Many business owners believe that online reviews have an important influence in driving consumers’ purchase decisions. For franchise restaurant operators, this belief has meant shifting their focus from working on traditional advertising and promotions to managing online reviews.
According to survey results released recently by GE Capital, Franchise Finance, 56 percent of franchise restaurant owners think that reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon are more important influencers of their store traffic than traditional advertising.
More money spent = more resources deployed = more confidence gained
Moreover, approximately one-third of respondents (32 percent) say that they’re now spending at least $10,000 a year in social media management, search engine optimization (SEO), review monitoring, online reputation management tools, services, and technology; they are also allocating money to invest in human resources to manage these tools and execute digital marketing strategies. 26 percent spend less than $10,000 annually; meanwhile, only 5 percent say that they do not spend anything on social media and review management efforts.
“Restaurant consumers are connected online so it’s imperative that franchisees meet them where they are,” said GE Capital, Franchise Finance chief marketing officer Shannon Tolbert. “We’re seeing an intense battle for market share among brands in the US. Those who reach consumers through social media and digital marketing strategies will likely have an edge.”
Apparently, with increased spending comes increased confidence. According to the numbers published by GE Capital, Franchise Finance, 45 percent of operators think they’re managing their restaurant reviews and search engine rankings satisfactorily. Meanwhile, 24 percent go so far as to say that they believe they’re doing an excellent job, especially now that they’re deploying more resources for social media and online reputation management.
The results of this study have come just days before the NRA Show 2014, which is scheduled May 17 to 20, 2014 at the McCormick Place in Chicago. The findings demonstrate once again that, for restaurant owners (of any size or category) to be truly competitive, they must embrace the fact that diners increasingly depend on fellow diners’ reviews for information on where to eat – and where not to.