Do retailers have an online reputation management problem?

Photo: @mbocast via Twenty20
May 31, 2019

Online reputation matters. At the Transform ’19 conference in San Diego earlier this month, one point driven home was that, while brands and retailers have expanded their conversational touchpoints as a result of social media efforts, the vast majority of conversations about a particular company’s products and/or services takes place outside of those they control.

“We live in a ‘Feedback Economy’ with millions of points of presence to manage,” said Joe Fuca, CEO of, the firm behind the conference.

Effectively managing online perception requires a systematic approach (beyond social listening and crisis management) that supports brand strategy. New technologies, processes, data sources and machine learning provide the ability to dynamically develop, analyze, act on and measure online presence. It’s important to:

  • Maximize visibility via business listings and directories so customers can find you;
  • Increase engagement via reviews and social channels so customers will choose you;
  • Improve overall experience via surveys and analytics to identify issues or opportunities;
  • Monitor and measure performance over time and in real-time so you can take action.

These activities drive more traffic, clicks, calls, visits and revenue. In fact, reputation score and revenue performance correlate directly — retailers with high scores generate 3.9 percent higher sales.

The UK pub and restaurant chain, Mitchells and Butlers, has increased its online customer reviews from 130,000 to 750,000 over two years. Unit managers are held responsible for responding to consumer reviews and have achieved a 92 percent response rate. Word of mouth is important in the hospitality segment, given nearly all Millennials read online reviews before making decisions.

Scentre Group owns and operates “living centers” in Australia and New Zealand under the Westfield banner. It has found that consumers are willing to go back and amend poor reviews based on intervention from these centers as well as contacts made by corporate offices and retailers. This has improved the company’s star ratings, overall reputation score and center performance.

Pearle Vision is taking control of its narrative and promoting its “quality of care” brand promise to differentiate itself from new competitors in the eyewear segment. By understanding online conversations and taking action, the chain’s eyecare centers have increased exam volume and improved patient retention rates — two key metrics.

As these examples illustrate, understanding and managing online reputation is a business fundamental for brands and retailers. Winners have the right online visibility and take action to drive performance.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can brands and retailers manage word of mouth and online chatter when the vast majority of conversations take place outside of social channels and sites they have control over? Do you see a direct correlation between the ability to gain visibility into those conversations and sales performance?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Control what you can, and do this well."
"Handling online reviews, again good and bad, should be part of a company’s marketing strategy."
"Retailers and brands need not bang their heads on the wall trying to control things they cannot."

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5 Comments on "Do retailers have an online reputation management problem?"

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Charles Dimov

Control what you can, and do this well. Chatter outside channels you can influence is just noise. You can use PR, social media, marketing, the buying experience, and brand awareness to influence consumers – but you cannot control them. So focus on what you can control or influence – to the best of your organization’s capacity.

Sales performance can be directly influenced by Word of Mouth (WOM) and influencers. As such WOM and influencer programs can often help drive more sales. Don’t just focus on the world famous superstars, though. Today, retailers and CPGs are getting much more bang for their buck from the micro-influencers.

Shep Hyken

Online comments from customers, good and bad, are public. Everyone sees them. They also see how the company responds – and how fast the company responds. That’s if they respond at all. Online reviews are now a part of the buying process (for many customers). They research price, the merchandise and the retailer. An occasional bad review doesn’t necessarily hurt the retailer. It’s the lack of response that could hurt the retailer. Handling online reviews, again good and bad, should be part of a company’s marketing strategy.

Ralph Jacobson

Good discussion, Patricia. Retailers and brands need not bang their heads on the wall trying to control things they cannot.

Bottom line, drive positive messaging in the channels your audience watches, respond promptly to both negative and positive feedback with a serious investment of dedicated staff commensurate with the incoming volume of comments, and initiate lively conversations to proactively connect your brand to your audience’s lifestyles.

Dave Bruno

While we can’t control everything said about us in every nook and cranny of the internet, we can manage this problem. The only requirements are money and tenacity. If we dedicate resources (and measure and monitor their work) and stick with it, we can manage our reputations (assuming our products and services are up to standard).

Ricardo Belmar
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader, Advisor, & Strategist
3 years 2 months ago

Retailers can’t control every conversation in every channel, but they can try to influence the conversation in those channels they do have direct control over. This is why you see so many brands focus on emotional correlation to their products in places where you might find feedback channels from consumers. Retailers do need to monitor and watch thee channels to understand consumer sentiment towards their brand and products, but they also have to realize they will not have complete control unless they can control the underlying platform in that channel. As always, you have to focus on the brand relationship elements you can control with your customer — the rest will follow if you execute this well!

"Control what you can, and do this well."
"Handling online reviews, again good and bad, should be part of a company’s marketing strategy."
"Retailers and brands need not bang their heads on the wall trying to control things they cannot."

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