Reviews Are More Important Than Ever

On the day after opening night on Broadway, bad reviews often signaled the death knell for a show despite a huge investment of capital and hundreds of hours in rehearsal time by the cast and crew. It’s moot for now because of the pandemic, but for merchants, it’s also caused them to pay more attention to reviews, even more so today, to attract and retain customers. Local merchants, in particular, must be aware and pro-active. 

88% of consumers polled this October by digital solution firm Podium said reviews influence their discovery of new businesses. Next to location, price, and personal recommendations, reviews were more than 7 times likely to affect consumer decisions than traditional marketing and two times more likely than loyalty. 

And while the location has always been an important factor, 58% said they would likely travel farther to a merchant with higher reviews. Another 47% expressed the same attitude in paying more. Yet another interesting revelation is that more than a fourth (28%) admitted to checking out a merchant’s reviews while either standing or parked outside before deciding to enter the store or not. 

Stars still matter, though not as much as before. 38% said they still require at least a 4-star rating before doing business with a merchant, while 9% said they might consider merchants with one or two stars. The agreeable average was 3.4. 

56% said how merchants responded to reviews affected their views. Many said the reviews gave them insight into how caring, responsible, and responsive the business was and how they might expect to be treated. 

Hands down among 72%, the most favored site to find reviews was Google. Far behind were Yelp and social media. 68% of consumers used mobile devices to access the information. 

COVID-19 and efforts to promote local merchants and small business owners have raised awareness among many consumers. 41% told Podium they’ve been more inclined to buy from local merchants since the pandemic while still relishing the same values of quality, prices, and service as they had previously. 

Continue practicing and encouraging superb customer service but also ask for reviews. 36% said they would be more likely to leave one if asked by email, while 12% said a sign in the store would prompt them to do so. 41% said text messaging was their favorite method of communication compared to 18% who identified email. 

The good news is that Podium reports star ratings of 4.5 or higher are 1.4 times more likely to be generated for local merchants proactive about their online reputation. However, while 59% of merchants say they respond to positive reviews, only 43% do so negatively. Negative reviews 

must receive responses. Handling a complaint satisfactorily can sometimes produce a positive response that will dramatically change things and attitudes. Another 16% say they rarely or never respond. That decision should also be reconsidered.

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About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals.

Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions.

Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR.

Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller.

A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities