Can review sites make or break million-dollar software deals?

Review sites are no longer the reserve of consumer purchases— they are influencing big B2B sales as well.
13 November 2019

Enterprises are turning to customer reviews for insights. Source: Shutterstock.

Thanks to the success of sites such as TripAdvisor, customer reviews have changed the landscape of commerce.

In many ways, these platforms— allowing anyone to have their say and leave a five-star score— have pushed the quality of customer service and products. They have put hidden gems on the map.

On the other, a hard-up family-run business may be at the mercy of one or two disgruntled customers having a bad day. The system can give with one hand and take with the other, but it’s a powerful one. Every player in a specific sector is subject to the wider judgment of buyers— the ‘voice of the people’.

Such platforms are a key driver of sales today; more than 80 percent of customers now look at online reviews before making a purchase. But we would perhaps sooner associate this approach to purchases with scouting out a local diner than we would in securing million-dollar enterprise software contracts. 

“You’re going to a restaurant, you check OpenTable or Yelp. These are the exact same people that are making decisions on multi-million dollar software decisions,” said IBM’s Chief Marketing Officer for Watson IoT, Amber Armstrong. 

In an interview with Forbes, Armstrong explained how the multinational software firm uses data from business software and services review site G2 to drive its product marketing and development. “They still want to know what their peers think, and it’s up to us to ensure it’s as easy as possible for them,” she explained. 

Review sites provide a rich source of customer feedback and, with the help of AI, can generate valuable insights that can drive business decisions in a way that can connect more effectively with the needs of customers. Data from review sites can be determined with sentiment analysis— a positive review can be separated from a negative one, and results can be fed back to make more informed decisions about products across departments. 

This approach puts customer satisfaction and usability central to enterprise software development and promotion. The right messages can be sent to time-poor clients at the right time, in their preferred formats. This is particularly important in a crowded enterprise software market where buyers aren’t driven by emotion, but factors such as convenience and cost. It may be an entire team involved in a decision, not a single customer. 

The efficiency of marketing is measurable and, in this case, helps team leaders strategize and employ marketing approaches, helping to develop meaningful customer relationships. 

G2 is just one of such enterprise software review sites. Others include TrustRadius, TechTarget, BuiltWith, and Software Insider— the market for peer reviews in software is proving to be lucrative.

The success of these sites, and value to companies like IBM, is down to the organic nature of feedback on neutral ground. They represent mines of qualitative information surrounding what users like and dislike, the impact it has on their organization, and suggestions for improvement. In this sense, finding ways to listen in on these reviews, and turn them into actions to improve the value of products and services should logically lead to better reviews— and better sales and loyalty as a result.

But reacting positively from this analysis shouldn’t just be about telling the customer what they want to hear or giving them exactly what they ask for— enterprises should be careful not to overemphasize the ratings and feedback on customer review sites as a benchmark of success.

Businesses should be cautious of striving for a goal of positive reviews based on what’s in trend, in place of products and services that align with the brand.

Customer review sites represent a valuable avenue to explore opportunities for customer feedback. But how long would it take for you to shun your favorite pizza joint if they aimed to please every customer?