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Reputation in the Online World: How Brands Can Cut Through the Endless Choices of the Customer Journey

Customer Journey is evolving. This change in customer behavior could see the internet account for as much as 53% of retail sales in 10 years’ time. A recent report by the Office for National Statistics revealed that 82% of Britons are now shopping online. Purchasing behavior is moving away from the high street and towards digital devices, as e-commerce shows no signs of decline. This change in customer behavior 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.

As commerce continues to shift online, consumers are being met with ever-increasing choice in the saturated retail ecosystem. No matter what platform used to find information about goods or services online; be it maps, apps, search engines or voice assistants; customers are faced with the paradox of choice as search results serve up countless options.

In 1952, researcher William Edmund Hick coined this overwhelming offer of options with the term ‘Hick’s Law’ – the more choices we have, the harder it is to choose. A lot has changed in the way we shop since the 1950s, but Hick’s Law is perhaps more prevalent than ever in customer experience today.

So how can brands cut through the endless choice throughout the customer journey? One way to stand out in crowded search results is by managing online reputation to make the choice easier for consumers.

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Perfect Answers Everywhere

When it comes to online, what is Reputation Management? In simple terms, it’s the process of overseeing every factor that influences the public perception of a business. 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. Brands need to manage their reputation, both online and offline, to ensure they are delivering the experience and message they want to send.

The first step? 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, brands need to provide consistent, comprehensive and correct information about their business across all channels.

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We’ve all been faced with the frustration of inaccurate business information. If the customer is making a high-need, high-intent search, like buying a charger for a dying laptop or an umbrella for a sudden downpour, the facts about a location need to be up to date and accurate in order to capitalize on that intent. Ultimately, a brand’s reputation is at stake if what consumers find online isn’t perfect, and reputation means revenue.

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Valuing Customer Opinions

When we consider Hick’s Law, we must focus on the ways that consumers are navigating the paradox of choice and making purchasing decisions as a result. Whilst some savvy consumers 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 purchasing decision for us. According to Bazaarvoice, up to 64% of consumers consider the reviews and ratings of a business important in today’s customer journey. Certainly, reviews have become a crucial element in brands’ reputation, as consumer perceptions are shaped around these opinions.

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 manage their reputation. We know from our 2019 Proprietary Study that brands who respond to 75 to 100 percent of reviews see an average of .53 higher star rating than businesses who do not respond.

Aside from showing customers that you recognize their feedback, businesses should also hone their reputation strategy to avail of the positive impact that reviews have on SEO.

Google automatically pre-filters for searches that include terms like ‘best’, for example; ‘What is the best shoe shop near me?’. Search results with a rating of four stars and above will be surfaced, and other listings will be omitted. Reputation Management determines whether your brand is discoverable in the first instance.

Ultimately, brands should listen and respond to their customers’ opinions and take their online reputation seriously. This will ensure their information is optimized for Search and that their product or service is surfaced and discoverable in the moment of intent. Brands that provide accurate information across touchpoints can truly cut through the endless choice, and stand out in this increasingly competitive retail ecosystem.

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