We are in the middle of a revolution – a decisive change in the way businesses and potential customers relate to one another. Consumers across a huge range of business areas are no longer content to be passive recipients of brand marketing messages.
The rules have changed completely:
Whether brands have just a single store or a global estate of locations, they need to engage with these new behaviours or risk becoming invisible to large sections of their potential customer base.
Review management is the business procedure of tracking, analysing and responding to online reviews across various review websites where customers have evaluated the brand.
Although every brand will have a slightly different set of goals for this process, review management comprises of the following activities:
All of the activities listed above have the potential to enhance a brand’s reputation (or harm it if they are not done well). In fact, you could say that effective review management should be a pillar of your reputation management strategy.
There are ‘reputation boosting’ and ‘reputation protecting’ aspects to this. On the boosting side, effective review management can deliver the following key benefits:
With regard to reputation protection, your approach to handling negative reviews should include:
There are at least two groups of people who you can influence with these review management activities: the reviewers themselves and potential customers who read the reviews.
And the influence can be huge:
It’s tempting to see certain business sectors as the ‘natural territory’ of review management. You might see hospitality or retail as obvious candidates, for example.
But the truth is, there are very few areas of business activity that are not affected by reviews – and a number of the benefits described above will be important goals for just about any brand. As recommendations move potential customers towards a purchase, review management really is a must – whatever your sphere of activity.
Before hiring a law firm, 84% of consumers are looking for a star rating of 4 or higher. In addition, a greater number of reviews over competitors will improve the likelihood of conversion by 48%.
Further evidence of the widespread influence of reviews comes in a survey conducted by Statista, which shows that 70% of U.S. online consumers read online reviews before purchasing electronics.
Another common preconception is that online reviews are not as important for offline businesses. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a special connection between consumer feedback on the Internet and brands who do business through physical locations.
In the age of the smartphone, consumers are very much in the habit of consulting reviews while they are out and about, looking for a good service or product within easy reach. For example, more than half of Google searches in 2020 were ‘near me’ searches (search queries such as "cafe near me").
Local searches as a whole should be of interest to any brick-and-mortar brand’s marketing department, since they often occur at times when the customer is primed and ready to make a purchase, as data from Google shows.
These figures represent a very large slice of all purchasing activity. Going to a brick-and-mortar business location after researching online is still people’s preferred way to shop, as our own research shows:
There are two reasons why effective online review management can help to encourage consumers along this smartphone-driven journey towards a local IRL-experience.
What is it about reviews that influences search positioning and customer conversion? More importantly, how can you use review management to boost those effects?
It turns out that there is a surprisingly simple answer:
Star ratings are something of a secret weapon in review management.
Details of Google’s algorithm for search results placement are closely guarded, but it seems that a combination of geo data and Google rating is the key to getting into the coveted 3-Pack of local search. The Local 3-Pack condenses the most important information to attract consumers at a glance – the star rating is in prime position under the business name.
The surest way of improving your local search placement is to work on your star rating.
However, in addition to these rather technical issues of search placement, there is something uniquely compelling about the star rating system itself. According to figures from Statista, 36% of Internet users worldwide aged between 25 and 34 use online reviews for brand and product research.
Our Reputation Management report discusses the influence of star ratings in detail, and we’ve summarised the key findings in a handy blog article, in which we explain that
In a nutshell: All businesses should be trying to increase their star rating by responding effectively to their reviews. But many make the mistake of focusing on 1- and 5-star reviews. Prioritising 2- and 3-star reviews (where the customer is probably open to persuasion) will yield better growth in conversions.
A significant percentage of consumers actively post reviews. According to Statista, 52% of global internet users aged 25 to 34 post reviews online. For people aged 55 to 64, the figure is 28%.
Most review platforms have different levels of reviewers, depending on the quantity and quality of reviews, which can often be rated in regard to their relevance to others. Google maps established Local Guides–a status awarded for those who regularly post local business reviews.
A top reviewer status distinguishes them as experts in their respective field, which for the audience might mean their opinion weighs even more. Keep this in mind with your review responses, as answering those top reviewers is visible to a greater audience.
As a result of the popularity of writing reviews and giving ratings, it can be difficult to stay on top of review management – although the challenges and advantages for SMBs and large enterprises are slightly different.
For both small organisations and multi-location companies, a thorough approach to the planning of review management will make operations run a lot more smoothly and effectively.
Online review management certainly isn’t a trivial undertaking. Brands should engage in several important planning and preparation activities to ensure that their review management runs smoothly and has maximum effect:
Our research has captured a snapshot of the places where people most commonly go to read reviews of local businesses (shown below). As you can see, the priority should be to manage Google reviews, but there will be other sites that are more specific to your sector or customer profiles.
Large organisations have extra requirements as they are more likely to have multiple locations with different circumstances, and more people to involve in the review management process Reputation management software can take away time and resource pressures.
Multi-location organisations have a conundrum: should review management be controlled from head office in order to ensure consistent brand communication, or should control be given to local representatives who know their customers best?
Our Global-Local Brand report sheds light on this key question and senior marketers share their best practices:
"Over time we realised that if you have a certain number of restaurants, it’s important that you have one player (like headquarters) that keeps everything together, but if you want to create a real local experience on a personal level, individual level, you need to enable your location owners to give input and personalise the local experience."
Florian Eckert, Senior Manager Technology, McDonald’s Germany
Large enterprises are more likely to be able to support creative workflows. Analysis, writing, editing, approval and publishing tasks should happen in a sequence that everyone is expecting and builds towards an effective review response.
Tip: Let reputation management software help you tackle the task of managing the reviews for your multi-location business.
What are the keys to success in review management? Use this handy list to build your strategy. You can read a detailed description of effective review management in our Review Management guide.
For both large and small businesses, automation is essential for delivering a smooth and effective review management strategy. Ideally, you should use a reputation management software solution that offers as many of the following features as possible:
If the store or business location is an important asset for your growth, it makes sense to use a platform that supports both your local online visibility and your review management at the same time.
Find out how you can create a compelling ‘Near Me’ Customer Experience with the Lookup platform.
Your general aim is to delight your customers and motivate them to engage with your brand, products or services. Obviously, your approach to positive and negative reviews will be somewhat different.
Use the following template as a guide to creating a brief, friendly and individual response for each positive review. This is a great opportunity to nurture your advocates so they return and continue to spread a positive message about your brand. You should also be trying to project a brand identity that attracts any potential customers who are reading the review.
When it comes to prioritising responses, negative reviews are the most important. A timely and sincere reply is required. It should express regret and understanding and offer a resolution. Never forget that other people – maybe millions of them – will be reading the review and your response, so it’s important to choose words and gestures that will put their fears to rest.
For certain types of negative reviews, the ordinary response is not enough. Malicious reviews need to be nipped in the bud with correct information, whereas potentially valid complaints need to be escalated in accordance with organisational procedure.
The brand decided to give review management responsibility to the people who know their customers best: their store managers. Since using the Lookup platform, they reply to 75% of online reviews, providing specific local information useful to their target market, like stock availability.
This local autonomy is carefully balanced with central control. To ensure that brand messaging remains consistent across all stores, Okaïdi provides internal online training, and regional managers review everything before publication.
The personal touch in review responses has worked well for Okaïdi, securing its customer base in difficult times.
Read more: Okaïdi Empowers Its Stores and Connects with Customers Using Lookup
Anchor Hanover is England’s largest provider of specialist housing and care for the elderly. It has more than 100 brick-and-mortar locations, each with a strong local identity and connections to the families of residents.
The company’s responses on review sites have to be customised for individual locations. Given the sensitive, trust-based service they provide, it is important that the responses sound authentic and personal, rather than corporate and detached. In addition, there are many potential review platforms that the company has to deal with.
The core problem was a lack of human resources for this large and complex review management task. However, the Lookup platform helped Anchor Hanover to automate and streamline review management processes – including seamless connection to many popular review platforms.
As a result of this strategy, the company was able to provide rapid responses to reviews of specific care locations during the pandemic.
“The platform gives us this opportunity to respond immediately to reviews and fluidly manage multiple local social accounts, which is also really important because our recruitment campaigns are always local.”
Neil Taylor, Head of Digital, Anchor Hanover
Read more: How to Improve the Customer Experience Through Your Local Social Pages
INDIGO is the world leader in parking and individual mobility solutions. With 502 locations to manage, they have chosen to empower each of their location managers to provide reputation management at the local level.
Given that INDIGO has a strategy of prioritising reviews with lower ratings (so that they can provide a timely reputation management response), it was important that the Lookup platform had the ability to sort reviews by different criteria – including star rating.
The result is efficient, targeted reputation management, taking up less of the busy location managers’ valuable time, whilst improving the brand experience for its customers.
Read more: Market Leader INDIGO Shines Online with Lookup.
The revolution currently transforming the relationship between brands and consumers can seem alarming – at least from the brand perspective. But as you have seen, it also presents huge opportunities for organisations that engage with consumers in a positive way through reviews.
In a nutshell, brands shouldn’t underestimate the power of reviews and how they can make use of them to drive conversions. It should be an integral part of any local marketing strategy as it helps improve the customer experience, while nurturing a long-lasting relationship.
>> Take a peek inside our platform and see how you can take control of your review management ahead of your competitors.