Why small business owners should care about reputation management

You don’t have to be very old to recall a time when buying something as common as a pair of shoes was simple. People would head to the nearest shoe store, try on a pair or two, and head to the register. After the purchase, they would take the shoes home and show them off to their friends. Word of mouth spread, and the shoe store got more business as a result. 

On the simplest level, the buyer’s journey went something like this:

  • Shoppers recognized a need (stimulation)
  • They went to a shop to buy something to fulfill that need
  • 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 at brick-and-mortar businesses, not just online. And businesses that want to stay relevant need to leverage their online presence so they can attract new customers.

How the internet changed the way people shop at local businesses

In the past, the average consumer would rely on their social circles and peers for product and service recommendations — basically, word of mouth drove buying decisions.

Not anymore.

According to Google, people now make nearly a dozen online searches before they make a purchase at a physical store. And that number continues to grow. In short, word of mouth has moved online.  

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 below.

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 it.

Modern shoppers go online to decide where to spend money locally

  • Shoppers identify a need
  • They hop online and start searching for something to fill that need
  • They read reviews, testimonials, and business ratings
  • They settle on a place to spend money nearby
  • They go to the store and make a purchase
  • They take their purchase home to enjoy it
  • They go back online to rate their experience with the business for future shoppers

Today’s consumers don’t just take a handful of their peers’ 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 local retail shop, restaurant, cafe, tire shop, salon, or dentist is the best, according to those businesses’ past customers. 

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. Let that sink in. Most people trust online reviews more than their mom’s opinion when they’re deciding where to spend money. 

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.

Managing the modern consumer’s journey

The new shopper journey may seem complicated, and compared to the traditional journey, it is. But it’s not unmanageable.

In fact, the explosion of local search has made local businesses more relevant and easy to find than ever before. The same platforms that allow upset customers to post scathing reviews also allow businesses to get found by more customers and participate in the conversation happening about their business 24/7. 

The most trusted place consumers research is on review sites like Yelp, Google My Business, TripAdvisor, and Facebook business pages. Your past and current customers already leave feedback, reviews, testimonials, and ratings on these pages. This is exactly what a potential customer 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.  

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 helps hundreds of thousands of local businesses take control of their online reputations and attract more customers. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!

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