Reputation Report Shows Increasing Relevance of Google Business Profiles
Google Business Profiles have become the single most important source of reliable information for local shoppers, but many brick-and-mortar retailers are still struggling to take advantage of Google’s platform and transition their businesses to the digital era.
Examining 3.7 million shopper reviews online, Reputation found that Google Business Profiles now have more impact on a location’s findability than any other factor. With 90% of consumers reading reviews before making a purchase, and review volume up 12% from 2020, retailers can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities that localized online marketing provides.
A new report by Reputation suggests that shoppers are doing more product research on Google before visiting stores in person, and they’re also using retailers’ Google Business Profiles to research companies before deciding where to spend their money. Although shoppers are leaving more online reviews than they did in 2020, Reputation found that customer sentiment is down. Consumer sentiment dropped significantly in the middle of 2020, and it has yet to rebound.
Google Business Profile views and actions increased 17% in 2021, while clicks for directions went up 15%. This data can be seen as good news for brick-and-mortar retailers because it signals that people are more interested in visiting physical stores. It also marks a significant change from 2020, when Covid-19 concerns were at their height and consumers were hesitant to visit stores in-person.
Reputation Chief Customer Officer Jason Grier says he was surprised to see that so many shoppers are interested in returning to brick-and-mortar stores. Despite a projected 80% of consumers shopping online this holiday season, Reputation’s research shows that in-person shopping is experiencing a resurgence. Savvy retailers are now shifting their focus from online to omnichannel.
“We see a lot of discourse around the fact that the pandemic sped up a wider adoption of digital tools and that shoppers love the convenience of online shopping,” Grier says. “However, our report found that overall Google Business Profile data indicates that people are more interested in visiting physical stores.”
With stores reopening around the country, it’s somewhat inevitable that clicks to directions on Google would rise. According to research from ChannelAdvisor, 47% of consumers conduct research on Google before making a purchase. The real question now is how retailers will go about accumulating more views and actions on their Google Business Profiles.
Reputation found that most online searches end on a Google site, like Google search or Google Business Profiles, rather than resulting in a click to a retailer’s website. This is a phenomenon known as zero-click search, and it’s a challenge that’s becoming increasingly relevant for retailers.
Customer Experience Improves
Despite ongoing staff shortages and supply chain issues, customer experience was actually the only major category that showed an increase in sentiment in 2021, compared to before the pandemic. In particular, Reputation found that more reviews now include employee names, proving that personal human connections are crucial to bringing shoppers back to stores and improving sentiment.
“Brick-and-mortar retail is resilient. The industry overall has embraced innovation and reinvented the shopping experience to pull off a stunning comeback from the pandemic,” Grier says. “However, consumer sentiment about the industry has declined in comparison to pre-pandemic days, so industry leaders need to take the time to listen to both structured and unstructured customer feedback and address issues such as product selection and price.”
As we move into 2022, Grier says retailers need to start getting more proactive about their review volume — the amount of recent reviews their stores are getting. Review volume impacts reputation and search ranking. He recommends that retailers embrace Google Business Profiles, ask for reviews, engage with customers, and learn from their feedback.
“The more positive reviews you get, the easier it will be to get found on Google,” Grier says. “You can only get those positive reviews by showing customers that you listen.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.