Small and medium size businesses are beating bigger brands when it comes to engaging with customer reviews and winning customers at the local level.
In the past, consumers relied heavily on brand recognition to find what they needed nearby, but today, smartphones have given consumers instant access, in the palm of their hands, to find businesses through “near me” searches. This radical change in the way consumers search for and choose businesses has evened up the competition, and smaller brands now have the opportunity to compete with global brands for local business.
In its Reputation Management Revolution report, Uberall analysed the Google My Business profiles of 64,000 business locations across the UK, Germany, France, and the U.S.A., and determined that SMBs in the UK – retailers, restaurants and other local businesses with fewer than ten locations – are more responsive than their larger competitors. SMBs respond to online reviews 26% of the time, which is almost double the rate for enterprises with more than ten locations (14%). Global brands – with more than 740 reviews per location – respond even less, replying to reviews only 0.2% of the time.
Although SMBs are outperforming their larger counterparts, there’s still substantial room for improvement for businesses of all sizes. For example, the average reply rate of all businesses in the US is around 23%, compared to just 13% in the UK. Notably, global brands in the US are far more responsive than their UK counterparts (30% US v. 0.2% UK). This difference in responsiveness impacts on conversions – measured by the number of clicks on phone number, driving directions, and website –, with US brands boasting, on average, nearly twice the amount of conversions as those in the UK.
“Simply put, businesses that reply to reviews win more customers, but in the UK, the biggest brands respond to reviews the least.” said Norman Rohr, SVP of Marketing at Uberall. “’Near me’ searches for goods and services nearby have levelled the playing field for smaller businesses, and large brands need to sit up and take notice. Your brand may pop up in a ‘near me’ search, but it’s your online engagement with customers that will convince them to click further, and ultimately, to stop in at your location.”
Across six different industries – including food and beverage, retail, travel, and automotive – Uberall’s research reveals that SMBs have a higher average star rating than enterprises with more than 10 locations. Higher star ratings mean a higher conversion rate, with a star rating difference from 3.5 stars to 3.7 stars translating to a 120% difference in conversion growth from one year to the next.
“Because customer review ratings have given SMBs a powerful tool to compete with much bigger brands, global brands can no longer afford to rest on brand recognition. Although responding to thousands of reviews, for a multitude of locations may seem unfeasible, technology can streamline the process and make it possible for even big brands to review customer feedback and respond to reviews personally,” said Rohr. “Investing your time in customer engagement builds consumer trust and improves performance – ensuring that your online star ratings match your offline quality and service.”
For businesses of all sizes, star ratings and responsiveness to reviews are absolutely linked to driving consumers who are searching online to offline stores. Currently, big brands aren’t doing enough to connect with consumers who are searching for products and services ‘near me,’ but by listening and responding to consumer feedback, larger brands can engage with customers on a local level – and stay competitive.