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January 13, 2017

You might wonder why the designator “2.0” appears in this article’s title. That’s because I wrote on this subject in July 2014, and I wanted to do an update. Much has changed since that 2014 article.

As part of our vendor service, my colleagues and I visit a variety of aquatic and reptile retailers. When I wrote the original article, quoting figures from personal experience, we estimated barely 50 percent of our retailer base used social media, and around 30 percent had no online presence other than through the Online Yellow Pages or Yelp, both of which are driven by consumer reviews.

Fast forward to January 2017 and we find that 95 percent of our retailer base today has some sort of online presence. Even stores with no store website still have at least a Facebook page, and they actively use it to communicate with their customers.

I think this change in statistics comes down to the fact that retailers know internet sales are the engine driving sales these days. They know they must be more online savvy than in years past to grow their business. I predict there will come a time when having an online store will be a natural extension of every brick and mortar establishment, and this type of service will become part of their distributor’s services or from some sort of third-party providers. They will make the participation process easy to navigate—as simple as a signature on a cable TV or a leased car contract.

Having said that, what hasn’t changed is the fact that consumers generally are only motivated to “review” a business if their ire is up, and that type of “review” can put off potential customers.

According to a survey by RetailNext, 71 percent of savvy shoppers research online before purchasing in a store. Another survey by ReviewBiz states 58 percent of consumers say the star rating of a business is important to them and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

Consumers come with all kinds of expectations, and one wrong word can set them off. Negative ratings are more prevalent than positive ones because a bad experience, whether perceived or real, will motivate the consumer to take the time to warn fellow shoppers or to just “get it off their chest.”

There are simple ways to make negative reviews work for you—rather than against you. First and foremost, always respond to reviews, positive and negative. On a positive review a quick “thank you” lets them know you are aware of their post and appreciate it. On negative reviews, reassure the customers that their concerns are important to you, and offer a resolution and apology—even if you feel the review was unfair.

Whether that customer responds to your follow up isn’t important because all the other potential customers researching online will see it and feel you are trying your best. They might even be reassured by your efforts, thus turning a bad review into a positive advertisement for your store.

Consumers generally think reviews older than three months are no longer relevant, so the best policy is to always ask satisfied customers to review your services. With Facebook’s star-based rating app, it’s easier than ever. You can put the URL on your business card and in-store promo stuffers.

Seven out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if asked to do so, according to ReviewBiz, and almost 90 percent of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. So even if you have had bad reviews in the past, getting positive ones going forward would correct that problem.

Yelp, as well as Facebook’s review app, can hurt or help your business. It doesn’t take a lot of time to keep your reviews and searchable online information current and up to date. When you hear a customer say, “I saw your good reviews on the internet and decided to give you a try,” you will understand the power of positive reviews.

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