Shoppers are leaving more reviews than they did in 2020. Review volume rose 12% in 2021 compared with 2020, but still down 22% from pre-pandemic days. This is important because 90% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase, and 72% of consumers read multiple reviews.
Reputation released findings from its 2021 Retail Reputation Report, examining 3.7 million shopper reviews across the U.S. and the U.K. The report ranks the top U.S. retailers in 2021 and identifies key trends, made more salient due to the ongoing pandemic and supply-chain challenges.
The report, based on unfiltered and unprompted data -- particularly from online reviews and social media -- names the top-scoring brands based on online reputation. It also answers questions such as what data supports why Google is so important to retailers, why consumer sentiment about retailers dropped throughout 2021, and why the employee experience is as important as the customer experience.
The research shows that a Google Business Profile has greater impact on a location’s findability than any other factor. So, Reputation took a close look at the aggregate volume of Google Business Profile views and actions for retailers in 2021.
Reputation defines an action as someone clicking on a Google Business Profile to visit the retailer’s website, call them, or look for directions.
Views are important because they reflect a retailer’s visibility. Actions are important because they signal someone’s purchase intent.
Google Business Profile views and actions rose 17% in 2021, and clicks to directions rose about 15% -- a good sign for brick-and-mortar retailers because it signals that people are more interested in visiting physical stores.
Consumer sentiment about retailers continues to drop throughout 2021, especially in categories related to service, courtesy and staff. Product availability showed the biggest drop in sentiment, which reflects a growing concern about the supply-chain crisis. Product affordability was also a major factor hurting consumer sentiment--inflation and higher prices stemming from limited inventory took their toll.
While retailers are faced with staff shortages, customer experience is the only major category that showed an increase in sentiment in 2021 compared to before the pandemic. More reviews include employee names proving that the personal human connection is crucial to bringing shoppers back to stores and improving sentiment.
Reputation also used proprietary machine-learning algorithms and natural-language processing to cover patterns among customer comments across digital.
The retail industry’s Reputation Score has dropped since pre-pandemic days and is remaining flat throughout 2021. The main culprits are a decrease in review volumes and customer sentiment.
Rankings show retailers can be a lot more responsive to customers than they are already. The data shows even the leading retailers scored very poorly in the category of customer engagement, which means they are not responding to reviews.
Bath & Body Works, the highest-ranking retailer, has built a loyal fan base. Its customers love talking about its products on social media. It holds the highest sentiment score of every retailer analyzed for the study. Ace Hardware, Nordstrom, Verizon, Costco, Bass Pro Shops, Hobby Lobby, Guitar Center, Michaels, and Petco make up the top 10 retailers.