5 Ways Online Reviews Drive Customers to Pet Businesses

“Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.” -Google

Local pet shops face unique challenges, how do you stand out from the pack of other pet stores like yours? Or even more challenging, how do you stand out from big box stores like Petsmart and Petco that operate in the same industry?

Getting a pet owner’s attention is the first step. The act of enticing customers has become increasingly difficult as consumers choices have drastically multiplied. “The paradox of choice,” states that when people are presented with a wider selection of options, the time that a person takes to make a decision increases rather than decreases.

In a world with so many pet supplies options, how can you simplify the choice of potential customers?

More Positive Reviews Means More Visibility Online

The number one goal of every business owner is to make money. Being “the best-kept secret in town” may seem like a compliment but it’s really the opposite. Being obscure is a great way to become obsolete.

Ensuring that you have plenty of quality online reviews is a crucial first step for getting pet owners and their pets in the door. Pet shops with the most reviews and highest average ratings are going to get more traffic both digitally and physically than those with very few reviews, or a large number of negative reviews compared to positive ones.

More 5-star, high-quality reviews mean more business. Fewer positive reviews (or more negative reviews) means less business.

Reviews = Trust

Consumers no longer trust businesses. You can try telling everyone that you see that you are the best local pet shop in town, but if that feeling isn’t being voiced by your current customers online, potential customers online will take note. Ratings and reviews have become a reputational necessity.

We seem to have collectively agreed that online reviews are trustworthy. Nine out of ten consumers say they trust some online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family. Studies show that customer confidence in online reviews is increasing every year. Do not undermine the importance of this!

Keep Customers For Life By Responding to Reviews

Bad reviews are no fun at all. You can’t prevent them, you can’t delete or hide them, but you can control whether you’re addressing them reactively, or proactively. Properly addressing a negative review increases the chance that a customer will give your business another chance.

No response is still a response. Silence says it all; it tells current and potential customers that you don’t care enough to acknowledge less than ideal experiences, which makes things even worse. Every last review that you have is an opportunity to learn more about your customers and how to communicate with them in the best way possible.

Responding to a customer is not just about answering them alone. Your whole audience is watching how you interact with your customers online. Responding to reviews goes much deeper than simply the one person who you might happen to be responding to.

Keep a Steady Stream of Reviews

Your review stream must be steady and continuous. Most customers now say that reviews more than 90 days old are irrelevant, so you’ve got to keep things fresh all the time.

Google’s rewards businesses that have “high review velocity.” Businesses with more reviews, that are reviewed more frequently are ranked higher in local search. One in ten customers will leave a review unprompted. The other nine are too busy living their lives to spend time online reviewing your local business. But if you proactively ask them for their feedback, the vast majority of your customers will at least consider it.

You’re Local, You’re Personal

Talking to customers in your local business and promoting online reviews is the fastest (and most efficient) way to get tons of online reviews. 76 percent of all online searches for local business results in foot traffic within 24 hours. Those people are going to go somewhere for Steve’s Real Food or their training treats and leashes; how do you make sure they find their way to you? You need to be making sure they’re able to find hundreds and hundreds of positive, detailed reviews about why they should shop at your pet store.

Online reviews are a great way to create brand ambassadors and loyal shoppers, but you’ve got to put in a little effort, instead of leaving it up to chance.

8/10 pet professionals neglect their online identity. How are pet parents finding your business? Schedule a demo by clicking here to learn more about how your business stacks up.


No More Facebook Reviews? Introducing Facebook Recommendations for Business

For a short while, Facebook was testing a 10 point scale for reviews of Facebook business pages as opposed to the traditional 5 star system. Now, Facebook has gone in a new direction entirely. They’ve gone to a binary system of: “do you recommend this business or not?”  This appears to be replacing the star-rating system entirely. The average star rating out of 5 is still currently being displayed but only takes into account past reviews and new recommendations.

Facebook has yet to open up the recommendations system API, so once the reviews system is disabled- reputation management systems will need to stay on top of things in order to continue to collect reputation data.

Rich Endorsements

The star system update is not the only thing that’s changed. In the recommendation process, customers can leave what’s called a ‘Rich Endorsement,’ which includes photos and pre-set text. This is currently only available for restaurants and coffee spots but will soon be featured for other industries. These suggested attributes or ‘tags’ make the recommendation process much simpler. This is also used by Google My Business subjective and objective attributes.

These changes have implications for businesses. Mainly in the way that businesses go about requesting and handling Facebook reviews, or more accurately- recommendations. Making a recommendation request is quicker and easier than asking customers for on online review. On the downside, the recommendation system runs the risk of only collecting polar feedback from the people with the most severe opinions of a business. It used to be that people who were unsure could simply leave a 2 or a 3 star review. With the recommendation system it’s a yes or a no and customers without a strong opinion might simply refrain from leaving a ‘recommendation’ at all.

Since the number of review possibilities has been reduced from 5, down to 2- people who are monitoring and acting on Facebook reviews and recommendations will need to pay more attention to the actual text and content of the recommendation. The content of the recommendation is where customers can bridge the gaps left by the removal of the ‘middle-lane’ 3 star ratings.

There is one more option, which is to leave a message that answers the question: “How could Widget Business improve?” These messages will be posted to the page if the user chooses to, rather than sending private feedback. Sending the feedback privately is a little more complex and involves adjusting recommendation privacy.

Facebook Recommendations and their Authenticity

There is a process for reporting fake Google reviews, but it’s rather difficult and definitely underutilized. Facebook reports that in order to preserve the ‘authenticity’ of recommendations both users and Facebook page owners will be able to report recommendations for:

  • Recommendation not relevant
  • Unfair recommendation
  • Nudity
  • Violence
  • Harassment
  • Suicide or Self-Injury
  • Spam
  • Drugs
  • Hate Speech
  • False News
  • Unauthorized Sales

While there is nothing specific to ‘fake reviews’ but ‘unfair,’ ‘not relevant,’ and ‘harassment,’ all come to mind when you spot a fake review.

In closing, we recommend you adjust your review acquisition strategies to deal with this new change while keeping your primary focus on Google 5-Star Reviews! We will watch and see how this change impacts other reputation management tools and review growth strategies.

Man using his mobile phone to text a pet store about dog food

Customers Love the Ability to Text Your Local Pet Store

Most customers in the United States would prefer to text with a member of a retail store team according to a preference study by HeyWire Business. Over half of the sample said they would like to be able to text a company representative. Additionally, one third (31%) would rather text than use their current form of communication such as the telephone.

“In today’s world, consumers increasingly prefer texting in both their personal and business lives, and they are clearly seeking text conversations as a fast, efficient customer support option,” – Meredith Flynn-Ripley (CEO, HeyWire)

Frustration with being put on hold may be one reason, but the convenience of being able to retrieve important information such as operating hours, especially around holidays when they might be different is likely the driving factor. Younger generations also seem to be more inclined to seek convenience factors. The data support the idea that customers would also prefer to text message a pet store about booking grooming appointments when they can’t set aside time for a phone call to inquire.

It is known that customer communication is key for overall customer satisfaction, and it is important to be able to meet the demands of your customers in order to retain loyal customer bases. For pet store owners, keeping on an open line of communication means that you can get feedback, and answer questions about when a specific brand or flavor of food will be in stock. CBD based products for pets are quickly growing in popularity, and frequently coming into and out of stock. Being able to ask about products availability is important to customers in order for them to make a trip into your store when they know you have what they need ready to go for them, and their pet.

Pet Store Online Reviews Matter

Pet Retailers Requesting Reviews is 34 Times More Effective When Asking a Customer in Person

Reviews are one of the best “ads” that a local business has. Potential new customers see online reviews as credible, authentic, and trustworthy. It is crucial for your business to be getting reviews. When it comes to getting reviews, hope is not a method. Do you “hope” that somebody unlocks the doors to your pet store every day? No way! So why would you sit back and “hope” that your business will get great online reviews? People struggle to leave reviews for two reasons: you don’t have anywhere obvious for your customers to submit a review, and you haven’t asked for a review!

It is very common for store owners to feel like they are being too intrusive, or asking too much of a customer by asking them to leave an online review for their pet store. This is understandable, but it is not the case. Customers are happy to leave you a review, and the best way to ask is in person. In fact, a face-to-face request is 34 times more effective than asking in an email. The best time to ask is right after your happy customer has finished checking out with their pet food, treats, or pet supplies. It makes perfect sense, the excellent experience that they had shopping in your store is still fresh in their mind. This timing also improves the quality of the review. For example:

***** 5-Star Review > “The owner Debbie was very helpful. She answered all of my questions about raw diets and she helped me find some Steve’s Real Food that my dog loved. I will be coming back!”

***** 5-Star Review > “They were helpful!”

This is the difference between an experience that is fresh in the customers’ mind and one that the same customer is trying to remember a few days later, after getting an email requesting a review. According to the study, we are making a big assumption that the customer would leave a review at all after being asked via email several days later!

Imagine that you are putting on an event, you’re hoping for a good turnout to promote some specials that you are offering. Your manager will ask customers to attend via email because she has a full schedule and thinks sending emails is more efficient. Meanwhile, one of your team members is going to help the manager by asking customers to attend face-to-face when they come into the store. The team member has the upper hand in this situation- the customers who come into the store are having a personal interaction with the team member, asking questions, and earning the trust of the team member. The team member only needs to ask 6 people to attend, in order to get the same turnout that the manager would get by sending emails to 200 people. Two HUNDRED emails, so much for saving time!

The same principle applies when requesting reviews from customers. A personal touch makes all the difference. The very best steps you can take are to ask the happy customer to leave you a review in person and follow up on that request by making it incredibly simple to leave a review on a specific site.

Contact NextPaw and one of our industry experts will provide you with a complementary plan of action to help your pet store grow online reviews quickly and effectively.

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