By David Alpern and Greg Jordan
The role the Internet plays in having prospective customers locate and assess a business cannot be overstated. Smart Momma, a baby gear and gifts retailer, saw its site traffic increase 3X over one year due in large part to online reviews. The Internet can be gold for local businesses if they also have a plan in place for the disgruntled.
Consumers don’t get their information from just one source. BIA/Kelsey’s User View Wave VII consumer tracking study found that consumers use 7.9 different media sources when shopping locally. Each media has an impact at every level of the purchase funnel: awareness, interest, desire along with consideration, and ultimately the most important stage – action, which is typically a purchase.
“Media sources” refers to search engines (90% reported using search), Internet Yellow Pages (48% usage), vertical industry sites (24%), and comparison shopping sites (42%).
Here are 6 tactics that harness the power of the Internet to help direct more people to a business’ front door.
The BIA/Kelsey’s User View Wave VII consumer tracking study cited above also revealed that nearly all consumers (97%) now use online media to shop locally. Yet, online is a large place, and the use may be in the form of gathering product information, price comparison, reviews, coupons, look-up information. Generate content that is relevant and usable in each of these forums.
As consumer-generated content proliferate, so do the problems and headaches they engender. Consumers are increasingly more likely to search online for reviews before making a purchase, and what they find may be misleading information. Be it intentional or not, it damages the perception of the brand and can quickly spread. Changing these perceptions necessitates successfully communicating accurate information to balance the viewpoint.
Have a Plan
Rather than avoid online forums, formulate an action plan to manage potential damage caused by negative conversations and reviews. A disgruntled customer is 4X more likely to convey their feelings to others than a customer that enjoyed a good experience. The ratio can rapidly multiply online and spell disaster for brands that don't have strategies in place to combat online negative chatter.
Creating a custom profile on Google is an easy and effective way to make sure you appear when people are "Googling" you. What's more, the profile information resides at Google which means it will get indexed almost immediately. Try filling out your profile, then do a vanity search and see if you pop up! http://www.google.com/profiles/me
Yelp is a popular site that connects people with local businesses and allows consumers to share experiences. Business owners can join the conversation and put their best foot forward by posting pictures, menus, discounts, special events notifications, and proactively responding to reviewers as necessary.
The five steps that deliver the most significant positive effect on local rankings are:
1. Google/Yahoo! local business listings that include an address and business description
2. Citations from data providers, such as InfoUSA, Localeze, and Internet yellow pages sites
3. Associating your local business listing within the proper categories
4. Completing the verification steps offered for your local business listing on Google/Yahoo!
5. Including product/service keywords (i.e., “hair salon,” “attorney”) in the title of your listing
And for the ambitious, there is also Yahoo! SearchMonkey, which allows customization of the look and feel of your search result on Yahoo! This tool involves supplying Yahoo! with an XML feed and typically is prepared by an interactive vendor and not by the business itself.