Brick-and-mortar store owners often neglect the importance of an online presence. Logically, it doesn’t seem to make sense to spend money on online marketing when your small business runs on smaller budgets and profit margins in the first place. At CEM, we understand that your budget is one of your main concerns, and we believe in taking a DIY approach whenever possible. That’s what this series is all about – giving brick-and-mortar store owners actionable information that will help them improve their revenue stream with little to no monetary investment (though some of these tips will take some time and effort on your part).

Today, we’re talking about online reviews. When a person searches a term that’s relevant to your business, you might be one of the first hits on Google. For example, when I use the search term “good burgers” plus my hometown, I get this list of results:

As you can see, all of these businesses have reviews listed, and most of them are pretty good! When I’m trying something new, I often spend some time reading the online reviews before making a final decision. Based on the research surrounding online buying, I’m not alone.

According to a recent study by Dimensional Research, a whopping 90% of those surveyed said positive online reviews influenced their purchasing decisions. Additionally, 86% of respondents reported that a negative review also influenced a decision to not buy.

In other words, your online reviews are important. Getting them, on the other hand, will take some work on your part. Here’s what you need to know.

Enabling Online Reviews

Often, adding the capacity for online reviews is not automatic. For example, if you want people to review your business on Facebook, you’ll have to enable the capability. You can do this by going into the settings section and electing “Edit Page” section on the left sidebar. Scroll down until you see the “reviews” section and set the Tab to “On,” if it’s not already. You’re officially ready to receive reviews on Facebook!

Getting your reviews posted on Google is equally simple. First, you’ll have to verify your business with the search engine, if you haven’t already. When you verify a business on Google, your information will appear on Maps, Search, and Google’s other suite of services, like the example I listed above. To verify your listing:

  • Go to Google My Business and search for your company in the search box.
  • If you don’t see your business listed in the menu, enter your information in the box and hit submit.
  • If someone else has verified your business, request ownership of your listing.

That’s it! You’re officially able to receive reviews on both Google and Facebook. Now comes the most important part: managing your online reputation and leveraging positive reviews.

How to Get Positive Reviews

Getting a set of positive reviews seems like it should be simple: just keep offering the superior customer service you know people have come to expect from your brand. Right? This is certainly a good start, but you can take additional steps to improve your online reviews:

  • Remind your customers to leave a review. There are several ways to accomplish this – for example, you can leave a URL to your Facebook page on an email or receipt. It’s best to send this correspondence 3-5 days after a customer makes a purchase, so he or she has had time to think about their experience with the product or service.
  • Avoid offering incentives for reviews. In some cases, this could be violating a website’s terms of service and lead to fines. If you must incentivize reviews, make sure that your customer states that he or she received a discount in exchange for an honest review.
  • Know how to deal with negative reviews. The bad news is you can’t delete the bad reviews, but you can respond to them. In fact, it’s best practice to do so, as it communicates that you’re trying to resolve the issue and make the experience better. Reach out to the customer as soon as possible and let others that read reviews know you’re addressing the problem.

Leveraging Positive Reviews

You’ve claimed your business listing and now you have positive reviews. While these can be valuable on their own, you can also leverage them for business success. Here are a few simple ideas to try:

  • Sync them to your website. Did you know that you can connect Google reviews to automatically post on your website? Just follow the instructions.
  • Use reviews as testimonials. Include them in your mailers and other forms of direct marketing.
  • Use them to improve your employee engagement. Employees love positive feedback, and it makes them feel more engaged with your company. Use positive reviews as a chance the provide shout outs that will improve your company’s efficacy.

Online reviews are virtually free to procure – the only investment you’ll make is the time you put into responding to them. Follow these tips to set up your website for reviews and leverage them for the success of your brick-and-mortar store.