Small businesses have had to get creative over the last year in response to lockdowns and evolving customer expectations. I bet you’ve been zigging and zagging since March 2020. So how have customer reviews and ads changed? And how can you continue to adapt to changes in customer behavior?
Reviews Have Skyrocketed
Reviews matter more now than they did before lockdowns. Not only do people have more time on their hands, but they rely on virtual transactions and services like never before. Prior to the pandemic, many customers never considered writing reviews. Now, they are leaving all kinds of feedback about anything from safety protocols to general service.
Some small businesses are experiencing the largest or first influx of reviews they've ever had. They may have even struggled to drive reviews before the pandemic. Although welcomed, particularly if reviews have been mostly positive, what will happen once limitations and lockdowns have officially ended? As people go back to work and safety concerns fade, reviews may taper off. This means that it’s essential to implement a system for continuing to encourage customer reviews. More on this later.
Local Advertising Has Adapted to the Pandemic
Current advertising is certainly a reflection of our COVID-times. At every turn, no matter the industry, customers are presented with messages incorporating the pandemic—from social distancing and remote work to praising our essential workers.
If you run local advertising for a small business, there’s no doubt that you are already acknowledging pandemic issues, expressing empathy to appeal to customers, and hammering "buy local" messages. It is also a good idea to balance your approach by keeping in mind that customers hear these messages all the time. To stand out, you may consider creatively addressing these issues–or running with a different theme altogether.
Customers after COVID
Retail experts and analysts say we should expect many customer behavioral changes to extend past the pandemic. Why? Because many of the changes have added a convenience value that busy customers enjoy.
Recent surveys on future customer habits reveal:
- 59% of consumers plan to use curbside pickup post-pandemic
- 43% of consumers say they are willing to spend more on shopping conveniences
- 73% of consumers who increased online shopping during the pandemic intend to continue that behavior
- J.P. Morgan expects customers will continue to "shop with their thumbs" at an accelerated rate thanks to COVID
For ten months and counting, customers have been online shopping across industries, which is creating expectations. The ease of ordering from your phone and not having to set foot in a store is a new experience for many. Research shows that it takes between 18-254 days for people to form new habits. Not only are customers getting used to convenience options, but they are establishing new habits.
How to Keep Up with Evolving Customer Expectations
#1 Communication is a Two-way Street
Pay attention to changing behaviors. Survey your customers and really listen to their feedback. What are they complaining about or hoping for? They offer you prime intel about their needs and will become a point of difference over your competitors.
When you roll out new products or services to meet demands, communicate strongly about your new offerings. If you now offer online shopping options, get out there on social media, post signs in your store, put out ads, and have staff share this with every customer. If you provide new curbside pickup and delivery options, spread the word far and wide. By successfully meeting new customer expectations now, you take advantage of the momentum customer reviews are currently experiencing.
#2 Advertising Strategies
Ask for Reviews
Approximately 85-90% of customers read customer reviews before making a purchase. Reviews give your business credibility and, although you may be receiving a lot of them right now, you should establish a process to manage and encourage them long-term. Ask your customers for online reviews through an email, text, phone call, or just in person. When your great reviews start rolling in, be sure to share them on social and mention them in your newsletter and in-store marketing materials.
Your review management process should also include quickly responding to negative reviews to prove you are a reputable business that addresses your customers’ issues. Smart business owners see negative reviews as an opportunity to engage with current and prospective customers. In fact, 70% of unhappy customers will do business with you again if their complaint is resolved! You can learn more about this in our post Why Sharing only Positive Reviews is a Really Bad Decision.
You don’t need a lot of marketing experience or money to use social media to your advantage. Social is an excellent way for you to stay in constant contact with current and potential customers. Through channels like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can stay top of mind to your target audience, enable better communication for order statuses, and answer product/service questions.
White Spruce Market is one example of a small business that proves that leaning heavily into social media can make a big difference. White Spruce says that due to COVID's impacts on their business, they significantly upped their social media presence, and 90% of their shopping traffic now comes from that engagement.
#3 Be Consistent
Don't lose sight of how significant your online presence is. People spend most of their waking hours online–particularly right now. Engage with people where they are in meaningful ways so that they get to know your business. Offer education and tips. Help them understand how knowledgeable and genuine your business is.
ReviewPoint Can Help!
We give businesses the tools they need to successfully manage their reviews, showcase positive customer experiences, and proactively address issues and negative customer experiences.