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Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing

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Social Media for the Win

Learn how online and mobile app reviews can be your best friend.
October 16, 2017

​CHICAGO – How can you use customer experience to create brand loyalty? According to the presenters of tomorrow’s “Do Online Ratings and Reviews Trump Mystery Shop Data?” education session, the answer may exist in online reviews.

Not long ago, convenience stores looked to mystery shop programs to gather this insight, said Justin Christensen, general manager of convenience retail at R.E. Powell. However, the data proved to be inconsistent over time and varied too much from actual retail shopper visits.

“In today’s digital age, customers immediately take to social media platforms,” said Christensen. “This has created an immediacy of feedback, as the affected customer wants to share their experience with the world.”

Too many negative experiences and reviews can put a c-store out of business, but if you use the platforms to your benefit, you can drive consumer growth and improve your brand perception. Three companies that lead the ratings and reviews space are Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google. Consumers also use Twitter, Facebook and other apps depending on their degree of experience, as well as their demographic. Another mobile app, GasBuddy, allows users to find nearby fuel stations, gas prices, c-store amenities and submit reviews. Since its creation in 2000, the app has more than 70 million downloads, lists 140,000 locations and is the third most popular travel app.

“Convenience stores and fuel retailers don’t own their brand—the customer does. Everyone with a smartphone is a critic, and GasBuddy receives an average of three million daily ratings, reviews and price submissions from customers who care about their experience,” said Frank Beard, analyst/evangelist for convenience store and retail trends at GasBuddy.

“This crowd-sourced feedback influences brand perceptions, but it also provides retailers with valuable insights.” Retailers can leverage GasBuddy Business Pages software to assess and optimize performance, implement marketing campaigns, access listing management solutions and transform customer reviews and ratings into new business opportunities.

Online testimonials, as opposed to mystery shop data, allow you to hear your customers’ experiences first-hand and often in real-time, Christensen said. When someone posts a positive review, take a moment to respond and say, ‘Thank you,’ or ‘We appreciate your business.’ It’s courteous and meaningful. Managing negative reviews can be a bit trickier.

“Consumers typically post on social media platforms because they want to be heard. When a poor review is posted, the consumer typically feels a sense of vindication and hopes that things will change,” said Christensen. “It is beneficial for retailers to respond, but only if they respond in a way that allows the consumer to feel listened to. It is counterproductive if the retailer argues with or rebuts the review.”

Taking this into account is key to improving customer loyalty; otherwise all of the responses you receive are for naught. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and take their experiences to heart. They want to see you succeed too, Christensen said.

“The greatest recommendation I can make is for retailers to regularly monitor feedback, follow up on all reviews and make adjustments as quickly as possible, especially when action is required at the facility.” You also can take social media a step further and proactively engage with your customers. Ask for feedback or notify them about store improvements, particularly if the change stemmed from customer reviews.

Attend “Do Online Ratings and Reviews Trump Mystery Shop Data?” tomorrow at 2:30 pm the NACS Show.