Digital brand-building: How to win at four key touchpoints
COVID-19 has transformed the way businesses and individuals use technology to interact. With CGA research showing that nearly half (46%) of consumers now plan their visits more thoroughly than they did pre-COVID-19, and that two in three (65%) business leaders use tech more widely now, the digital touchpoints in people’s brand experiences are more powerful than ever.
A recent webinar from CGA and Reputation, based on exclusive new research into the importance of digital reputation, explored how hospitality brands can improve their image at these crucial stages. Here’s what the experts had to say about four of the most important channels for brand-building.
Brands’ own websites are the crucial first touchpoint for consumers researching venues. They are where people go to find practical information: nearly three quarters (72%) of those looking for menus do so on a venue’s website, and nearly as many head there to check prices (69%) and opening hours (63%). With COVID-19 still at the front of many people’s minds, they are also important in reassuring visitors about safety and hygiene measures. “The website is still fundamentally important as the first port of call in the pre-visit journey,” said Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, at the webinar.
Poorly maintained websites can creative negative impressions of brands from an early stage. The research from CGA and Reputation found that more than a third (36%) of consumers have been frustrated by being unable to find the information they are looking for on a venue’s website before a visit, and nearly as many have been frustrated by information like opening hours being out of date (30%), or by a lack of response to an online enquiry (28%). “These things aren’t difficult to remedy, but they’re important factors that will really irritate people if you don’t get them right,” Chessell said.
2 Review platforms
After visiting websites, consumers often turn to review platforms for the next stage of research. Nearly half (48%) do so on TripAdvisor, which makes it the most important review channel by some distance. Young adults are particularly active here, and more than a third (38%) of 18 to 34 year-olds say they write a review every time or most times they eat or drink out. “These people are looking to third party websites for a validation of reputation,” said Chessell.
On all review websites, recency matters. Well over a third (38%) consider a review to be accurate if it has been written in the last month, while three months is the limit for nearly as many (33%). This shows the importance of driving review volume to keep them relevant to consumers—which means positively encouraging guests to leave them. “If you don’t ask for feedback, the feedback can quite often be negative. As consumers we’re more compelled to shout about a bad experience than a good one, so by tapping into the silent majority [of happy customers] you get a true representation of your brand online,” said Phil Capper, Reputation account executive.
It’s also important to respond quickly to all feedback—especially bad reviews. Nearly half (46%) of consumers think a venue can remedy a negative review by responding in a respectful and appropriate way, while a third (34%) think taking action or providing compensation can achieve the same result. “It’s so important to respond to 100% of your negative reviews, and to at least 20% of your positive ones,” said Reputation’s engagement manager Kate Burns. When they are handled properly, disappointed customers can soon become brand advocates. “You can make a really positive change to reviews by engaging and closing the loop,” Burns said.
Google dominates many key points of customers’ journeys through brands now. Consumers often use it as an alternative to websites for practical information, as do those who want to get quick star ratings rather than fuller reviews: more than two in five (43%) use the search engine to find ratings, putting it ten percentage points clear of TripAdvisor (33%).
This makes it crucial to do everything possible to optimise Google search results, especially by staying on top of Google My Business details. Making regular updates to the information, even if there isn’t much to change, can help: Reputation research suggests it can make brands nearly three times more likely to be reputable, and increase views across search and maps by up to 500%. As Burns put it: “GMB is the new front door to your business.”
4 Social media
Social media has moved to the heart of brand promotion and recommendation, especially among young adults. More than two in five (43%) 18 to 34 year-olds say they would recommend a venue to others through their social media accounts, while well over half (59%) say they are much more likely to visit a venue if they see someone they know post about it.
As with review platforms, it is important to address any negative comments on social media, and to take discussions offline if at all possible. It’s also worth setting up key word alerts for serious complaints on social media feeds, so that brand owners can de-escalate problems before they damage a brand. “That way you can react instantly rather than let something go viral,” said Burns.
The exclusive research from CGA and Reputation was based on a survey of 2,000 nationally representative consumers. For more about the research and its insights into how brands can improve their digital reputations, click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Reputation and its suite of tools to build hospitality customer experience strategies, click here.