Negative reviews can have a devastating impact on a business. Whether the claims made in online reviews are true or not, research indicates consumers are more inclined to heed negative feedback than positive.
It’s against this backdrop that Chicago-based ReviewTrackers has raised $10 million in a growth round of funding from New York venture capital (VC) firm PeakSpan Capital to help companies manage their online reviews from within a single platform.
Founded in 2012, ReviewTrackers is one of a number of startups helping companies manage their online reputation by plugging into myriad third-part review sites — such as Google and Facebook — and serving as a single platform for monitoring and responding to feedback across the board.
Even companies that are largely offline still need to monitor their online reputation. So the potential reach for review and reputation management software is significant.
“With consumers trusting online reviews more than ever, and businesses without adequate tools to manage them, we have a significant opportunity to step in and operationalize that process while driving significant revenue growth,” said ReviewTrackers CEO Chris Campbell.
The ReviewTrackers platform centralizes reviews from more than 100 third-party sites; however, the functionality available depends on the review site’s API. “Google and Facebook have more robust APIs and partner programs, so we have deeper integrations into their platforms,” Campbell confirmed to VentureBeat.
Full integration — i.e. with Facebook and Google — covers all the key elements of managing online reviews, including monitoring, which pulls in and aggregates the reviews; responding, which allows companies to respond to both negative and positive comments; soliciting, which proactively requests new reviews through campaigns; and more.
ReviewTrackers also works on mobile, so customer support staff and social media managers can receive alerts and monitor what people are saying about the brand.
In terms of costs — well, it will vary depending on factors such as a company’s size and number of locations, but as a guideline, ReviewTrackers said that a single-location small business can expect to pay $49 or more per month.
While many companies have chosen to aggressively deter negative reviews through spurious non-disparagement clauses, a practice that was effectively outlawed with the introduction of the U.S. Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, the overriding consensus on how to react to adverse online reviews is to do so diplomatically and openly. If potential customers see that a business owner has addressed any concerns professionally through a public response, that will go some way toward alleviating doubts raised by a negative review. And facilitating this type of response is one of the ways ReviewTrackers helps businesses keep on top of things.
A number of other companies have raised sizable sums of cash for reputation management smarts. Last year, London-based Signal Media closed a $16 million round to expand its AI-powered platform that scours online sources to establish sentiment and derive insights, while Utah’s Podium nabbed $60 million from big-name investors, including Accel and GV, for its review management tools.
Such sentiment-tracking technology isn’t always used to manage negative reviews. Zen City, which raised $6 million last year from Microsoft’s M12 and others, helps cities aggregate feedback and comments from social networks, news websites, municipal hotlines, and more to extract meaningful “structured” data that helps city planners and managers tackle the topics most pertinent to residents.
ReviewTrackers had previously raised around $9 million, and with another $10 million in the bank it plans to “strengthen” its core product and grow its sales and customer service teams. This will lead to 100 new hires at its downtown Chicago office, as the company gears up to hit 100,000 paying customers later this year.
“We’ve been following ReviewTrackers for over two years, and in a world of empty product claims from noisy competitors, we’ve been super impressed with their exceptional ability to capture large volumes of reviews while synthesizing them into actionable insights,” said PeakSpan Capital cofounder and managing partner Phil Dur.