By Jennie Gilbert, Chief Operating Officer of Retailer Web Services
In today’s digital age, the lines between perception and reality have become blurred. During every day and with every interaction, we are constantly affecting how others perceive us; this has been true for generations. However, for retailers today, what’s changed is the tremendous—and wildly convenient—power other people have in influencing and shaping public opinion of you and your business.
Gone are the days when businesses solely managed their reputations by traditional marketing and PR. With the rise of social media and online review sites, our interactions have been forever magnified and transformed. The ease with which consumers can publicly share their positive and negative comments has put your customer in charge of shaping your company’s reputation.
Online reviews about your business live on sites dedicated to just that like Yelp! and Angie’s List. What’s more, consumer reviews are now being collected and showcased on the mega sites that have become a daily part of our lives (think Google and Facebook). In his book, Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business, bestselling author Erik Qualman discusses how word of mouth has become world of mouth.
Stopping people from talking about your business online is impossible. Choosing to abstain—going off the internet grid, so-to-speak—is not a viable option as there will still be other people talking about you and your business online. Qualman, a foremost expert on the topic, calls this our "digital shadow." But it’s not as daunting as it sounds. Embracing people talking about your business online is ripe with powerful and positive possibilities. Having a good online Reputation Management solution in place puts you back in control of not only your reputation, but in building and protecting a legacy that works overtime to expand your success.
And oh what a powerful tool a good Reputation Management solution can be! Research by BrightLocal, which specializes in helping local businesses grow through digital solutions, found when deciding which local business to shop with, consumers report they care more about reviews than price. And it turns out, consumers don’t need to see a flawless five-star record to want to do business with you; they quickly forgive negative reviews when businesses take the time to thoughtfully (and publicly) respond.
There’s more good news: A lot of smart and innovative professionals are researching and sharing what they’re learning about Reputation Management, the hottest digital topic this year. If you’re interested in taking control of your online reputation and turning it into a powerful tool that works 24/7 to increase your business, here are four best practices that comprise the building blocks of a robust Reputation Management strategy:
Reputation Management has incredible potential to earn exponential business for you—and it’s possible to execute if you care enough about your customers and your legacy to make it a priority. The principles that govern it are simple: be approachable, responsive, thoughtful and thankful. I bet your mother taught you all these things already. All you need are some best practices and good software tools to help you apply them in this new digital age and harness the power of positivity to rise above the competition.
About Retailer Web Services
Founded in 2006, Retailer Web Services (RWS) is a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based provider of proprietary e-commerce, web design and other high-performance software solutions to help independent retailers achieve success. A champion of independent retailers, RWS is an authoritative source on durable goods product data and consumer purchasing habits. RE:THiNK: 11 surprising things you should do now to win retail customers in the digital age (RWS, 2015) provides actionable advice grounded in the way consumers shop for durable goods. RWS serves more than 2,000 independent durable goods retailers across North America. For more information, visit www.retailerwebservices.com.