This sponsored post is produced by Capterra.

For well over a decade, consumers have increasingly turned to online review sites to vet purchase decisions before they buy. Take a look at the top trafficked sites on the web, and it’s no shock to see consumer review sites by the likes of Amazon and Yelp both squarely in the top ten.

In fact, reading reviews prior to purchasing has become so ingrained in American consumption habits, 55 percent of all shoppers say online reviews influence where and how they spend their hard-earned cash.

Why then, when every person on the street checks a review site before buying a coffee, is it such a surprise to the software industry that consumer reviews actually matter in their space? In an industry generally considered “innovative,” product reviews are a shockingly late-adoption.

Just Google “Yelp of Business Software,” and you’ll see more than a handful of software review  sites (full disclosure: my own included) battling to be the preeminent source of software reviews. Between these new entrants in the space, and the growing popularity of product reviews across all industries, the software industry has reached a tipping point. It’s time for software industry goliaths to face the music: invest in actively managing their online reputation, or be wiped out by up-and-coming, lower-priced competitors who are already listening and responding to online reviews.

How business software reviews impact buyer behavior

Don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the data we collected to see how software reviews actually influence B2B purchasing behavior:

  • Reviews are equally important for B2B buyers. In a recent survey of those who had read reviews of business software, 70 percent of respondents said that business services reviews were as or more important than reviews of personal services. And the reviews aren’t being taken lightly either, with two thirds of respondents saying that reading reviews significantly impacted their purchase decision.
  • Reviews improve not only quantity, but quality of prospects for software companies. Software vendors with reviews of their products received 22 percent more traffic to their website than those with no reviews. Even more importantly, the quality of web traffic for software with reviews is significantly better. Software companies with reviews get 79 percent more sales opportunities from Capterra than those without any reviews. Software buyers who take the time to read reviews are often more serious, sales-ready prospects.
  • Negative reviews shouldn’t frighten you. When surveyed, 52 percent of B2B software purchasers said that they trust a software product more if it has a handful of negative reviews mixed in with positive reviews. No software/company/product is perfect, and buyers know that. Having only glowing reviews of your product doesn’t give a prospective buyer a well-rounded view of what working with your product and team will be like.

Why does this matter now? What changed that makes buyers so interested in what other users are saying about software, when traditional B2B sales and marketing tactics used to be enough?

The evolution of business software reviews

When Capterra introduced a business software reviews service nearly eight years ago, we immediately got pushback from software vendors. Everything from, “I don’t want to participate,” to “What if somebody leaves a bad review?” Some jumped on board immediately, but the vast majority took more coaxing. We still get plenty of pushback today.

Today, we’re seeing the frequency of business software reviews skyrocket. Capterra just surpassed 30,000 total software user reviews on our site, doubling our total number of software reviews between 2013 and 2014. And we’re on pace to double again in 2015.

I have any number of guesses as to why, after so many years, business tech buyers are finally starting to jump on the bandwagon:

  • The infiltration of Millennials and their reviews-loving web habits in the workplace?
  • A flurry of new resources in the software review space making software reviews information more commonplace and widespread to B2B buyers?
  • Perhaps it’s simply the growth of the software industry in general? For the past several years, there’s been a deluge of new entrants coming into the software space with more specific, niche products. Coupled with an increasing amount of businesses adopting software, it’s a perfect storm. While B2B buyers used to have a dozen or fewer software options available, they’re now facing hundreds or thousands. Reviews help them sort out that complicated decision process.

As for software companies: Why not encourage your users to share their thoughts with potential users? Why not let feedback tell you how to differentiate your software better?

Regardless, your users will still be out there discussing your software’s service, functionality, interface, and price. And they’ll be doing it publicly. You can be a part of the conversation, or you can continue investing marketing dollars into ignoring your problems.

Michael Ortner is CEO of Capterra.

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