Worrying about your online reviews can certainly keep a dance retailer or studio owner up at night. But negative reviews aren’t the inevitable business-killer you think they are, and engaging with online review sites actually boosts a local business’ revenues.
Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth, but sometimes, as the owner of a local dance business, you may feel you’re at the mercy of vindictive online reviewers and just want to run away. That’s not the answer, of course. According to Womply, a reputation management company for small businesses, 90 percent of people say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews on sites like Yelp, Facebook and Google, and 85 percent of people use the internet to find local businesses. What’s more, if managed adroitly, online reviews can actually boost your revenues, a study by Womply finds. Even negative reviews offer a chance to gain a loyal customer and model the kind of customer-friendly business you are.
Womply surveyed 200,000 small businesses in every state, including 38,000 local retailers, to find the impact of online reviews on company revenues. Based on those findings, here are some simple actions dance businesses can take that are, as Womply points out, “directly within a business owner’s control and can make a significant impact on revenue.”
1. Claim your free review site profiles on Yelp, Facebook and Google.
The reward for just this simple step? Local businesses that claim and populate their free listings on three or more review sites make 36 percent more revenue than those that don’t, according to the study. (For local retailers, the revenue increase is 21 percent.) The biggest reward comes from filling out your Google listing. “Businesses that claim [it] average 10 percent more in annual revenue than the average business, but those who don’t claim theirs average 24 percent less in annual revenue.” Be sure to regularly review and update your Yelp, Google and Facebook business page profiles with current business hours, phone numbers and other relevant information.
2. Make a regular habit of replying to online reviews.
Clearly, populating your profile at online review sites with current information is just the beginning. You need to actively engage with customers who post reviews. Are you like the vast majority (75 percent) of local businesses that never respond to online reviews. If so, there’s an enormous upside to reconsidering your approach. “Replying to customer reviews is associated with an increase in annual revenue for local businesses, particularly those who do so on a regular basis.” For instance, the annual average revenues of the local retailers Womply surveyed was $262,000. But the average revenues of a retailer that never responded to reviews was $204,000. “Revenue rapidly climbs the more times a retail shop responds to reviews,” the study reported. “Even those shops with just a handful of reviews earn quite a bit more than average, and by the time you get to those who respond to more than 50 reviews, they’re earning over $175,000 more than average each year.” Why the difference? Womply’s hypothesis is that “customers view businesses that are active on review sites as more credible and responsive to customer needs, and therefore customers are more likely to spend money with them.”
3. Stop stressing about your star rating.
You don’t have to be perfect. It turns out that local businesses with a rating between 3.5 and 4.5 stars earn more revenue than any other rating—higher or lower. Perhaps this is because a few negative ratings (and how you genuinely respond to them) conveys an authenticity that a straight 5-star rating doesn’t.
4. Focus, instead, on encouraging people to leave reviews.
What has a bigger impact on revenues is the number of reviews your store or studio has. Local businesses in the survey had an average of 82.5 reviews (retailers got an average of 43). Businesses with an above-average number of reviews saw a significant bump in revenues. For retailers, reviews on Google and Yelp are the most important. Those with an above-average number of reviews on Google earned 38 percent more than average, while those with a lot of Yelp reviews earn 21 percent more. Clearly, there’s no downside to your dance business getting lots of online reviews, positive and negative.
5. Don’t lose sleep over occasional bad reviews.
When shoppers browse reviews online, they expect to see some negative ones. A certain type of person will even zero in on the negative reviews right away. But understand that the average local business surveyed receives 19 percent bad reviews. And even local businesses whose reviews are 35 to 50 percent negative still bring in close to the same revenues as the average business, the study found. That’s likely because “a business profile with little to no negative reviews may look untested or even suspiciously guilty of buying fake reviews,” according to Womply. Responding promptly and helpfully to a negative review can turn that customer around, and demonstrate to everyone else that your business cares about its customers.
The Bottom Line
Make your local store or studio findable through online review listings. Engage regularly, in an authentic and helpful way, with customers who post online reviews, and then cross “worrying about online reviews” off your list. Don’t underestimate the positive impact of a robust listing with lots of reviews—positive and negative. “Businesses that focus on getting as many real and authentic reviews as possible reap the rewards,” the study concludes.