January 04, 2018

Why small business owners should care about reputation management

You don’t have to be that old to recall a time when buying something as common as a pair of shoes was simple. In fact, most of the older millennial generation have memories of this not-so-distant, simpler time. A local store’s reputation was only what our neighbors and friends said about it. People would head to the nearest store that sold shoes, tried a pair or two on. After they’d purchase, they would take them home and show them off to their friends. If you were a bit more particular, you’d try a store or two till you found the right pair, but that was it.

  • Shoppers had a need
  • They went to the store to buy it
  • They took it home to enjoy it

It wasn’t much more complicated than that.

Then the internet came along. At first, it seemed like online shopping would never be a wide-spread thing. Then it seemed like it only applied to bigger stores and brands. Now, as the past decade has shown, the Internet has completely changed the way people shop online as well as locally. And businesses that want to maintain and advanced their competitive edge need to leverage their online reviews, so they can both protect their reputation and attract new customers.

 

Behavior Shift: Then and Now

In the past, the average consumer would rely on their social circles and peers for product and service recommendations. Whether they wanted to be one of the cool-kids with the latest gear, or they wanted to stand out from the crowd with a fresh hairstyle, people took the advice of a handful of their peers before they made their decision. Not anymore. According to Google, people now make nearly a dozen searches before they make a purchase. And that number seems to be steadily growing. 

Today, when people begin their shopper journey, it involves a few more steps that are vital in their decision-making process. The traditional journey is bolded. It’s also important to note that, depending on the type of purchase and the individual, this could be a much longer or shorter journey. Either way, the shopper’s journey has changed, and a business’s reputation plays a significant role in the modern journey.

The modern shopper’s journey is longer that ever, and growing

  • Shoppers have a need
  • They hop online and start looking up product options
  • Comparison shop for the best deal
  • Read reviews, testimonials, and business ratings
  • Look for the best location to buy it
  • They went to the store to buy it
  • They took it home to enjoy it
  • Satisfied/dissatisfied customers then hop online to leave a review and rate your store

Shoppers don’t just take a handful of their peer’s advice into consideration; they actively seek as many opinions as they can find. These shoppers heavily weigh recommendations and the testimonials of complete strangers in their decision. People want to hear from past customers about which plumber or shop is the best. They what to know which dentist, fitness center, hair salon, spa, or restaurant they should use. And the list of doesn’t stop there.

The Internet, and review sites, in particular, fill this need and are used widely by consumers. Review sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, and TripAdvisor connect past and prospective customers and gives them a one-stop location to share testimonials, ratings, reviews, and read the experiences of others. 90% of shoppers say their buying decision was influenced by online reviews and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend.

Even shoppers who plan to shop locally will research the best options and conduct research. They want to be sure the purchase they’re about to make suits their needs and comes from a reliable business. Before they step into your store, they’ve asked their friends, they’ve sought out the reviews of your previous customers, they’ve read testimonials, they’ve looked to see who has the best deal in town.

 

Complicated, Not Unmanageable

The new shopper journey may seem complicated, and compared to the traditional journey, it is, but it’s not unmanageable. In fact, this new step in the shopper journey gives small and local businesses an advantage they’ve not had in the past. The same platforms that connect shoppers also allow businesses to participate in the conversation so they can help their future customers find their store faster.

The most trusted place consumers research is on review sites like Yelp, Google My Business, TripAdvisor, and Facebook business pages. Your existing and active customers already leave feedback, reviews, testimonials, and ratings on these pages. This is exactly what the shopper is looking for at this stage of their journey. The best part is that you control those pages and listings. You can update the information, moderate the feedback, and invite your loyal customers to review your business, so you attract more of those shoppers.  

While this may just seem like another step in the shopper journey, it is a step that heavily influences a person’s decision to visit your store, and your reputation is crucial to their choice. If you’re not managing your online reputation, you’re opting out of some of the best traffic you can attract. If you’re not helping them in their pursuit, you leave it to chance, or worse, your competition, to inform them and get them through your doors.

Take Action

Womply Insights provides small and local business owners a one-stop reputation monitoring and management platform. Get notifications about new reviews and activity on your various listings in the same place you can see trends and insights into your business. Request your free 15-minute consultation to see how we can help you protect your business and your reputation.

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