COVID-19 and Reputation: The Growing Importance of Business Listings and Reviews
It’s certainly not news that the pandemic has had a significant effect on businesses around the world, especially those in the retail, food services, local services and healthcare industries. A new study from Chatmeter reports on the impact of COVID-19, specifically noting how it’s affected the brand reputation of brick-and-mortar operators in those industries across the U.S. and Canada.
Let’s start with a few key findings:
- Businesses made 3.2 times the average number of updates to their listings during the first month of COVID-19.
- Brick-and-mortar locations saw an average drop of 72.9 percent in review volume between February and April.
- Businesses dropped an average of .27 stars in overall rating between March and April.
- Brick-and-mortar businesses saw a 44.84 percent drop in driving directions from March to April.
- The star rating associated with reviews mentioning coronavirus grew increasingly positive.
- Google My Business clicks to call grew 5.5 percent from May to June, reflecting the fact that many consumers were calling businesses before visiting them.
There are a number of things that can be taken from this information, starting with how important local listing management is for businesses during a crisis. Due to all the uncertainty around business hours, temporary closures, and new service features designed to keep customers safe, these listings are vital to keeping the public informed.
With respect to online reviews, the big drop was not unexpected, since it was largely due to Google My Business temporarily disabling them from March 20 to April—to ensure brands didn’t receive negative reviews about situations out of their control. And although the star drop for March and April was surprising—especially considering the fact that in 2019, the overall star rating fluctuation was just .16—by May star ratings had started to rebound, up by an average of .13.
Average response rate for brands took a perhaps expected dip from March to April—dropping by 10 percent—since many were temporarily closed. Those brands that took advantage of the low volume during this time to maintain their response rate have put themselves in a better position to quickly rebuild their online presence.
The Road to Rebuild
In addition to providing brand reputation statistics, the study also provided suggestions for how brands can build a stronger reputation as they continue to reopen. Local SEO is considered key for brick-and-mortar businesses when it comes to customer acquisition, with an emphasis on listing management, local pages and voice engine optimization.
Also important to the reopening process is reputation rebuilding, focusing on reviews and social media. Are you aware that even a .1 star increase can improve customer conversion by 25 percent?
Review management has perhaps never been more important, especially improving response rate—since 53 percent of consumers believe reviews should be responded to within an hour. And since there has been a rise in social media use during the pandemic, it’s a great place to provide followers with helpful information including safety measures in place as well as what’s in place to support omnichannel and contactless experiences.
Businesses that respond appropriately to this “brave new world,” rather than mourning for the past, will find themselves on a faster path to rebuilding customer trust and racking up sales.
If you want to strategize about all of the opportunities that exist for your brand to shine during this unprecedented time, please contact us for a free individualized strategy session.
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