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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