By now, you know your customers are posting reviews about your business online, and your prospective customers are seeking them out (or being exposed to them) during their purchase research. If you haven’t already, it’s time to step into the shoes of your prospects and make sure you’re just as knowledgeable about what people[ are saying about your store as they are—in real time.
Keeping up with your store’s online reviews—past, present and new ones just as they get posted—is the key to executing an effective online reputation management strategy. Here’s how:
Step 1: Assess where you’re being reviewed
When formulating a reputation monitoring strategy, the process starts by making a list of all the sites where your business is currently receiving reviews. 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 you should 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 appliances, electronics, furniture and/or mattresses, these examples aren’t relevant. To help you focus on those that are, RWS surveyed more than 1,400 end consumers to identify all the sites they regularly visit to check ratings and reviews about businesses like yours. Here are the ones that made the cut:
Note: You may also want to keep tabs on Glassdoor, a site that tracks what your employees are saying about working for you.
Remember, this is just a brief list of high-visibility review sources most commonly used within the durable goods retail space. The number of sites that facilitate user reviews is constantly changing, so you’ll want to perform a search to update your list occasionally.
Step 2: Claim your business
If you haven’t already done so, make sure to claim your business on all the relevant sites and ensure that your information is accurate and up to date. Research shows the three most important online review sites or platforms for durable goods retailers are Google, Yelp and Facebook. Use this to prioritize your efforts.
The process of claiming your business on both Google and Yelp is free from fees, but some effort is required. Keep in mind Google has a sophisticated verification process that involves several steps. You may need to wait to receive a postcard or a call to your store at a later date. This will provide additional information, such as a pin number you must then submit to ensure you have the authority to claim your business and finish the process.
Facebook doesn’t have the same claiming process as your presence on Facebook is self-generated. However, this is the perfect opportunity to ensure your page is set up correctly as a business page. If you incorrectly created your Facebook account as a personal page, there are many functions that will be unavailable to you, such as responding to customer reviews or having a third-party agency post on your behalf.
Step 3: Reach into the toolbox
Constantly sweeping these sites to check your reviews can be painstaking, and painstaking tasks usually fall through the cracks. Fortunately, there are numerous software tools that can simplify online reputation management. Fees for these will vary, but all will drastically reduce the effort required. They accomplish this by consolidating the analytics and management of your brand presence across many different review sites into a single account.
One free option is Google Alerts, which can track mentions of your business name, your major competitors and your personal name. Be sure to include common misspellings of all of the above as well! Setting up alerts couldn’t be easier: Simply go to google.com/alerts, and you can monitor words or phrases and set up how often you want alerts delivered to your email box.
Interested in taking the next step in sophistication? You may want to consider some of the more comprehensive tools to monitor your brand’s reach within the major social media networks.
When evaluating these options, pay close attention to any integration costs that can creep in. Do they need to be connected to your consumer-facing website? Do they monitor the review sites that are most important to your prospects? How much customization is required and who is responsible for doing that work? How do you get data into and out of the software?
If available to you, review monitoring software that is tailored for a specific type of business is often easier to adopt than general purpose software.
Step 4: Establish a point person
As with so many business tasks, a reputation-monitoring program ultimately depends on a person or small team taking responsibility for it. Whether that’s you or someone else in your company, make sure that you’re accounting for the amount of daily time and attention that is required to monitor your reputation on a timely basis.
It can be tempting to divert resources from this task during the busiest times of the year, like the Black Friday retail holiday. But be careful — a bad review left during this high-volume time can do a lot of damage when left undiscovered until the busy holiday has passed.
On the face of it, reputation monitoring can seem like a daunting and somewhat confusing task. But you’re sure to get an accurate assessment of what people are saying about you and your business, whether they’re rave reviews or nagging complaints (justified or otherwise).
Observing real-time, organic conversations from customers and potential customers is essential in today’s competitive environment, and you’ll gain valuable insights you can’t find anywhere else. By relying on no-cost/low-cost automated tools, reputation monitoring can help you understand what your customers and prospects are saying about you easily, comprehensively and more cost effectively than ever before.
Learn more about WebFronts® Review™—a reputation management solution built especially for appliance, furniture and mattress retailers—and get a free review report for your store. Adapted from “RE:MARKET: New digital techniques independent retailers can use now to compete better, grow faster and work smarter” by Jennie Gilbert and James Kane, Jr.