"Ghosting" customers online costs retailers $2.4B annually
SOCi, a comarketing cloud for multi-location enterprises, unveiled data from its 2023 Local Visibility Index detailing how retailers are "ghosting" more than half of all customers online when they give feedback, ask questions or leave reviews. This striking finding results in a $2.4 billion annual loss for the U.S. retail industry.
In its audit of 588 retailers across 39 industry categories, spanning 106,000 total locations, SOCi discovered that the average brand ignores 54% of online feedback, reviews and questions across platforms such as Google, Facebook, Instagram and Yelp. In fact, 92% of customer questions posted on retailer Google profiles—including queries like "Are you open late on Christmas Eve?" and "Do you sell golf equipment?"—go unanswered.
"Retailer 'ghosting' is an alarming phenomenon with serious implications for brand reputation, customer loyalty, and online visibility," said Monica Ho, CMO of SOCi. "When retailers ignore their customers online, they inadvertently send a message that the customer experience isn't a priority. It's akin to retail employees ignoring shoppers in-store, and this type of behavior has a significant impact on revenue and sales."
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SOCi discovered that failing to address complaints or questions or not thanking consumers for feedback results in digital "invisibility" across search engines. Search engines like Google consider engagement factors, such as query, feedback and review responses, when ranking online listings. By actively engaging with customers and being responsive, retailers can optimize search engine rankings, supporting brand awareness and in-store sales.
However, by ghosting consumers and ignoring their reviews, retailers miss out on these benefits, limiting their online discoverability and negatively impacting their overall performance in the digital marketplace. According to SOCi's analysis, this neglect comes at a steep price, costing multi-location retailers $58,000 in sales per location.
"Addressing online customer feedback—ranging from questions to reviews—should be an integral component of a retailer's overall omnichannel digital marketing strategy," added Ho. “Thankfully, AI and automation present a game-changing opportunity for retailers and marketers to tackle the issue of ghosting customers online. By implementing these technologies, they can deliver timely and personalized responses to feedback, reviews, or questions, at scale, while enhancing customer satisfaction and fostering a more positive online experience."
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SOCi found that responsive, visible retailers generate almost 2X the year-over-year revenue, drive 4X as many consumer actions through online channels and generate an impressive 149% more engagement on social media.
"We manage thousands of online channels to support our stores and locations," said Chris Rowland, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus. According to SOCi's analysis, Pet Supplies Plus emerged as a top performer in engaging customers online, having increased their Local Visibility score by 25% in the last year. "SOCi's report underscores our commitment to prioritizing customer engagement and communication, ensuring we acknowledge and respond to all forms of feedback or questions promptly and thoughtfully."
To find out what digital strategies the most visible brands use to cut down on ghosting and drive consumer actions and engagements, and the importance of an omnichannel approach to online customer feedback and localized marketing, download the “The High Cost of Invisibility for Multi-Location Enterprises.”