviews
  • Company has negative customer reviews
  • Website URL is not secure

Aside from making sure your website has SSL security, you need to address any negative comments, while trying to encourage as many good reviews as possible. This can be tricky, seeing as only one in 10 happy customers actually leave reviews!

It’s vital to find a way of getting those happy customers to become more vocal, though – remember that it takes 40 good reviews to combat the effect of just one bad review. That’s a pretty tough figure to tackle.

So, how can you turn a negative experience into a positive brand interaction? 

The key here is engagement. A third of consumers expect personal interaction from brands after leaving a negative review – so responding in a polite and proactive way can work magic for building customer trust in your business.

Here are our top tips for dealing with negative reviews in a positive way:

  • Reply to bad reviews, rather than simply ignoring or deleting them.
  • Respond quickly.
  • Give the customer the option to pursue the matter via a more private channel, such as email or phone – they’ll appreciate the personal touch!
  • Be polite – don’t get defensive, even if you feel the issue wasn’t your fault.
  • Thank the customer for their feedback, even if it was negative!
  • Let them know how and when the issue has been resolved – don’t leave them hanging.

By dealing with less-than-shining reviews in a professional and productive way, you give other customers faith that even if something does go wrong with their order, they can trust your business to respond positively.

Product and Customer Reviews Wrap-Up

Whether you’re selling avocados to Millennials or embracing good old-fashioned marketing methods to engage Boomers, understanding each generation will do wonders for your business. It’ll help you know where and how to market, and what to do to encourage your customers to leave reviews for your business.

Reviews are an essential part of building an online brand, and when it comes to those precious reviews, getting the most out of your customers counts.

We’ve unravelled the stats, and revealed just how much your generation can affect your online habits. We’ve also shown how businesses should take this information to provide a better shopping experience… and boost their sales while they’re at it!

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