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With the two year anniversary of the pandemic nearing, and the retail industry continuing to experience enormous transformation, new research brings fresh insight for brands looking to create effective customer experiences and boost sales.
A new survey by Birdeye, an Experience Marketing platform, of over 800 marketers, looked specifically at how they communicate with new and existing customers to grow their revenue. The report showed how 57% of those surveyed now believe that managing the online reputation of a business, through actively managing reviews, referrals and other indicators of online reputation, is more important than paying for advertising.
Advertising becomes more complex
With the impact of the ios14 changes coming into full force this year, many retailers have been looking for more ways to maximise their online sales.
Dave Lehman, chief operating officer of Birdeye, states that “Advertising just isn’t driving revenue the way it used to,” and makes this recommendation to any e-commerce business concerned about falling ad revenues: “Keep investing in advertising, but devote more time and resources to building a strong online reputation. There’s no one marketing strategy that is a golden goose”.
The report backs up this advice, and shows that many marketers have already made this change, with 88% of marketers see a direct connection between online reputation and revenue.
Lehman goes further to say “the best first step towards building an effective online reputation is to accelerate digital transformation”.
“The decision to go digital is no longer optional. The pandemic forced many businesses to accelerate their digital transformation over the past year — much faster than planned…Overall, digital transformation has sped up by a shocking 7 years”.
How to build an online reputation
“To truly build a good online reputation, make sure you ask all your customers for feedback and don’t cherry-pick customers. Getting continuous feedback from customers, and responding to them, is essential for building authenticity and trust with your audience” explains Lehman.
Small businesses in many ways have an advantage to managing their online reputation in comparison to the bigger retailers. Small business owners are closer to their customers, so if they work hard to connect with customers and utilise the online platforms afforded to them – the building blocks for a positive online reputation are there.
The report reminds us that right now, consumers are attracted to brands that offer “simplicity, speed and convenience whenever they need a question answered or a problem solved” and they prefer ‘messaging’ as the main method for communication.
Utilising the direct relationship they have with customers is the ‘holy grail’ for small businesses. Being brave and taking advantage of the advancement of technology will stand independent retailers in good stead during challenging and competitive times.
Despite lacking the scalability of advertising, online reputation management is a crucial tool in the marketers toolbox, with 58% of new customers coming to brands through SEO and reviews (responsible for 34% of new acquisitions), and referrals (24%).
Ultimately, the growing importance of building a solid online reputation simply reinformes what many independent retailers know. As Birdeye concludes: “Today, online sentiment, customer referrals and word of mouth have become the largest influence on the purchase process…customers are the lifeblood of any business and significantly impact search results and online reputation”.