The retail industry is undergoing a transformation in the digital age, with consumers expecting seamless and timely communication from the brands they interact with. However, a recent study conducted by SOCi, a CoMarketing Cloud for multi-location enterprises, reveals a concerning trend: over half of all consumer feedback—positive or negative—on online platforms such as Google, Instagram, and Yelp goes unanswered by retailers. This lack of engagement, known as “ghosting,” leaves customers feeling neglected and undervalued.
Impact to Reputation and Trust
Retailers who neglect to respond to customer feedback unintentionally convey the message that such experiences and opinions are not a priority. This can lead consumers to choose to spend their money elsewhere. Today’s shoppers are quick to abandon brands that fail to deliver on their expectations. A recent study showed that more than half of younger shoppers would stop purchasing from a brand—even if they had an overall positive perception—after multiple negative experiences. Moreover, nearly 10% of respondents stated that a single bad experience would lead them to sever ties completely.
To counteract this trend, retailers must demonstrate a commitment to customer satisfaction and make their customers feel valued and appreciated. Managing online feedback plays a crucial role in reputation management, as consumers increasingly consider factors like a business’s values and culture when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, potential customers who observe unresponsive behavior from retailers may be discouraged from engaging with the brand, leading to a loss of trust and a reduced likelihood of choosing that retailer in the future.
Poor Listings and Search Engine Visibility
When retailers ignore customer complaints, queries, or fail to express gratitude for feedback, they risk being overlooked in the digital realm. SOCi’s analysis revealed that search engines like Google prioritize active engagement, including responses to reviews, as key ranking factors. Retailers that actively engage with customers across online platforms improve their visibility in search engine results, which drives traffic to their online presence.
Increased visibility not only benefits retailers in terms of online traffic but also enhances their discoverability for local searches. As convenience often drives purchasing decisions, potential customers seek out local options for in-store visits. By engaging with customers online, retailers improve their ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs), which boosts their visibility when consumers actively search for local or in-person shopping options. Ultimately, this drives foot traffic to physical stores, where the majority of sales still occur, impacting revenue and brand recognition at a local level.
How Brands Can Avoid Ghosting
Addressing the issue of ghosting requires retailers to implement strategies that identify and rectify critical process and technology gaps. Here are three key strategies to consider:
- Prioritize Human Response: CMOs shouldclearly define digital engagement roles and responsibilities, in order to establish a process with dedicated personnel to respond to feedback. In addition, marketers should educate and support all stakeholders, from corporate marketing to local store locations, on how to respond effectively to different types of feedback. SOCi’s data suggests that businesses that reply to reviews have a 16% higher chance of converting prospects into buyers.
- Profile Optimization: Retail brands can enhance their online presence by optimizing profiles and online listings on platforms such as Yelp and Google. SOCi’s data indicates that retail locations with an optimized local social presence generate an additional value of $2,737 per location.
- Personalized Posting: In addition to addressing complaints, questions, and reviews promptly, personalization is key. Treat each local customer interaction as an opportunity to improve the overall customer experience. This can take the form of tailoring responses to specific store experiences rather than using generic, impersonal messages. Advanced technologies like AI and automation can help retailers communicate at scale while maintaining a personalized touch. For example, leveraging AI and automation enables brands to publish individualized, localized posts tailored to each store location, leading to increased customer engagement.
Plainly, ghosting is a significant threat to the reputation of retailers – and can prove detrimental to their bottom line. Ignoring customer feedback can tarnish a retailer’s image, erode consumer trust, and limit web visibility. To prevent this downward spiral, retailers must emphasize customer engagement and communication. Timely and personalized responses to reviews are particularly crucial, especially during challenging economic periods when consumers are more discerning than ever.
Adopting a customer-centric approach and actively engaging with customers allows retailers to strengthen relationships, enhance their reputations, and attract more potential buyers. In today’s fiercely competitive and uncertain retail environment, prioritizing communication and responsiveness is not just a tactical move; it’s a strategic necessity for modern retailers.