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Reputation in an ever-growing online marketplace

By Sasha Fedorenko October 22, 2019 - 10:16 am

As digital commerce continues to grow, with customers opting to shop online or via mobile over a physical shopping experience, retailers are having to quickly adapt to changing consumer behaviours.

Some 82% of Britons are now shopping online, according to ONS data, so no matter what platform is used to find goods or services online; be it maps, apps, search engines or voice assistants; retailers put their reputation at risk if they fail to provide consistent information across all touchpoints. This change in customer behaviour could see the internet account for as much as 53% of retail sales in 10 years’ time, according to a report by analysts Retail Economics.

With this shift comes great responsibility of retailers to ensure they’re providing customers with the right information online to inform their purchase, making it a seamless experience. This is especially important owing to the fact that consumers are faced with the paradox of choice as search results serve up countless options.

So how can retailers cut through the endless choice throughout the customer journey? The best way for retailers to come out on top and stand out in crowded search results is by managing online reputation so consumers are empowered to make an informed decision.

Overcoming online choice fatigue

In 1952, researcher William Edmund Hick coined a term to describe the overwhelming offer of options available to consumers – ‘Hick’s Law’: the more choices we have, the harder it is to choose. Much has changed in the way we shop since the 1950’s, but Hick’s Law is perhaps a more accurate term than ever to explain the customer experience today.
The challenge retailers face is ensuring they’re managing reputation in an overwhelming stream of choice online. Though often perceived as a herculean task, owing to the complexities of today’s digital world and the interdependence of search touchpoints, reputation management has never been more important.

The first step is providing perfect answers everywhere. With growing access to information at the swipe of a finger, a press of a button or the ask of a question, retailers need to provide consistent, comprehensive and correct information about their business across all channels to avoid consumer choice fatigue.

Retailers need to manage their reputation, both online and offline, to make sure they are delivering the experience and message they want to send. This will help to strengthen consumer trust and in turn, convert sales. If what consumers find online isn’t perfect, reputation and loyalty are at stake and reputation means revenue.

Customer opinions matter

Hick’s Law gives us a true insight into how consumers think when it comes to purchasing decisions. As humans, our natural instinct is to seek validation from peers. Online reviews are not only a valuable tool to consumers to influence a purchase, but should be highly regarded by retailers as another channel for reputation management.

With the fact that, according to Bazaarvoice, 64% of consumers consider the reviews and ratings of a company important, reviews have become a crucial element in online reputation. Whilst some savvy shoppers might scour every review site and search result, the majority of us scan the average rating and read a few reviews. With that information, we feel confident that we’re making the right purchase.

They also impact discoverability through SEO as consumers search for ‘best’ and ‘top 10’, for example. This optimises for search and improves the likelihood that their product or service is surfaced and discoverable in the moment of intent. So, monitoring this feedback and providing responses is a vital part of reputation management today.

Reviews tell the story of the customer experience from their perspective, and research shows that shoppers buy four times more on product pages that include answered questions.

It is therefore up to businesses to monitor this feedback and provide answers to questions in order to keep customers informed, up to date and ultimately trusting of the brand,
The future of search lies in answers. Together with authenticity and transparency, reputation and responsiveness to customers’ opinions should be top considerations. Brands that offer accurate and useful information across multiple touchpoints will be well-positioned in this moment of seemingly limitless choice to stand out in a competitive marketplace – and their customers will thank them for it.

Author: Jon Buss, managing director, Yext UK and Northern Europe

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