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Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Retailer's Reputation

"Repetition makes reputation and reputation makes customers.” - Elizabeth Arden.  All you hear about today is omni-channel and how with the advent of buying on the web and picking up at the store, brick and mortar retailers can win back market share from those ecommerce pirates! Ah yes and if you have a smartphone application you can bring even more people to your store in larger numbers. One can debate the value of these capabilities for revenue growth, but what about reputation?

 Technology is a great thing and has been very helpful making our lives better and our shopping experiences exciting and fulfilling. There is however a dark side that technology can also enable. One of the main drivers of consumer purchases is brand reputation or ranking (yes it is measured and monetized). What is "in" today is not tomorrow. Paula Deen is the latest empire we have seen crumble right in front of us on television and in a matter of days. How long did it take Paula to build her brand only to be decimated over some comment she made 30 years ago. How do you think this happened? Yes there was a lawsuit which started the ball rolling, but the media and social networking fed on this story like piranhas. Retailers know how easy a reputation can be severely damaged like Luluemon Athletica for example. “Investors have filed a class action lawsuit against Lululemon Athletica for allegedly making "false and misleading statements" to conceal the costs associated with its see-through yoga pants debacle. Lululemon's Biggest Fanatics Wanted CEO Christine Day Out For Months.” Carolyn Beauchesne, author of the blog Lululemon Addict, claimed in a post that Day "ruined" her favorite brand.” What does this mean?  Lost revenues and market share is what that means! Is it short term and recoverable? Absolutely if handled well, but expensive.

This brings me to the reason for this particular blog. I have been watching with interest this new concept of reputation management. There are companies that say they can manage your online reputation at an individual level or even at a brand level. This is curious to me given the examples above and how easy it is for bad news to go viral. Fortunately what I have found out is it is not these major issues that usually cause most of the revenue and brand rating erosion but the individual blogs posted here and there from the “disgruntled”. Does the saying “death by a thousand paper cuts” possibly apply here? Retailers are spending a lot of energy and resources to control or better yet manage their online reputation. This is real money in the millions of dollars that can quickly vaporize if not managed.

Customer-centric retailing is about making the customer the center of your business. If you are customer-centric and doing all of those great things to make that wonderful customer experience using your omni-channel technology, you better also be monitoring what is being said about your brand in cyberspace. There are a number of companies providing these services that make sure all the good stuff is at the top of Goggle searches and the less than positive stuff is on page 25!

Here is a list of the top 10 online reputation management companies:

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