"The price of the shoes was abusive and the quality was very poor." "They cut my hair more than I asked for, I'm not going back to this hairdresser." have more weight in the online reputation of small businesses, and what is seen as a consumer defense tool is also considered a pressure mechanism for local businesses, which previously only had to worry about word of mouth from consumers. neighbours.
Apart from the reviews, the score is also crucial. "We have reached the point where the purchase decision depends on a few tenths up or down," says Xavier Colomés, founder of Local Boss, a Catalan startup dedicated to managing company reviews and scores on Google Maps and which already works for 1,700 SMEs.
The appearance of specialized platforms such as this demonstrates the importance of online reputation for companies and the sophistication of the online marketing sector. In fact, according to a survey by the Bright Local consultancy, half of consumers trust both online comments and recommendations from friends and family, and this despite the fact that fake reviews have made digital critics lose credibility. The survey, carried out with more than 1,100 consumers in the United States at the end of 2021, also reveals that eight out of ten consumers consult the opinions on Google before the purchase act and that, of this total, only 3% say they are willing to buy in a trade whose score is below 2 out of 5.
“Large companies are already clear that this is a crucial aspect. In fact, they have internal marketing tools and teams specialized in their management. It is SMEs, especially those that are not yet digitized, that have to start taking into account the importance of managing online reviews”, says Hugo Palomar, CEO of Mindset Digital, a firm specializing in digital marketing for local businesses.
Colomés details that “the focus is on Google Maps because the score that an establishment receives on this platform appears as the first search option on mobile phones. This causes platforms like Trip Advisor to play less and less role, even in hotels and restaurants, sectors where this application had a great influence years ago”.
The operation of the great internet giant leaves little room for action for businesses, which must accept the score given to them by consumers and face pejorative criticism. However, the agencies consider that businesses can work in three directions to minimize poor results. “It's best to respond to negative reviews so that consumers can read both sides' versions. It is also advisable to apply the changes requested by customers since sometimes they can be right. You have to know how to turn this online pressure into a useful improvement mechanism”, says Jorge Zuluaga, CEO and founder of Localiza.me, a digital reputation tool.
Finally, Colomés encourages satisfied consumers to leave a positive comment on Google. "If we are an increasingly digitized society, we must begin to change the culture of consumption and involve all the staff of an establishment to ask the user to also be friendly on the Internet," he concludes.