When we look at all reviews earned from the months of January to May, we see that people became more and more frustrated with businesses as the pandemic went on. From January to March, the average negative sentiment found in reviews was around 13.5% and by April and May the average negative sentiment increased to 19.8%. A 6% increase in negative sentiment is concerning for any brand looking to maintain a strong online reputation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR REOPENING
No matter what stage of reopening businesses are in, one thing remains the same, the customer experience as we remember it doesn’t exist. Every business is facing a “new normal” and it’s more important than ever that businesses work to protect their reputation during this time in order to bring back customers. Our recommendation is to focus on the following three areas in order to build a stronger reputation as brick-and-mortar brands continue to reopen.
LEVERAGE LOCAL SEO TO DRIVE CUSTOMER ACQUISITION
Of the 3.5 million searches made on Google daily, 46% of them are looking for local information. This is why Local SEO is the key to customer acquisition for brick-and-mortar businesses. Right now, consumers are nervous about visiting your business in-person. Alleviate their concerns by providing them with convenient, quick, and accurate information about visiting your locations.
One of the best ways to reach customers and keep them informed of your business information is through local business listing management. Keeping your listings on Google, Yelp, Facebook, and other major directories up-to-date is essential for customer acquisition. Accurate listing information such as business hours, website, phone numbers, and even new COVID-19 warnings all help to build trust with your customers.
The country is reopening (and closing again) at different rates, multi-location brands need to provide a single source of truth on their websites for operating policies and hours for every location. Local store pages are the perfect place to display this information. Share need-to-know information about new policies, safety measures, and other details about each location on its own page.
Voice Engine Optimization
Brands who prioritize keeping their listings and local pages updated during this time may find that it leads to increased local rankings. Higher rankings, not only give you a competitive edge, but they can help you optimize for voice search. When more and more consumers are leveraging contactless technology to avoid germs, voice search is on the rise. A Voice Engine Optimization (VEO) strategy aligns closely with a local SEO strategy. By turning that information on your local pages into your FAQs, you can optimize your website for featured snippets, the most commonly used source for answers on Google Assistants.
REBUILD YOUR REPUTATION TO RETAIN CUSTOMERS
As seen in the report, nearly every brand was impacted when it came to their reputation during the first months of COVID-19. Increasing your star rating is not a quick and easy process, it takes time and dedication but even a .1 star increase can improve customer conversion by 25%. Reputation doesn’t just lie in star ratings, consumers take into consideration all interactions with a brand from the in-store experience to their social media presence to decide how they feel about a brand. Brands can turn to reviews and social media to help build back up their local reputation and retain their customer base through the pandemic.
In May, the average review response rate for all brands in this report was 43.55%. Brands looking to build back up their star rating during this time, need to improve their response rate. 53% of consumers believe reviews should be responded to within an hour. Not to mention that consumers find businesses that respond to reviews are 1.7x more trustworthy than those who don’t. Responding to all of your reviews within a reasonable time is not possible without the use of review management tools to help brands respond to reviews in bulk, leverage the use of templates, and receive real-time review alerts.
Reviews also provide powerful insight into the customer experience. Monitoring reviews can help brands make operational changes with confidence. Take this one step further by leveraging sentiment and text analytics tools, like our Reputation Management tools to identify common topics and the sentiment associated with them throughout reviews.
In March, Facebook saw a 70% increase in usage, while news consumption through social media rose 9% from the beginning of the year to April. The rise in social media usage during the pandemic makes it the optimal place for brands to stay engaged with their customers and entice them to visit once reopened. Brands who provide their fans with helpful information during reopening such as a look at new operational changes or a guide to new safety protocols can put their customer concerns about visiting in-person at ease.
IT’S TIME TO REDEFINE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Let’s face it, the customer experience, as we knew it before the pandemic, will never be the same. New safety protocols, ongoing changes to business hours, and other operational limitations will impact the customer experience for every business. As brands reopen, they need to be thinking about new ways to redefine what a great customer experience looks like.
First things first, all brands need to implement and stick to safety measures according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations. Having proper signage throughout your locations will help to advise customers on the steps you’re taking to keep everyone safe. It’s also important that these safety measures are communicated and understood by employees as they are on the frontlines of the customer experience.
Omnichannel & Contactless Experiences
Many brands had to expand their omnichannel strategy during the pandemic. New omnichannel experiences such as curbside pickup, mobile ordering, BOPIS, and more were implemented by many brands for the first time. Leveraging contactless technology and experiences helps people to feel more comfortable doing business with your brand during a pandemic. Now is the time for brands to evaluate these new experiences and improve upon them in order to build a better customer experience that encourages customers to return.
Living through a pandemic is new for all of us and there is no telling when businesses may return to normalcy, if ever. Fortunately, we’re all going through this together and by looking back at how the pandemic has changed the way we do business, we can plan for a better and stronger reopening. To learn more about how our Reputation Management tools can help make the reopening process easier, call us and we’ll be happy to help. 888-300-8292