A Guide to Reputation Management for Shopify Stores
As an eCommerce store, you’ve probably heard of reputation management before. What you’ve heard, and how true it is, now that’s another story. Some people view reputation management as a branch of marketing, all about building your brand and serving your customers well. Some people view it as an almost black-hat technique of manipulating reviews. Some people see only the aggressive side, where shady competitors embark on reputation management to crush their competition.
What’s the truth? Is reputation management important? Do you need it for your store? For these answers and more, keep reading.
What is Reputation Management?
Reputation management is the intersection between Public Relations and marketing. It encompasses everything you do to help bolster and manage your reputation. In a broad sense, that includes offering quality products, providing great customer service, publishing content to help your users with their problems, and engaging with your fans.
In a more narrow sense, reputation management is about reviews and testimonials. After all, when a user is looking to purchase a product you sell, they’re going to research your brand and your competitors. If you have more negative reviews and an overall worse perception – a worse reputation – those potential customers are going to look elsewhere.
Every big brand engages in reputation management, though many of them consider it part of their overall marketing. They might have a weekly or monthly review audit as part of their overall marketing, and make soliciting positive testimonials part of their routine shopping experience. Your company should as well.
However, there’s a difference between routine reputation management and emergency reputation management.
Routine reputation management is the ongoing process of polishing up your brand image. It involves the usual business success steps of providing a quality product and responsive customer service, but it also requires you to monitor social media and review sites like TrustPilot, Manta, and Yellow Pages.
Emergency reputation management is more critical. A bad product launch can cause a lot of negative reviews in a short amount of time. Addressing those reviews is an emergency necessary to mitigate the damage done by that botched launch. Other issues that can require emergency reputation management include:
- A company employee or executive catching flack for something they said online or in person, or another action they’ve taken.
- A competitor has started bombing you with negative reviews to make themselves look better.
- A crowdfunding campaign encounters issues and fails to deliver on promises.
- Some kind of systemic corruption is revealed, like the Enron incident.
Sure, your Shopify store is pretty unlikely to be an Enron-style disaster, but anything that hurts the public’s perception of your business requires reputation management to address.
By far the most common cause among online businesses is unscrupulous competitors using paid contractors to review bomb their competition, so that’s the focus we’re going to address with this post, primarily.
Signs You Need Reputation Management
If you’re not sure whether or not your business needs reputation management, the answer is always yes. Reputation management, in the broadest sense, is just part of your overall brand awareness, marketing, and customer service campaigns.
Emergency reputation management is somewhat more important, and it’s critical to identify the problem and start working on a solution as quickly as possible. The longer a negative reputation lingers, the harder it is to address.
There are two main situations where you might need emergency reputation management, and to embark on a campaign of review auditing, soliciting, and outreach.
You’re dealing with numerous, legitimate, low-quality reviews. No one is perfect. Sooner or later, every brand encounters a moment where everything goes wrong, and they need to control the damage. A supplier dropping off the face of the earth in the middle of a sale, a catastrophe at a shipping warehouse ruining product, a cyberattack destroying order data, a manufacturing defect causing massive product issues, your server going offline after a sale; there are many different reasons why you might suddenly be flooded with negative reviews.
Dealing with real negative reviews is tough, but doable. We’ll talk more about it in the specific steps below. In large part, it depends on soliciting positive reviews to outweigh the negative reviews and working to address the causes of the negative reviews. Part of this strategy could involve politely asking customers to edit reviews as necessary (once the issue is resolved) to reflect the final outcome.
You’re being review-bombed by a competitor. The world of small online businesses is full of shady actors, and there are thousands of businesses out there who are more than willing to spend some money to hurt their competition. Regardless of the legality of such actions, it’s unethical as a way to do business. Usually, the competitor doesn’t have the chops to keep their position without pushing down others. Even so, if they hit you at a critical moment, they can do enough damage to your business that it’ll take years to recover. In extreme cases, they can even drive you out of business.
With fake reviews, you have a lot more recourse available to you. Again, we’ll go over this in greater detail in the next section.
How to DIY Reputation Management
Reputation management is something every company needs, but it’s not something every company needs to do themselves. We’re going to illustrate what goes into it here specifically to show you how much work it is. If you’re not prepared to do this, consider hiring a company to handle it for you. For example, we’re more than happy to consult with you if you need assistance.
Step 0: Familiarize yourself with fake review policies on third party sites.
Fake reviews are a real problem, and it goes deeper than you might think. Fake reviews that are easy to spot are also easy to remove, so fake review sellers have gotten very sophisticated about what they do. They can leave realistic negative reviews, and even leave positive reviews that look overtly fake, just to make it look like your brand is buying reviews and slander your reputation.
No, buying positive reviews is not a solution to reputation management. Fake reviews are fake reviews; whether you bought them or someone else did, they are equally damaging. Worse, they’re illegal under the FTC’s regulations against undisclosed paid endorsements. If you’re caught buying them, you can be fined for it, and that fine can be devastating to a small business.
Your first task is two-fold.
First, you need to identify the review sites that are relevant to your business. Some of those sites are general, like:
Others can be relevant to some businesses, but not others, such as:
- Angie’s List for contractors and the service industry.
- Trip Advisor for hotels, rentals, and travel services.
- Yelp for food and other services, like dentists and salons.
You may also want to look into social media monitoring services so that you can monitor comments left about your business on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Quora. Anywhere users can discuss a topic relevant to your industry, product, or brand, is a location where you might want to monitor and conduct outreach to deal with negative comments and experiences.
Identifying the sites is the first step. The second step is familiarizing yourself with their review policies. Most of them will be similar; reviews need to be legitimate, coming from real customers, and cannot be paid for or produced by your company or by an individual who isn’t a customer. What varies is what can be done about them; whether you need to report false reviews, or if you need to go through a specific process, talk to an account representative, or otherwise deal with the reviews.
Step 1: Claim your profiles on those sites.
Review sites typically allow businesses to claim a business profile. The primary benefit of doing this is to ensure that you have accurate information on the profile, such as an address, contact information, hours of operation, and website URL.
Review sites will generate pages for businesses and operate them based on publicly available information, but that information can be wrong, so it’s always better to claim those profiles when you can. This includes making or claiming social media pages and creating representative accounts on sites like Quora.
Step 2: Filter your reviews for fraudulent reviews.
On each review website, you want to filter and audit the reviews. Don’t look solely at negative reviews, and don’t try to remove all negative reviews. Negative reviews can actually be valuable when viewed in the right context.
“Today, 97% of consumers read product reviews before making a purchase decision. 89% of them consider online reviews to be an essential resource in the process. On the flip side, 85% of consumers look for negative reviews to make informed purchase decisions. And this number skyrockets to 91% among consumers from the ages of 18-29. Why? Because bad reviews give customers a sense of the worst-case scenario. They want to know what can go wrong to understand just how much it will matter to them.”
Removing fake positive reviews and leaving legitimate negative reviews is just fine. There are other ways to deal with negative reviews other than trying to get them removed, and we’ll go over that shortly.
Wirecutter, from the New York Times, has an excellent guide on spotting fake reviews here. It’s aimed more at the consumer than the business owner, but it’s still relevant information. You can add to this business-side options, such as cross-referencing the name of the reviewer with your customer list to see if the user is a verified purchaser.
Step 3: Flag and report fake reviews on third party sites.
Once you have built up a list of fake reviews, no matter their rating, deal with them. As part of your groundwork up above, you should have familiarized yourself with the process of reporting a fake review.
It might be a report button on the review itself, it might be a form on the business profile side of your account, or you might need to contact the site directly. Take action and report the fake reviews, to clean up your profile.
Step 4: Address real negative reviews.
You’ve probably seen business accounts where every review under three stars has a business comment under it with a copy-pasted form, something like “We’re sorry you experienced this issue. If you could send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, we would be happy to take a look and see what we can do.”
This is what you’re going to do. You can make it personal or impersonal, long or short, but the key is to reach out to customers who have had a negative experience and work with them to make things right. It could mean a refund, it could mean support, it could mean a replacement product; whatever you need to do, do it. Then, when the customer is more satisfied, ask them if they’d be willing to edit their review to reflect their new position. If they do, great! If they don’t, you can leave another comment explaining your side and the eventual resolution.
Step 5: Install a quality reviews Shopify App.
Part of reputation management is making yourself independent. You don’t want to be reliant on these third-party sites and their ability to process fake reviews. You want reviews on your site – where your customers will look first, and where you can control them directly.
Luckily, there are several apps to choose from, including:
Implementing a review system and maintaining it will require some web design and some ongoing work on your part, but it’s extremely worthwhile. Remember, many of your customers are going to look for reviews on your site before looking elsewhere.
Step 6: Solicit positive, real reviews to outweigh negative reviews.
The FTC guidelines against paid endorsements make it illegal to pay or compensate customers for reviews, but you can still ask for reviews. Many companies, for example, send out a follow-up email a week or two after purchase, to offer help if a user needs it and to ask for a review. Others include a card in the product itself asking for a review. There are a lot of different strategies you can use, but the goal is to ask for real reviews from verified customers, to provide detailed and quality feedback.
Consider Professional Reputation Management
If all of the above sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Many larger businesses have at least one employee working full time on reputation management, and many more hire companies to handle it for them just because of everything involved.
Reputation management firms have several benefits over a DIY method. For one thing, they already know how to handle negative reviews, and they already have a library of review sites they’re familiar with. They may also have connections on the inside, like an employee or account representative that they can email directly for expedited service.
It costs more to hire a company than to handle reputation management yourself, but if you value your time – or you want better, more thorough reputation management than you would get on your own – hiring a company is a better bet, especially if negative reviews are hurting your company. If you’re interested, and you need reputation management, we’d love to hear from you.
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