In today’s world the global connectivity that the internet has created, has produced a vastly larger audience of savvy consumers who do the footwork to research a brand before making a purchase. The focus of today’s consumer is on brand integrity, and trustworthiness.
It can take 10 years to build a profitable business, and 20 minutes for it to be ruined by negative feedback. Research has shown that reputation is the core, and most valuable asset of a company, its products or services, and its bottom line.
The Reputation Landscape – Today’s Horizon is Globally Connected
The internet has become the cyber-town-square for a massive global village. Consumers, whose confidence in leaving feedback, opinions, and testimonials, comes from a place of anonymity, which the computer screen provides; have an enormous influence over the purchasing choices made by others. Rarely do these intrepid online shoppers make a purchase without having read reviews, and completely achieved the due diligence of researching both the positive and negative information, contained via online platforms.
According to the Pew Research Center, 91% of all shoppers, in 2020, have read customer reviews, thoroughly, before making their initial purchases. They then become a microphone, with the potential to be heard around the world, broadcasting their personal shopping experiences, as well as product satisfaction. The overarching effect of their feedback on business success, and brand reputation is critical.
Consider these engagement statistics, recently formulated by Dimensional Research:
- 86% of consumers research the internet to gain clarity and information before deciding to initiate a purchase.
- 65% find that today, an online search offers true credibility and trustworthy information with regards to specific people and companies.
- 9 out of 10 consumers concur that positive testimonials and feedback, found online, about companies, products, and services, have dramatically influenced their decision making.
- 58% of Fortune 500 executives adamantly believe that reputation management must be the core of all organizations marketing and branding strategies, as it is, today, a customer critical criterion.
Search Engine Technology – Impacting Business Reputations
Search engines and other online digital platforms such as Google, Yelp, Amazon Marketplace, Bing, and even Facebook, have an enormous influence on consumers. Yelp has just realized a growth of 1200%, with 73 million unique users on their mobile app, and 100 million unique users on their desktop site. These destinations are, individually and collectively, the digital, transactional, epicenter for decision making, as negative and positive feedback have a life, herein.
Trust is very much present on Yelp, where services are rated. As well brands, prices, products, and shopping experiences are extolled on Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews and social media platforms in general. Reputations can be built or destroyed, causing loss of trust, revenue, low search engine rankings, (3 negative reviews will result in s 52.3% loss of customers), and most importantly, the life’s-blood of any business can be ghosted in a millisecond.
Reviews and Reputations – The Good, Bad and Repairable
Into 2021, and beyond, consumers are doing almost everything online, and will continue their pre-purchase research, then are expected to shop on an exponential level not experienced previously.
A prudent approach is to consider both sides of the paradigm. Glowing reviews are priceless, and must be celebrated with responses that nurture customers, and build trust and connectivity. Negative reviews and feedback happen. They are unavoidable. In order to protect, grow, and strengthen a company’s reputation, management must be focused, and prepared to respond to negative reviews with immediacy. They must have best-practice strategies in place, to effectively address all issues, truncate the negative, and make amends when necessary.
Any business which offers a caring presence to resolve problems, and incorporate change to eradicate negative issues, will flourish. It has been proven that showing empathy, offering apologies, and being proactive in addressing all reviews, and feedback, builds trust. While Google and Yelp remain two of the leading consumer review sites, they are not alone. For instance, Freeway Insurance has found success in engaging consumers across a wide range of insurance focused sites, such as TrustPilot and Birdseye.
Encouraging testimonials, and customer stories, and reviews, according to Forbes, will allow a business to attract 45% of customers. With that type of thrust to a business’s bottom line it is critical to respond to negative feedback in a proper manner. Turning negativity into positive resolution is crucial in managing and building an on-going, squeaky-clean, and solid reputation.
A company must embrace and respond to all feedback, comments, and reviews. It is a huge mistake to hide from online conversations that address a company, service, product, or brand. Doing so makes a reputation, a target for failure.
Reputation Management – An Artform, Imperfect and Populated
Reputation Management is an art form, not a science. In this contemporary and ever-evolving internet age, online reviews are the life’s blood of a company, and reputation is at the heart of this construct.
The desires and growing expectations of today’s tech-wise consumers are not static. They must be met and exceeded consistently, with wisdom, and professionalism that is difficult to maintain. A business reputation must have a foundation of trustworthy products and services. It must offer value, provide customer service which is personalized and often entertaining. A mission statement, sustainability, concise communication and being of service to the community, and globally, are all integral parts of the “ideal” reputation.
Social strength is crucial. Monitoring conversational content on the internet, crafting consistent and well scribed website and blog content, employing excellent links and key words, all of these elements are the foundation of a solid reputation. It takes a team of like-minds, and a commitment of enormous proportion, to manage and support the priceless continuity of an ineradicable online business reputation.