Did you know that 97 percent of consumers in 2017 searched online to find local businesses? In this ever-modernizing age, the internet has become the public’s go-to source for information, which means your potential customers might be Googling you first before even coming to your store. Eighty-five percent of consumers rely on online reviews more frequently than sourcing personal suggestions. Online reviews carry a lot of weight for customers, and it is essential for business owners to ensure that their online presence and reviews are polished and favorable.
So how do you get started?
What are online reviews?
Online reviews include customer service and store evaluations published on websites or apps. Reviews could include the overall approval or disapproval of products or services, pros and cons, star-ratings, quality assessments, recommendations, and the likelihood of returning for more business. Reviews can be found on aggregator sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Google, and Zagat as well as on company websites that offer feedback sections. Online reviews contribute to your store’s reputation and internet presence. They sway the buying decisions that potential customers make. Studies show that consumers read an average of seven online reviews in order to determine what businesses to trust. What do your first 7 reviews say about your business?
How do you get a review?
The simplest way to get a review is to ask for one. There are many ways to do this:
- Ask in person: Immediate and personal, customers are more likely to give feedback right away and with a specific individual in mind. If you feel like you’ve had a customer interaction that was kind, sincere, or genuine, the customer will likely be willing to provide feedback. Use mild and non-intimidating language. “If you could, I would appreciate any online feedback?” sounds genuine and inviting.
Independent businesses like gourmet and specialty food merchants have the advantage of everyday, genuine and personal interactions with customers. Use this advantage to politely ask customers to share their positive experiences online.
- Email: Email has the advantage of instantly reaching a broad customer base in order to request online reviews. Perhaps incorporate acquiring customers’ emails during the transaction process. Make sure to let them know the benefits of providing their emails too. For example, you can email your customers about upcoming sales, promotions, new products, product tips, holiday hours, etc. Build a genuine email relationship. Be kind and patient. Your email campaign can include a link and request, asking for store and service reviews. You can leverage positive reviews in your marketing materials or website.
- Incentivize the process: Providing an online review is not an obligation for customers. It’s hard to get someone to do something they don’t have to do. People are busy. Which is often why online reviews tend to skew either extremely positive or extremely negative. Reviewers often have had a memorable experience (good or bad) in order to prompt them to give a review.
Providing an incentive is a of acknowledging the effort involved in leaving a review, and also a mechanism to collect reviews that don’t necessarily fall into the “extremely positive” or “extremely negative” categories. Perhaps suggest a one-time discount for online reviews received. Or match their generosity and include small, free samples with their purchase. You don’t have to break the bank to say thank you, but small gestures like these show your customers that you value their opinions and appreciate the effort it takes to write an online review.
How do you improve online reviews?
Respond to them and keep actively engaged with your customers online! Thirty percent of customers say that local businesses’ response rate to online reviews makes a difference in how likely they are to trust that business. Be active to show your customers how engaged you are with consumer needs. Suggestions for getting started:
- Set up social media accounts for your business (for example, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, to name a few). People use social media every day; be there with them.
Courtesy of Pew Research Center
- Make your Google My Business page look attractive. This is a free opportunity to curate a positive internet presence. This is what people see when they Google local businesses:
Make your local business appear as great online as it does in real life. Remember, the Google answer boxes are often a potential customer’s first impression of your grocery. Include pictures from inside and outside your store. This makes it easier for shoppers to find you and be enticed by your produce. Local producers, local grocers, small business owners, and gourmet/specialty grocers might want to show off the quality of their homegrown/local food or unique products.
- Set up your own store website and include a feedback section for customers to input their own reviews. Reviews are everywhere on the web. Create a space to address each review, respond to complaints, make amends, thank loyal customers, and enter the conversation. This is the place where you can curate the online reviews you want to appear on your own company website, which you can add directly to your Google My Business page.
How do you encourage good reviews?
Simply put, good service and experiences lead to good reviews. Quality customer service helps build trust between consumer and seller and ensures the likelihood of positive feedback online. Avoid a bad review by prioritizing customer service. Read our piece about how to improve customer service here.
Source: Zendesk survey
Make it easy for your customers to provide reviews. Make sure your site is bug-free. Provide exact directions of where and how to submit online reviews. Make the process as simple as possible.
What are the best review sites?
Studies show that Yelp, Facebook, Google, and BBB.org are the most commonly checked and trusted review sites. However, sites like Yelp and Google have been known to frustrate merchants because they charge for store-owners to respond and manage their online reviews.
More merchant-friendly marketplace platforms like Mercato don’t charge businesses to respond to their own reviews With Mercato, small businesses can grow an online presence, manage online orders and fulfillment, and reach a larger online customer base. Respond to your customers without the burden of an extra charge.
Browse through this guide to learn more about how to use various online review sites.
Why do positive and negative online reviews matter?
Let’s start with the good: 87 percent of customers share instances of good customer service with others. Millennials, in particular, tell more people about positive experiences over negative experiences (a 17:11 ratio). Seventy-three percent of consumers are more likely to trust a business after finding positive reviews online.
Positive online reviews foster trust and customer retention. Think of it as your own reputation. You want positive things to be said about you in real life. It’s no different online.
Now the bad: 95 percent of customers share negative shopping experiences with others. Almost half of consumers only trust businesses with at least a 4-star rating. Negative reviews decrease your online star rating and cause potential customers to turn away.
The importance of online reviews cannot be stressed enough. Follow these simple tactics to increase positive online reviews, manage your business’ online reputation, join the online conversation, and become a business consumers trust.
Speak to a Mercato representative to ask how you can leverage online reviews (for free) on their platform, as well as handle online orders and deliveries.