"We surveyed more than 1,400 consumers and asked them if and how they use business reviews to decide where they’ll shop for furniture, mattresses and appliances.”
In today’s digital age, the lines between perception and reality have become blurred. During every day and with every interaction, we are constantly affecting how others perceive us; this has been true for generations. However, for retailers today, what’s changed is the tremendous power other people have to influence and shape public opinion of you and your business.
Gone are the days when businesses solely managed their reputations by traditional marketing and PR. With the rise of social media and online review sites, our interactions have been forever magnified and transformed. The ease at which consumers can publicly share their positive and negative comments has put your customer in charge of shaping your company’s reputation.
For example, let’s say you want to take your kids out for ice cream in an unfamiliar city. A quick Google search doesn’t just turn up several suggestions, phone numbers and directions. Now, you can also see people’s opinions about those businesses. You’re one click away from learning Jason ate at Sweet Republic two weeks ago and though he reports the sundaes will “knock your socks off,” apparently their walnut chocolate chip cookies are pretty awesome too. Katie went to the Sugar Bowl last month and reports the bathrooms were dirty. Yikes.
It’s not just Google, and it’s not just restaurants. Third party review sites like Yelp! and Angie’s List have been exploding in popularity, aggressively expanding their reach to all types of businesses and service providers. Add to that, sites like Google and Facebook—inextricable parts of daily life (if not hourly) for most consumers—showcasing reviews, and you might as well have your star rating hovering over the roof of your business or tattooed on the forehead of your staff members. It’s that noticeable.
Don’t Ignore Them
In his book, Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business
, bestselling author Erik Qualman discusses how word of mouth has become world of mouth.
Reviews can be a scary thing to business owners. They’re right out there for everyone to see. You can’t take them down if you don’t like them. And sometimes, customers aren’t fair—or even truthful—when they write them.
Stopping people from talking about your business online is impossible. Choosing to abstain, going off the internet grid, so-to-speak, is not a viable option as there will still be other people talking about you and your business online. Qualman, a foremost expert on the topic of digital leadership, calls this our “digital shadow.” Combine this with our “digital footprint” which is what we say about ourselves online, and everyone has a digital stamp for all the world to see, now and forever. There is no opting out; removing yourself from actively participating only gives full control of your reputation to everyone else but you.
But it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Embracing people talking about your business online is ripe with powerful and positive possibilities. Having a good online Reputation Management solution in place puts you back in control of not only your reputation, but in building and protecting a legacy that works overtime to expand your success.
Remember that ice cream shop we brought up previously? All of us are used to reading reviews before deciding whether to try a new restaurant. But you don’t operate an ice cream shop. You sell expensive furnishings for people’s homes, a totally different type of business. Do your prospects really take the time to read reviews about stores like yours? We did some research to try to find out.
We surveyed more than 1,400 consumers and asked them laser-specific questions about if, and how, they use business reviews to decide where they’ll shop for new furniture, mattresses and appliances.
We asked, “How many review sites would you check before making a major furniture, appliance or mattress purchase for your home?” Less than two percent of consumers reported they weren’t likely to check any! In fact, just shy of 70 percent of consumers plan to research reviews about businesses like yours on three or more review sites before they decide where to shop.
And, like we did, you might assume younger consumers are the ones who will pour over reviews before they drive somewhere to shop in person. We learned that’s not the case. Older consumers, even those over the age of 60, were just about as likely as Millennials to report they plan on reviewing one or multiple review sites before they choose where to buy their next sofa, refrigerator or mattress. We also found out why consumers seek out reviews for businesses like yours:
“I feel it is important to check on a business before making any purchase. The business is as important as the product.” – 67-year-old woman, Tampa, Fla.
“I make it a point to be very thorough and well-informed when making major purchasing decisions. Part of that is asking for opinions from friends and family, and another part is searching for reviews online.” – 39-year-old man, Del Mar, Calif.
“What insane person spends that kind of money without looking at reviews?” 29-year-old man, Waterloo, Iowa
Research by BrightLocal, which specializes in helping local businesses grow through digital solutions, further amplifies our findings: When deciding which local business to shop with, consumers report they care more about reviews than price. And it turns out, consumers don’t need to see a flawless five-star record to want to do business with you; they quickly forgive negative reviews when businesses take the time to thoughtfully (and publicly) respond.
Six Best Practices
As online reviews become increasingly influential, the number of places consumers can post them is growing, too. There are hundreds of review sites. You may have used some of them personally, but others are so specific you may never have heard of them. You can read and leave reviews about babysitters on Care.com. Trying to decide which marathon to register for next? You can read reviews about hundreds of races across the country from fellow runners on BibRave.com. There is even a review site about gluten free foods.
As a retailer of durable home goods, these examples aren’t relevant. However, to help you focus on those that are, we asked the survey participants to identify all sites they regularly visit to check ratings and reviews about businesses like yours. Here are the ones that made the cut:
A lot of smart and innovative professionals are researching and sharing what they’re learning about Reputation Management, the hottest digital topic this year. If you’re interested in taking control of your online reputation and turning it into a powerful tool that works 24/7 to increase your business, here are six best practices that comprise the building blocks of a robust Reputation Management strategy:
As discussed, there are dozens of sites on which reviews can live, but they won’t all apply to your retail business. Those that make the cut should be monitored, preferably by software that can easily do so 24/7 and compile all your reviews in one central location that is easy to navigate.
Remembering to regularly check for new reviews is a time consuming and laborious task. Tasks like this often fall to the wayside, especially during the busiest selling season when it’s most important. Set yourself up for success by automating this process. Smart software can automatically alert you of new activity so new reviews don’t go unnoticed.
The research is overwhelming. If you want to positively shape your reputation, your business has to be an active participant in the process. That means responding to people who post about your business in a timely manner. Say, “Thank you” when they say something nice. Try to make it right when they report a bad experience. Show you are a business that cares. For more information on the power of response and best practices on how to do so, we recommend digital marketing expert and bestselling author Jay Baer’s new book, “Hug Your Haters.” And remember, claim your business on these sites and keep your sign-in information readily available so you can quickly log in and respond when necessary.
Happy customers are much less likely to leave reviews than disgruntled ones. If you don’t have a systematic way to invite your happy customers to leave a review, you’re leaving your digital shadow up to odds that aren’t in your favor! Smart Reputation Management software can solicit your customers to provide feedback and automatically direct them to more private channels, if they’re less-than-satisfied, or more public ones if they’re happy as a clam.
When you get a glowing five-star review, don’t hide it, share it! Show relevant and positive reviews on your website. Don’t let a glowing review live in just one place; instead, make sure it’s in front of some of your most qualified prospects, people looking at your website right now.
And while you’re at it, post these awesome reviews on other sites like Yelp! and Google to your Facebook page. Shine a bright light on the gift you’ve been given. Your prospect’s peer just picked up a microphone to tell them how awesome you are, and your job is to plug it into a loud speaker!
Reputation Management has incredible potential to earn exponential business for you. The principles that govern it are simple: be approachable, responsive, thoughtful and thankful. I bet your mother taught you all these things already. All you need are some best practices and good software tools to help you apply them in this new digital age. Harness the power of positivity to rise above the your competition.
About Jennie Gilbert:
Jennie Gilbert is the Chief Operating Officer of Retailer Web Services, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based company whose mission is to help independent retailers realize their dreams through the promise of technology. Jennie is a frequent speaker at durable goods retail conferences and the co-author of RE:THiNK: 11 surprising things you should do now to win retail customers in the digital age (Retailer Web Services, 2015), available on Amazon and at www.retailerwebservices.com
Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada. In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.