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Online reviews could make or break your retail business this holiday season

With one week until the beginning of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping period, the Australian Retailers Association predicts that Australians will spend a record $6.2 billion over the four-day shopping weekend, up $200 million from 2021. 

The annual Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts, which were first made popular in the US, are now more anticipated in Australia than Boxing Day sales.

Undoubtedly, this year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday will be entirely different from previous ones. The fourth quarter of the year is said to be the busiest and most lucrative for retailers because it is the last quarter of the year. 

Retailers’ online sales have increased dramatically this year, thus, converting their operation to a flexible e-commerce platform will satisfy each customer’s fluctuating traffic needs. 

The minimum star rating the average Australian will take into consideration is 3.5, according to research from the communications and payments platform, Podium. Twenty-eight per cent of Australians will read a business review while standing outside before deciding whether to enter.

Key findings:

When it comes to choosing a business, 84 per cent of Australians are influenced by Google reviews, while 44 per cent are willing to travel further and spend more to visit a business with superior evaluations. 

  • Fifty-one per cent said that a business’s answers to reviews had altered their perception of the business. 
  • Pre-Covid, 46 per cent are more likely to glance at a local business’s Google listing before visiting; 
  • Since the pandemic, 69 per cent of Australians have read reviews to verify the health and safety of local businesses. 
  • Sixty-nine per cent of Australians believe that employee attitude is the most likely reason for leaving a one-star review. 45 per cent of local businesses say that online reviews are “very important” to their business’ success;

Dave Scheine, Country Manager, Australia at Podium, notes that consumers today are increasingly digital-first, using online channels to research, engage and build relationships with their favourite local businesses. 

“In the discovery phase, word of mouth is still essential for local businesses, but today that word of mouth is digital in the form of reviews. For consumers, reviews are relatable and authentic, and genuinely influence their decision to engage a business, whether they’re a high street retailer, a hair salon, a tradie or something else entirely. 

“Shopfronts are still hugely important, particularly for retailers, but those who rely solely on footfall and physical location during the peak season will struggle to compete with the retailers who are using great reviews and a digital presence to engage consumers online. 

Dave emphasises the significance of online reviews and argues that a business doesn’t exist for customers if it doesn’t have a website or if it does, but it has negative reviews.

Podium research shows that local businesses who have optimised their Google Reviews will be better placed to succeed and facilitate meaningful experiences with the millions of Aussies who love supporting local businesses.

“A retailer might have beautiful products at great prices, but that counts for little if consumers can’t find them when searching for ‘best toy store near me’ or ‘custom jewellers Perth’. 

“Incentivising happy customers to leave reviews is a time- and cost-effective way to drive customer retention, customer acquisition, and tap the full power of the ‘support local’ sentiment during peak season, and long after it.”

Fake negative reviews 

Customers are increasingly relying on online customer reviews to make more informed purchasing selections. This is a welcome thing as long as the neutrality of the reviews is maintained.  However, falsely negative customer reviews that are motivated by a personal dislike for a business or its employees and are posted on a review platform can cause considerable damage. 

Businesses that receive falsely negative ratings can file a complaint with the review site and the proper regulatory agencies.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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