6 Ways Marketers Can Use Customer Reviews to Influence Buyer Behavior

July 21, 2022
Contributor: Kari Test

Learn how user reviews can help B2B software marketers improve their go-to-market strategy.

Today’s tech-savvy buyers prefer conducting product research on their own, leaving little opportunities, and even less data, for software providers to influence purchase decisions. Therefore, B2B software providers must be present on the channels buyers frequently use, especially software review sites. Using customer reviews in marketing helps B2B software providers not only better engage with prospects but also build brand reputation. 

Product reviews and ratings are a crucial element of the software buying cycle and significantly impact the purchase decisions of prospects. According to Gartner Digital Markets’ 2022 Global Software Buyer Trends Survey, 85% of buyers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and buyers report using customer reviews sites as the top preferred channel to obtain information on software. (Read the survey methodology at the end of the article.)

Buyers' preferred channels to obtain information on software

When managed effectively, reviews actively empower multiple business functions to accomplish their marketing goals. In this article, we discuss six ways customer reviews provide a solid return on investment (ROI) for the marketing, sales and product development teams.

1. Increase brand visibility and SEO traffic

Reviews not only impact buyers, but also influence search rankings. A customer review provides search engines with unique user-generated content from real customers, which helps build social proof and brand credibility for your software business. 

Collecting customer reviews helps to create fresh, relevant content around your brand to draw buyers in. Recent and authentic online reviews make it easier for your product pages to rank on search results as well as generate more organic traffic for your website and landing pages.  

Stakeholders who benefit from improved SEO:

  • Digital marketers can build higher brand awareness due to an increased digital footprint.
  • Demand generation professionals can source new leads by driving buyers to the landing pages.
  • Brand marketers can drive brand recognition by influencing customer trust around products.

Pro tip: Use third-party sites to scale review collection.

Most software providers struggle to acquire customer reviews. They have to put in significant work to collect, validate, and maintain even a small pool of reviews. 

Third-party review sites are a good source for acquiring reviews in high volumes. 

Not only do they have a system to collect and maintain online reviews, but buyers also trust the feedback sourced from third parties more than those directly collected by businesses. Moreover, brand profiles on third-party sites strengthen off-page SEO, leading to more backlinks, better brand reputation, and higher ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Create your product profile on a credible third-party review site. Try our network of software review sites — Capterra, GetApp, and Software Advice — which serves more than 9 million monthly visitors. 

2. Get more in-market prospects

It can be hard to find high-quality leads and even harder to convert them. Customer reviews draw the attention of high-intent buyers that are actively looking to purchase but have not considered your brand yet.

Review pages capture, from these buyers, meaningful intent data or demand signals such as the software category visited by a potential customer, details of a buying firm, engagement level, and product awareness. Access to this customer review data helps both marketing and sales ensure positive outcomes. 

Stakeholders who benefit from high-quality leads:

  • Account-based marketing (ABM) managers can gain access to accurate buyer intent data.
  • Demand generation professionals can directly influence warm leads in the sales pipeline.
  • Sales managers can have the opportunity to increase the conversion rate.

Pro tip: Ask partner review sites about the data services they offer.

Besides listing products and collecting user reviews, third-party review sites also provide marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) in two ways: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and buyer intent data. Use the latter to access demand signals and competitive insights (e.g., “Buyers reading your reviews also searched for…”).

Different types of intent data are captured from prospects’ online activities, indicating their level of interest in a product, the pages they visit, and the content they consume. Use these insights to improve your marketing messaging and sales pitch. 

 3. Differentiate your product from market competition

As buyers progress in their purchase journeys, they need to understand what makes your product different from other alternatives on the market. This is when they particularly rely on ratings and reviews to decide between software brands.

Detailed peer and expert reviews with feature or functional-level descriptions help buyers compare multiple products and form opinions. Make sure your customer reviews highlight your product’s unique selling points, and share your product’s average ratings in comparison to competitors’.

Stakeholders who benefit from product differentiation:

  • Chief marketing officers (CMOs) can reduce the average time customers take to shortlist products by making critical information easily available.
  • Sales representatives can show proof of software value propositions and tell why you deserve buyers’ business.

Pro tip: Promote earned awards and badges to showcase strength.

Many third-party review sites identify leaders in particular software categories and award them badges such as a “category leader” or “top performer.” Usually, these badges are linked to the detailed reviews that made a brand secure the top position. 

Discover if your software has earned any Gartner Digital Markets’ reviews or research badges by visiting your portal. Place earned badges from trustworthy third-party sources in a prominent position on your site, such as above the fold on your homepage or customer testimonial page. 

4. Improve product roadmap with authentic user feedback

Even the best sales pitch in the world won’t help you retain a customer if you don’t have a product that fits the customer’s needs.

Authentic customer feedback ensures your product remains cutting-edge in the ever-changing software landscape. Use reviews to understand the underlying frustrations of users and also the aspects they really like. This process requires establishing a strong review collection process that generates high-quality customer testimonials. 

Stakeholders who benefit from better product planning:

  • Product managers can find quick answers about what customers want and grow their product roadmap accordingly.
  • Product marketers can identify and highlight popular features that customers find useful.

Pro tip: Don’t fear negative feedback.

Consider customer reviews to be not only a great piece of collateral to get prospects through the door, but also keep customers engaged by providing feedback for product improvement. Critical or bad reviews are an opportunity to enhance product aspects you may have overlooked.

Use both positive reviews and negative reviews to develop your brand and product line into what buyers hope it should be. 

5. Earn trust through compelling social proof

Buyers consume marketing messages with some level of skepticism, but they trust reviews as an unbiased source of honest feedback coming from peers facing similar challenges.

Compelling customer reviews for software buyers boil down to two major attributes: overall quantity and recency. A high volume of online reviews shows that the seller is popular among customers, while recency (not older than six months) indicates validity of the product and up-to-date information about its features.

Stakeholders who benefit from social proof:

  • Marketers can use real customer stories to convincingly communicate their message.
  • Sales representatives can create powerful pitch decks to boost sales.
  • Account managers can gain customer trust, as the latter see fresh feedback from other buyers in their industry.
  • Demand generation professionals can improve customer experience programs.

Pro tip: Build an “always-on” review collection strategy.

For reviews to gain credibility among buyers and provide optimal benefits, collection needs to be a continuous effort.

That’s where technology sites or software directories come in, inspiring millions of contributors to write reviews as well as attracting consumers to gain knowledge about your product. Gartner Digital Markets offers a no-cost, always-on review collection service to all software products listed on our sites. 

6. Increase retention by building brand reputation

Reviews are valuable assets to stay ahead of customer feedback. Customer reviews that are more negative can still help your business by showcasing themes for areas of improvement from the product offering itself to your customer service.

In a similar vein, reviews from happy customers highlight what’s working well and things you should expand upon to keep consumers interested. Make customer feedback a core part of your brand-building exercise by learning how to identify, triage, respond to and leverage positive and negative reviews. 

Stakeholders who benefit from increased customer retention:

  • Sales representatives can increase repeat customers.
  • Account managers can retain existing accounts and relationships.
  • Customer relationship managers can enhance customer satisfaction with proactive online reputation management.
  • CEOs and CMOs can gain insights into the overall product performance and customer experience.

Pro tip: Ensure your customers feel valued and heard.

Review collection is a double-edged sword. It keeps happy customers more engaged and feel valued by soliciting their opinions, but it also may bring light to some dissatisfied customers.  

Consider the latter an opportunity to improve your product or services. Use negative reviews to understand why customers left (or are thinking of leaving) you. Address their pain points with a direct, professional and polite follow-up. With the right response, you may even be able to win them over and retain a client who was on edge. 

For your happy customers, keep them further involved by informing them about new discounts or product changes in the pipeline. Learn how to develop voice of the customer (VoC) programs to use customer feedback to continuously improve products as well as marketing and sales campaigns.  

Start using customer reviews to your advantage

It’s never too late to establish a review collection program for your business. Using customer reviews will help you meet your marketing goals, provide solid ROI, and will benefit stakeholders from multiple teams. Building a brand that buyers trust by prioritizing review collection from verified users will guide better-informed leads to find your software and increase the chances of conversion. 

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Kari Test

Kari Test is a Sr. Marketing Manager on the Vendor Marketing team at Gartner Digital Markets. Originally from Annapolis, Maryland, Kari graduated from Elon University before moving to the Washington, D.C. area. In her free time, she loves exploring Old Town Alexandria, traveling and trying new recipes. Connect with Kari on LinkedIn.


Survey methodology:

Gartner Digital Markets’ 2022 Global Software Buyer Trends Survey 

Results presented are based on a Gartner Digital Markets study to understand business challenges and approaches to technology and software investments. The primary research was conducted in October 2021 among a total of 2,501 respondents in the following countries: United States, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Belgium, Poland, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Germany and France. 

Respondents were screened for having recently purchased technology and decision-making authority. Respondents were required to be responsible for making decisions on purchasing technologies for their organization. 

Disclaimer: Survey results do not represent global findings or the market as a whole, but reflect the sentiment of the respondents and companies surveyed.

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