You have a brick-and-mortar (and gas pump!) store, but did you know it's important to get positive online reviews, too?
Here's why it's important to focus on online reviews: It's all about the customer experience and how people choose which products and stores to patronize.
In this era of Yelp, Google, Trip Advisor, Angie's List and other review sites, customers are used to hopping online before choosing to purchase an item on a website or patronize an establishment — any kind of establishment. Restaurants, retail stores, hotels, service businesses like mechanics and HVAC, and yes, even C-stores.
They're looking online for information about the customer experience, according to Convenience Store News, and as any of us who has been in the C-store game for a while knows, that bar has been raised. People want to know what they're going to find when they walk into your store. Friendly staff who put a smile on their face or uninterested, non-engaged cashiers just putting in their time? A wide selection of interesting, healthy food options that rival the fast-casual joint down the street, or a couple of hot dogs that may or may not have been sitting on the roller since the Obama administration? A loyalty program that rewards them for their purchases quickly and easily or ... nothing in place to reward loyal customers?
That's the kind of information your potential customers are looking for online. And, one bad review can do real damage to future business. The kinds of reviews your customers find out there in cyberspace will influence whether they choose your store or go the extra mile down the street for one with more favorable reviews. That's why it's important to focus on generating positive online reviews.
According to a recent survey by BrightLocal:
- 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses.
- 91% of consumers are more likely to use a business because of positive reviews.
- 82% are put off by negative reviews.
- 97% read a business's responses to reviews.
Here are a few suggestions for securing positive online reviews:
Deliver great service and quality. This may go without saying, but none of this is going to work if you don't walk the walk. It means well-trained, engaged employees; offerings tailored to the preferences of your consumers and a great loyalty program that rewards your customers for their loyalty.
Use social media to create buzz about your product line, specials and promotions. If you've spent time and effort bringing in healthy items like fresh fruits and veggies, wraps and sandwiches, small meals that are easy to eat in the car like cheese, salami and grapes packaged in a cup holder-friendly container, and local foods like ethnic selections geared toward your customer base, it can be a "tree falls in the forest" type of situation, especially when you've just started to do it. People don't know it's there. The fix? Snap a shot of those great new products and pop it onto social media.
Ask customers for positive reviews. You won't get it unless you ask. This can be as easy as putting a sign up at the register. Those social media posts where you're buzzing about your products and specials? Very easy for your customers to share or retweet. Do a contest periodically to reward those retweets with something — a free car wash, cents off gas purchases, extra points in their loyalty program. Speaking of which...
Get a loyalty marketing app. A mobile app loyalty program is a great way for customers to stay in touch with your brand 24/7, whether that’s for general business information or to ask you a question about your business. Mobile apps give you the ability to offer in-app-only special offers and discounts that help deepen the relationship you have with your customers. We humbly suggest ours.
Respond to your online reviews. Be they positive or negative. If they're positive, say thank you. If negative, say you're sorry and hope to make it up to them next time. Never be defensive.
[Read more about it in Marketing Strategies for the Busy C-Store Owner]