Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How Consumer Reviews Are Affecting Local Businesses


Forget the paper map, the local phone directory or coupon book found at the highway rest area. Consumers have smartphones now and they can find anything they want by simply typing a few keywords.
By using platforms such as Yelp or Google Maps, not only can consumers locate local businesses, but they can also read about previous consumers’ experiences and contribute their own.
This week is National Small Business Week. What does review management mean for local businesses? Should businesses pay attention to what is said about them online? Is any publicity good publicity?



Google Maps
Google Maps provides a great platform for consumers. They have the ability to rank businesses out of 5 stars, add pictures and personal comments.
Good rankings on Google Maps are crucial as they are automatically linked to search results on Google. Therefore, as soon as a business is googled, not only is the address and phone number made available but also consumer reviews and user picture contributions.
Now that brands can engage in two way conversation with brands, local businesses can directly interact with consumers and get instant feedback on their products and services. On their end, consumers can pass on their content to other users via social media or share their reviews with their friends.
Bearing this in mind, Google provides businesses with the possibility of replying to reviews. This way, businesses have a chance to acknowledge their successes and apologize for their mishaps.


Trip Advisor
Similar to the solutions Google Maps provides but without the navigation component, Trip Advisor is a platform on which consumers can share their experiences. For each city, establishments can be ranked and commented on. On Trip Advisor, businesses are able to claim their business page and have a provided platform to respond to user reviews. The main downside of Trip Advisor is that reviews can stay for a very long time. Therefore, there could have been a wide array of managerial changes about a local business between 2006 and 2016, but very negative reviews from a long time ago can drag down the average ranking of your business. Therefore, being listed on TripAdvisor is an incentive for businesses to prevent negative reviews because once those are posted, they are published for a very long time. The authenticity of Trip Advisor reviews is verified but it is said that businesses can easily incentivize customers to post positive reviews with a reward of some sort like a draw or a gift card.
 
Yelp
Yelp is similar to Google Maps and Trip Advisor, also featuring a street view component where you can see local businesses listed with their reviews. The main difference is that fewer reviews get approved and published, as their authenticity verification system is harder to crack. Therefore, businesses would not be able to incentivize customers to post positive reviews for an incentive. This further incentivizes them to take good care of their clientele to avoid negative word-of-mouth.






Society has changed. The Internet has given every consumer the opportunity to voice their opinion and share their experience about local businesses they visit. If local businesses acknowledge this new means of communication and caters to their clientele right, this could lean to more conversions and positive word-of-mouth. If they don’t, negative word-of-mouth can snowball and incur challenging repercussions.