Let’s face it. Whether you own a large brand or a recent start-up company, you strive to have a good image. In this day and age where anything can be searched online, nothing is more important than your online image.
One common mistake many small businesses make is to focus on marketing strategies and product quality without focusing on the business’s reputation. This includes customer feedback, ratings (the most coveted 5-star Google rating), and reviews.
In this article we will discuss:
- what customers look for in local searches
- why reputation management is crucial to the health and success of your small business
- why reviews have a massive impact on your small business
- how to utilize reviews to benefit your small business
Customer Search Behavior
If you are in search of a specific product, what would you likely do? Data shows that most of us reach for our phone and begin typing in a Google search.
Buyers often look for feedback about a product or service before making any purchasing decision. Moreover, according to a 2015 survey by Nielsen’s Global Trust, brand websites and customer opinions found online are the next two things customers trust for product information after recommendations from family and friends.
Where do they look specifically? A study by KPMG in 2017 found that most shoppers utilize two channels in their web hunt for a product: company websites and online reviews.
Local Searches and the Importance of Having a 5-star Google Rating
Most consumers search with specific search criteria in mind. Google HQ reported in one of their conferences that of all searches done by consumers, 46% have a local intent, hence the keyword searches such as, “[name of product/service] near me” or “[type of product] stores in [location].”
When users type queries on the Google search bar, a result displayed on top is a “local pack” otherwise known as “3-pack.” This box contains a list of three business listings that Google thinks are most relevant for the searcher.
Why does this matter for your business? Simple. Being included in this list leads to greater traffic to your site and improves your visibility, especially if people haven’t heard of you yet. The caveat to this is, only businesses listed in Google My Business Listing can appear in this box. Being included in this list also makes your business easier for searchers to locate. If you haven’t already created or claimed your Google My Business Listing, set it up here.
In addition to the local pack at the top of the page, Google also provides an organic result below it. Being included here will generate more traffic to your small business. Studies show greater than 90% of searchers are more likely to click on links shown on the first page of results.
Aside from appearing on both search engine results, having a good online reputation ensures that your small business is visible, and more importantly, attractive, to your potential customers.
Online Reputation Management
Reputation management for your digital presence is simply the practice of enhancing how your business is represented online in the eyes of your prospective buyers. Its ultimate goal is to increase your visibility, build trust, and generate more profit.
Any content related to your small business, such as product quality and overall customer experience, i.e. comments, feedback, ratings and reviews, will affect your potential customers’ perception of your small business.
A good online reputation not only attracts potential customers, it also helps businesses to rank better on Google search results.
Since most recent studies agree on the importance of customer feedback to a business’s online reputation, let’s focus on that.
Why Reviews Matter
Online reviews are the new “word of mouth.” Highly visible customer feedback and ratings can make or break a business. Don’t panic; a bad review isn’t the end of the world. There are many productive strategies to deal with negative feedback and even potentially improve it.
Reviews Affect Customer Perception
Nearly two thirds of consumers commonly trust businesses with positive reviews and greater than ninety percent of local searchers depend on customer reviews when considering which local business to purchase products and services from.
In a Local Consumer Review Survey in 2019, 36% of customers reported that they always read online reviews for local businesses prior to doing an actual purchase and visiting their website.
In addition to contributing to the business’s image, consumer reviews may also improve your Google ranking since they are considered as relevant content. In fact, user-generated content consists of over 25% of the search results for globally known brands.
Reviews Correlate to Potential Profit
Reviews are also tied to potential profit since they can influence potential buyers to make a purchase. Moreover, customers who trust your product are easier to convince for a cross-sell or an upsell.
Harvard Business Review even found a 5-9% increase in sales in every increase in ratings at Yelp. In addition, a product with 5-star reviews increases its chance of being purchased up to 270%.
Reviews Are An Extension of Customer Experience
Customer experience, an important aspect of your online reputation, includes your customers’ online interaction with your small business. Providing them with good customer experience not only yields the sought-after positive feedback, satisfied customers are also more likely to purchase again and share the product with their family and friends.
The ultimate goal is to gain your consumers’ loyalty. Guess what makes a consumer loyal to one brand over another? Excellent customer support. When asked about the attributes of companies they would most likely be devoted to, the leading response (65%) was a business’s excellent customer support. In an online environment with no face-to-face interaction, this translates to the extra mile online businesses go to reach out to their customers in the form of issue resolution or an unexpected personal note.
This is why it’s essential to keep track of your online reviews and comments across all platforms your business is on. One way to stay informed about comments and reviews is to set a Google alert for your business.
What You Can Do
You can utilize reviews to build your credibility, gain customers’ trust, improve your presence, build brand awareness and even generate leads.
Make Reviewing an Easy Process
Most customers are discouraged by a poor interface. If you want to get feedback, make sure that the process is easy for your customers, whether via desktop or a mobile device.
Ask for Feedback After Transactions
More than half of customers oblige when asked to leave a review. Generally, people love to share their opinions. Asking them for their opinion builds their trust and makes them feel like partners of your business’s growth. However, it is important to note that customers are more likely to give feedback immediately after a purchase, so don’t shy away from asking your buyers to leave you with feedback as soon as they finish with their purchase.
As already mentioned earlier, having fresh reviews contributes to your website’s content. This affects not only your Google search rating but also improves your company’s visibility.
Reply to Customer Reviews
Since ratings and feedback are an extension of customer service, even an acknowledgment or a simple “thank you” goes a long way. Studies show that almost half of customers read businesses’ responses to their reviews.
In addition, customers expect consistency and good communication from businesses across platforms and even expect a response in an hour! (No, weekends are not an exception.)
Responding to customer reviews is important. A survey reported that 71% of customers are more likely to go back to a business that has responded to their reviews. Creating a return customer has the potential of increasing your business’s profit from 25 to 95%.
All of the points mentioned above do not only apply to positive reviews. They also apply to negative ones.
What To Do About Bad Reviews
Reviews can range from being fair and logical to irrational and biased. While you can’t please all of your customers all of the time, it pays to respond to each review and comment, good or bad. Ignoring negative feedback is not good for your business’s reputation and may only lead to customer defection. A way to prevent this is to detect customer dissatisfaction in advance and respond to the customer quickly.
A study showed that it takes only one bad experience for 34% of customers to decide never to purchase from a brand again. What’s worse is that 88% will share their negative experience: 59% of them will share it with their friends and family and only 35% will contact the business and give it a chance to resolve the issue, most often in the form of a negative review.
So, a negative review isn’t always a bad thing. Why? It’s an opportunity to resolve the issue, redeem the brand’s image, and show watching eyes that your small business cares. When customers feel listened to, they feel appreciated and will be more likely to discuss and settle their issues.
Your customer’s perception of your business is a primary factor in strengthening your brand’s existence as well as increasing its potential revenue. Hence, it pays to keep track of your online reputation and maintain a good image primarily through customer ratings and reviews. Remember that while Google ratings and search results are important, your small business’s primary aim should be to serve the customers and treat them right. Doing this will serve your business well and secure its growth and longevity.