97% of consumers read online reviews when searching for retail products and services in their local area. And most often, these searches are on mobile devices. If you’re lacking location-specific reviews, you’re losing sales and referrals. You’re sending more customers to your competition.
Google prioritizes search results based on the frequency, quality, and quantity of reviews. For local inquiries, relevance, distance, and prominence are important. Ready to stand out from the crowd and acquire more customers from local search? Follow this checklist to boost reviews across multiple locations.
Improve the customer experience across all locations.
The first step in generating more reviews for your stores should be centered around providing customers the experiences they want to share. While certain factors, like traffic or parking, may vary from store to store, there are a few best practices you can put in place to ensure that overall, your customer experiences are smooth and convenient. Consider utilizing the click-to-message feature on Google My Business (and connecting customers with a local representative), adding mobile payment options, and implementing services like Webchat (that again, connect customers with local representatives). With these tools, customers can quickly get in touch with your business to see if a product is in stock at the location near them, initiate a curbside pickup at the nearest storefront, or even purchase a product—all from the comfort of their mobile device. When you focus on the customer in this way, they’re more likely to have positive things to say when you ask them to leave a review.
Become familiar with review sites.
There are a number of different review sites out there. And a lack of reviews sends red flags to customers (as well as to algorithms) that your business could be untrustworthy or unpopular. You may want to focus your review efforts where your target audience is the most likely to engage. A good starting place for most retail stores is Google My Business. Why? Because Google is usually the first place customers turn to when researching a product or service and it offers specific information for each of your locations (hours, reviews that reflect local management, contact information, etc.).
Customers who leave reviews through Google are prompted to share details of their experience (with the option to include pictures) and a rating out of five stars. The more customers write quality reviews (and the more often reviews are submitted), the better your business ranks in Google searches (and in local searches that are relevant). Each customer who leaves a review of your store is verified through his or her Google account.
Social media is also a great place to engage and build trust with potential customers. Creating a business Facebook page not only increases your visibility, it enables customers to recommend your business and boost word-of-mouth marketing among their friends and social circles. 1 in 3 people on Facebook already use the platform to look for local recommendations and reviews. And with almost 2 billion daily active users, it’s worth the effort to connect with your customers on Facebook.
For customers who take to traditional review sites, Yelp tends to be a comprehensive option to keep in mind. Yelp gathers information about the history of your business, photos, services offered, location, hours, and ratings (out of five stars) that customers provide. While Yelp discourages incentivizing your customers to leave reviews, Yelp offers review badges for your website, free “Find Us on Yelp” stickers to display in your stores, and the ability to embed favorite reviews on your social media profiles.
No matter which review sites you choose to focus on, you can always read up on the best practices for each platform in the support/help center.
Claim your business on review sites.
The truth is that customers are going to leave reviews of your stores whether you’re aware of it or not. Claiming your business (at each location) on review sites helps customers see that you take their feedback seriously. It also helps more people find you online. Only after you claim your business can you verify specific information and respond to customers.
Ask for reviews.
Oftentimes, customers just need an invitation to leave a review. In fact, 77% of customers will leave a review if asked. Uninvited, the customers that leave reviews on their own are likely either extremely satisfied or extremely unhappy. This is almost worse than having no reviews because it hurts your ranking and paints an inaccurate picture of the average customer experience. You can ask for reviews in-person, via text message, via email, or through a combination of these methods. Explain how online reviews help your business and send a quick link that customers can complete right on their phones. You can even automate this request post-purchase for optimal completion rates.
While emails, or even phone calls, are often viewed as the standard for customer communication, the truth is that the majority of customers prefer texting. 9 out of 10 customers prefer interacting with a business via text message. Texting has a 98% open rate, versus email which fares about 20%. While it’s important to ask for reviews, sending the request through the channel that customers prefer (texting) is equally important. And if you’ve used texting as a tool to build relationships with local store management and local customers, it’s a great channel to complete the buyer’s journey and ask for a review.
Respond to online reviews.
Your work is not yet complete once a customer leaves a review. In addition to reading reviews, 97% of customers also read company responses. Even if a customer leaves a negative review, it’s important that you respond with an honest apology and acknowledgment of their complaint. Responding to positive reviews also demonstrates the type of customer service you provide. And references to specific store locations can build more trust with the local community.
Particularly for multi-locational stores, online reviews can help store managers bring ownership to their customer service and receive consistent performance feedback. When you ask for reviews, customers deliver. To automate review requests via text message and manage your responses (on all review sites) from one centralized inbox, see how Podium Reviews can help.
Makin’ Mattresses’ Story:
Most of the customer surveys from Makin’ Mattresses showed that customers were happy with the products and the services of the company. But the online reviews didn’t match up to this reputation, and management didn’t know why. After implementing Podium to automate review requests via text message, Makin’ Mattresses saw the number of online reviews increase tenfold. Their reputation was completely transformed with simple, automated review requests. The increased number of reviews showed potential customers a more authentic, positive version of the customer experience.
To see how Podium can help you manage your online reviews across multiple sites, automate your requests, and acquire new customers, check out a free Podium Reviews Demo.