22 July 2024, 21:59
By Mike Fantis May 09, 2022

The importance of online reviews

Online reviews are key to building trust in the consumer community, and few stand to gain from engaging with them more than independent furniture retailers, writes Mike Fantis, VP and managing partner at DAC Group

Customer purchase journeys now begin mostly online, yet when it comes to buying furniture, shoppers often end up in-store.

It’s easy to see why – many consumers still want to see and touch the physical product before they commit to such a big-ticket purchase. After all, it is much easier to judge the size and quality of a new table, or test out how comfortable a new sofa or mattress is in person.

In a customer journey starting online and ending in-store, local reviews play a hugely important role. It’s something many bricks-and-mortar retailers often overlook in the brand-to-local-sales funnel, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Furniture retailers with both a physical and digital presence have a good opportunity to use online reviews to engage with potential customers. By taking a few simple steps and understanding how and why customers use reviews, furniture retailers can build trust in the community.

Google likes reviews

Consumers tend to trust the opinions of their peers, and are often encouraged by what other shoppers say about their experiences. This concept, known as ‘social proof’, is well established in marketing. Google understands it, and so too does its search algorithm – positive reviews help businesses rank more highly in the organic search results, which can be hugely beneficial when linked to location-based searches.

Google reviews remain largely untarnished by some of the fake review scandals that have afflicted online marketplaces – this means customer trust remains high. So, encouraging customers to leave a positive store review on Google post-purchase can greatly boost your search presence. 

Equally, prompt and consistent responses to negative reviews can mitigate possible reputational damage by demonstrating transparency. In some instances, responding and dealing with the review can lead the user to edit it – turning a negative into a positive – whereas an unanswered one is more likely to influence a customer to go elsewhere instead.

Reviews and the sales funnel

When someone reads a review of a particular store, they are demonstrating intent. They are likely to be researching and weighing up what you have to offer against other options. And reputation is hugely significant at a local level.

Reviews can also help retailers improve their operations and communications. They can identify specific customer pain points, giving insights into where you can take remedial action to improve the customer experience, such as the need for some staff training or tweaks to store layout. Reviews can even uncover ‘hidden’ benefits and unintended selling points for particular products. 

In addition, reviews can help you understand the needs of particular local audiences to guide stock control. They can also indicate how best to speak to customers and which tone of voice they will best respond to. This is something larger brands operating across multiple markets often overlook, but for retailers at a local level it can help build better relationships with their communities.

A window to your store

Furniture is a major outlay, so there is always a risk of buyer’s remorse. When furniture shopping, consumers seek out reassurance from experts as well as peers before making a purchase decision. 

By engaging with online reviews, furniture retailers can show the expertise that awaits a shopper in-store. It also reassures potential customers that you are willing to address any issues that may come up pre, during or post purchase.

Given its context, furniture retail should be the poster boy for brand-to-local strategies, and it’s a way for the incumbents to differentiate against online competitors through their physical footprint. The fact so few do it well is a missed opportunity – especially since it doesn’t need a high degree of technical knowledge. In fact, reviews are a gift for traditional retailers to engage with customers at the awareness and consideration stage.

A reviews strategy simply needs a little time set aside each day to monitor, respond and engage. These efforts will soon be rewarded as search rankings improve – along with footfall. 

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