Online grocery shopping has understandably exploded in the last two years. 73% of customers surveyed in 2021 said they had purchased grocery items online vs. only 17% of those surveyed in 2017.
Despite this changing landscape, almost everyone still ventures to a grocery store at least some point during the week. 93% of customers surveyed in 2021 made at least one trip to a local grocery store in the past three months.
Still, it’s likely that if you’re in the brick-and-mortar grocery or retail industry, you’ve seen new problems emerge in the post-pandemic era. These problems reveal how essential it is to engage online audiences – even if your customer base remains in-person. Replying to reviews in particular is an essential piece of cultivating an online presence that will bring in customers.
However, historically, grocers and retailers have argued they don’t need to reply to online reviews. Many believe that their built-in, local customer base will ignore reviews when it’s time to make a grocery trip.
This is a risky game to play.
Replying to reviews brings many benefits. And, especially now, ignoring this important part of audience engagement can mean more of your would-be customers will choose to shop somewhere else.
How Grocery Stores Benefit from Replying to Reviews
- 56 percent of customers say that a business’s response to their review has changed their perspective on that business. Allowing negative reviews to float around with no response could attract more negative reviews. This could cause you to miss out on a future relationship with that unsatisfied customer.
- 64% of in-store grocery shoppers read reviews at least occasionally. This number is 84% for online grocery shoppers. No matter which category your business falls under, replying to these reviews shows readers you’re listening to customers and care about their satisfaction.
- Replying to reviews gives you a chance to protect your brand. Especially as supply chain issues continue to plague grocery store shelves, it’s important that you be able to explain to customers why your store is out of a certain item. Replying to reviews gives you a chance to emphasize to future customers that you’re doing your best to serve them even if you don’t have all items in stock.
5 Tips to Make the Most of Online Review Response as a Grocery Store
So now that we’re on the same page that replying to reviews is a valuable way grocery stores can engage customers, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Ensure Reviews are Real Before Replying
When you receive a review that appears to be fake – especially a negative one – don’t panic. According to a study done in 2020, 30% of all reviews were judged to be fake. While this is in part due to companies paying for fake reviews (not a good idea), sometimes a real person leaves a fake review for unclear reasons.
Look through your records to see if you can identify who the customer is and what happened. If a negative review is real, proceed to reply as you would typically in this situation. (Key points: reply quickly, professionally and positively).
If the review doesn’t seem to be real, politely bring this up if possible and direct them to your helpline – e.g. “There seems to be some confusion. Your review says you purchased pumpkin cupcakes but we haven’t carried those in a few months. Please contact our helpline so we can get this sorted out.”
Having a few negative reviews on your page isn’t necessarily bad. But identifying fake reviews is particularly important in the grocery industry. You want to nip fake reviews at the bud – especially if they are one or two stars with no comments. Fortunately, on your Google Business Profile, you can flag as many as you need to for takedown.
- Think Creatively to Encourage High-Quality Customer Reviews
One way to make the most of review response is by ensuring you have high-quality reviews to respond to. The more engaging the review itself, the more engaging your reply can be.
So how do you get these high-quality reviews? Simply asking your customers to leave reviews is a tried and true way of ensuring your review sites are constantly fresh. Plus, it often has the added benefit of you being able to provide templates or suggested phrases to include. This means you can direct the narrative. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Ask your customer for reviews at the right time
As a business owner, it’s up to you to analyze when a customer is ready to leave a review and ask them for one at that moment.
Consider asking in person if your business model allows. Or, ask after a customer has referred a friend or repurchased an item. If you can track this, it’s a great moment to request a review.
Many companies do this over SMS text messaging or over email. You can encourage customers to sign up for these through rewards programs.
- It’s usually okay to solicit reviews, but be careful when asking for them through a promotion
Depending on the review site, soliciting reviews may be frowned upon, but it’s usually okay to reach out and ask. However, asking for a review in exchange for a promotion is illegal if not disclosed.
This doesn’t mean you can’t push the envelope to come up with creative ways to encourage high-quality reviews. Consider donating to a cause after a customer leaves a review (to build your relationship with that customer). You could also ask for reviews of items at specific price points (easiest for online shopping) or write out various suggested templates (which you could change often) to encourage reviews you’ll be prepared to respond to.
- Ask your customer for reviews at the right time
- Keep Your Review Profiles Up-to-Date
Review profiles that are up-to-date with your store’s latest promotions and announcements can make a better review experience for both your business and your customers.
For example, imagine a customer heads over to your Yelp page to complain about an item being out of stock. If your page has no recent updates, they may quickly leave their negative review without a second thought. However, if you have a disclaimer about why specific items may be out of stock – e.g. due to the pandemic or supply chain issues – customers may feel their concern was addressed and skip out on a review entirely. Or, they may at least feel more connected to you personally and write something more nuanced. This won’t necessarily solve all your issues before they start, as it’s impossible to update your page with everything going on at your company. Still, it could at least give customers pause before they write out that negative wall of text.
Replying to nuanced negative reviews is easier than replying to rants. It’s essential to set yourself up to receive these on as many review sites as possible.
Before you can reply to reviews, you must first make sure you have claimed profiles on relevant sites. For a grocery store, this includes Yelp, Google Business Profile, Facebook and Better Business Bureau. Learn more about the top review sites to consider here – and don’t forget about your social media pages!
- When Replying to Positive Reviews, Address Problems Before They Start
Review response isn’t just about replying to negative reviews. It’s equally as important to reply to positive reviews – even if your response is simple. However, you can make the most of review response as a grocery store by taking it a step further.
Nearly four out of five shoppers (78%) expect review responses to be personalized – and this includes responses to positive reviews. A canned response won’t cut it. Plus, a canned response is a missed opportunity. You can use this moment to build customer loyalty and even address problems before they start. Here are a couple of things to consider:
- Use their name and tie your response back to something they said
Even if their review is something simple like: “Love this store. They always have the best fresh produce.” You can at least personalize your reply with something like: “Thanks so much Margie! We love that the local farmers we work with always provide us with such a great variety of produce. Have a great day and let us know if you have any questions!”
- Take the opportunity to mention what’s happening at your store
Whether something good (like a current discount) or bad (like a delayed shipment) is happening at your store, take the opportunity provided by a positive review to inform future customers. If your store has a new discount coming up and you want to reply to the previous review example, you could say something like: “Thanks so much Margie! We love our farmers who provide us with some of the freshest produce. If you need to come back this weekend for more, we just wanted to let you and all our customers know we’re having a 20% off sale on apples (until August 27 2022)!”
If you’re experiencing delays on apple deliveries, you could instead say something like: “Thanks so much Margie! We love our farmers who provide us with some of the freshest produce. We just wanted to let you and others know that we’re actually experiencing some delays with apple shipments right now and you got some of our last batch! This problem is looking to be resolved by September 1.”
Yes, you can provide these updates in your bios and on your social media pages. But utilizing your reviews to inform customers is one way to stand out, especially right now, when there are an increased number of online alternatives your customers could turn to.
- Use their name and tie your response back to something they said
- Emphasize the Customer Experience
Now more than ever it’s important to showcase what makes your business different. With online companies competing for the attention of grocery shoppers, you need to emphasize the benefits of shopping in person at your store. Or, if it’s something you offer, encourage them to order groceries online from you instead of from someone else.
Offering customers incentives and personal touches will encourage them to write great reviews that you’ll have a chance to respond to. This in turn will increase customer loyalty and build you a stronger online presence.
When replying to reviews, you can take the opportunity to showcase your brand and keep customers coming back. Highlighting what makes your store stand out is key.
For example, if your business is local, emphasize that in your responses. “Thanks so much Margie for choosing to shop local for your grocery needs! Our local farmers thank you for the support. Please come again soon!”
If you’ve worked in the region for 30 years, emphasize that. “We’re glad to have provided great groceries to customers like you for the last 30 years. Please let us know what we can do to make the next 30 the best yet.”
Whatever it is that makes your store special, now is the time to shine – especially when replying to positive reviews.
Incorporating these tips in negative review response can be a bit trickier. It’s important to read the virtual room. For example, if someone is complaining about the service they received, it’s probably fair to say something like: “We’ve valued customer service over our 30 years in business and we’re really sorry to hear about your experience – we will do better in the future.” If a reviewer is instead on a rant about how a certain food item made them sick, it might be better to focus your response on getting to the bottom of the problem.
How Else Can You Make the Most of Review Response?
Check out our article on how to make the most of customers reviews.
Or, ask us to do the heavy lifting!
Let Us Respond provides you with a team of dedicated review management specialists who can monitor, analyze and respond to your reviews as they arrive. The result is transparency into your shopping experience – and you can focus on running a successful retail or grocery business.
Engaging with your grocery and retail customers online can be one of the most important tools for building a reputation in a digital world. No matter your industry, our team can help you develop a review management plan that will take your current strategy to the next level.
Book your free grocery consultation today!