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What Is eWOM and Why Does It Matter for Marketers?

Before the internet, when a consumer was looking to buy something they would turn to their friends and family for recommendations. But today, the channel is different but the habit is the same. Today’s connected consumer seeks out recommendations in the form of electronic word of mouth (eWOM). In fact, eWOM has become one of the strongest indicator of social proof for businesses today.

What is electronic word of mouth (eWOM)?

eWOM or electronic word of mouth is the sharing of information about a product or service in the form of social media recommendations, online reviews, or influencer-generated content. This information sharing takes place on search engines like Google and Bing, eCommerce sites like Amazon and eBay, popular apps like Yelp, Nextdoor, and Tripadvisor, and social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, and YouTube.  The influence of eWOM has grown steadily in the last few years and presents a tremendous opportunity for marketers of multi-location businesses.  eWOM is a powerful bridge between online searches and real-world purchase actions. 

Did you know?

  • 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business
  • 84% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals 

Such intriguing data supporting eWOM is only proof that it is becoming a key driver of revenue, and brick-and-mortar businesses must pay attention. 

Why is eWOM more significant than traditional WOM (word of mouth)?

Delivering memorable customer experiences to inspire WOM marketing has been a common practice among brands. Think IKEA’s life-mimicking store showroom experience that inspires customers to remodel their own space and tell others about their experiences. Another example is Dropbox’s referral strategy to offer 500MB of free space to both the referral and the referee. 

The potential of eWOM is even higher than these massively successful brand WOM marketing campaigns. 

For starters, eWOM reaches an audience wider than the immediate or known network of your customer and the local community you serve. It is also supported by the potential for virality, especially if your business is big on local social. 

And, last but not the least, electronic word of mouth has no expiry. It continues to influence and inspire purchase decisions for years and years after it has been published, without any new investment from a business.

What are the most significant eWOM channels for your business?

eWOM has various formats. It could be a text-based electronic word of mouth, pictures, videos, or star ratings. If you are trying to capitalize on eWOM, it is important you make sure you are tapping into all the various formats at your disposal.

Online Reviews: Reviews are often the #1 factor for consumers to make purchase decisions. But it is no one-way street! The success of reviews not only depends on their volume but also on the responses and resolutions your business offers to dissatisfied customers. In fact, 95% of consumers get suspicious if they can’t see any negative reviews. It is also interesting to note that one-third of your current customers may not return to your brand if they don’t get a response to their reviews.

Ratings: Star ratings are a powerful eWOM format. A star rating increase of just 0.1 stars can increase your conversion rates by 25%. Not everybody is invested enough to write a review and may want to express their thoughts about a business just by clicking on start ratings. Responding to ratings is as important as responding to reviews but the scale of such an operation can be difficult to manage. However, you can get help with tools and templates that make this process more efficient.

Social media recommendations: Social media has opened up a variety of opportunities for businesses to drive eWOM. Initially, social recommendations were primarily an altruistic behavior to help others find the right products and businesses. But today, it is often overshadowed by vanity! People tagging a fancy restaurant to imply ‘Look I visited this place’ can be very powerful social proof for the business. Creating interesting content and photo opportunities at your locations is a good way to encourage this type of electronic word of mouth.

 Webpages: Your local pages themselves can be strong avenues to drive your eWOM. Integrating customer reviews, a social media feed,  recommendations, and testimonials on your page can make a positive first impression of your brand.

Images + video reviews: Closely tied to all the above are the more visual formats of eWOM. Reviews accompanied by videos and photos of your business go a long way in offering a real slice of what your brand is like. About 60% of consumers say search results with good images pushed them toward a decision. 

How to control eWOM?

eWOM has a strong and long-lasting influence on your business and how it is perceived today and in the future. Therefore, it is crucial that you take control of the narrative about your brand. While eWOM is completely user-generated, there are ways to get ahead of what may not work in your favor.

Review sentiment analysis: Whether you have a handful of locations or a hundred, it is important to keep an eye on your reviews to get a general pulse on people’s impressions of your brand. Note the common themes of dissatisfaction as well as what people admire so that you can keep improving your products and services. A lot of businesses struggle to do this manually using messy excel sheets that are dense with information. However, there are tools that can help you run and scale these activities across locations.

Regular responses: Just knowing what your customers are saying in reviews won't help unless you actively respond to their queries. Your responses indirectly become your eWOM, as it proves to potential consumers that you care about their experience and are all ears when it comes to resolving issues. In fact, responding to reviews is a great way to control your brand’s story and impression online.

Engagement with your community: Building eWOM that speaks highly of your business means being in touch with the local community you serve. If you are a location-based business, community engagement is about extending offline experiences online. This could be as simple as showcasing an employee of the month for every location on that location’s local Facebook page, posting pictures of your crew volunteering in the community, or holding a local event at your store. By creating local connections in each community you serve you’ll build more authentic, human connections with your customers that will have a ripple effect in your eWOM. 

Is eWOM really trusted?

Developing a positive and long-lasting eWOM takes effort and it is of course important to evaluate if it is worth the time. According to our survey on Review Fraud, 66% of consumers in the US feel fake reviews are a growing problem. The Federal Trade Corporation of the US has also recently led a number of crackdowns on brands that were allegedly concealing negative reviews.

However, in spite of this, it is also true that 90% of consumers consult online reviews before buying online or at stores. Another intriguing piece of data says two-thirds of Facebook users visit a local business page at least once a week, a compelling argument to show how vastly your local audience can be influenced by social media content. 

It is safe to assume the influence eWOM is here to stay and will only intensify as buying journeys continue to originate online and culminate into a purchase at stores.

The important thing to remember is to make the process of building a strong eWOM for your brand manageable and scalable, it is crucial to equip your teams with tools and training. If you want to know how you can leverage eWOM to build your brand's credibility, reach out to our experts at Uberall.

Kasturi Gupta
Kasturi Gupta

Kasturi is part of the content marketing team at Uberall. She's from India and has made Hamburg her home recently. When not at her laptop, she's usually out exploring German food and culture in her new city, combing through Pinterest for home decor inspirations, or spending a lazy evening watching a movie (Yes, Bollywood please!).