Smartphones have given consumers the tools to find businesses through “near me” searches. The change in the way consumers search for and choose businesses has evened up the competition by giving smaller brands the chance to compete with global brands for local business. Research by ‘Near Me’ brand experience company, Uberall, indicates that small and medium size businesses are beating bigger brands when it comes to engaging with customer reviews and winning customers at the local level.
SMEs in the UK – retailers, restaurants and other local businesses with fewer than ten locations – respond to online reviews 26% of the time, which is almost double the rate for enterprises with more than ten locations (14%). Global brands – with more than 740 reviews per location – respond even less, replying to reviews only 0.2% of the time.
Although SMEs are outperforming their larger counterparts, there’s still substantial room for improvement for businesses of all sizes. For example, the average reply rate of all businesses in the US is around 23%, compared to just 13% in the UK.
Notably, global brands in the US are far more responsive than their UK counterparts (30% US v. 0.2% UK). This difference in responsiveness impacts on conversions – measured by the number of clicks on phone number, driving directions, and website –, with US brands boasting, on average, nearly twice the amount of conversions as those in the UK.
The study also found that big brands are scoring lower with customers than SMEs. Across six different industries – including food and beverage, retail, travel, and automotive – the research reveals that SMEs have a higher average star rating than enterprises with more than 10 locations.
Higher star ratings mean a higher conversion rate, with a star rating difference from 3.5 stars to 3.7 stars translating to a 120% difference in conversion growth from one year to the next.
Simply put, businesses that reply to reviews win more customers, but in the UK, the biggest brands respond to reviews the least.’Near me’ searches for goods and services nearby have levelled the playing field for smaller businesses, and large brands need to sit up and take notice. Your brand may pop up in a ‘near me’ search, but it’s your online engagement with customers that will convince them to click further, and ultimately, to stop in at your location.
Norman Rohr, SVP of Marketing, Uberall
The study Reputation Management Revolution report – analysed the Google My Business profiles of 64,000 business locations across the UK, Germany, France, and the USA.