By Steve Smith on Aug 11 2011 - 5:23pm

Retailers, Check Out Your Reputation Online

With all the talk of the past couple of years, transparency has yet to come to the sordid activities politely known as politics and high finance.

But, as we all know, transparency has come to CE retailing - in some cases with a vengeance.

Price checking, product availability and feature packages are one issue, but what about retailer reviews?

Retailers, have you checked reviews of your stores on I have, but some background first.

I checked Yelp the other day about a new restaurant my wife and I wanted to try. Visiting the site, I compared the new restaurant’s reviews with other restaurants we know. Curious, I expanded it to local merchants (butcher, hardware store, even my barber).

The reviews of those businesses were - in my opinion - pretty accurate.

I then expanded it to CE specialty, electronics/appliance stores and home-improvement stores that I have visited or purchased products from over the years.

It wasn’t a pretty picture.

But let me step back for a moment. Yelp users may not be typical consumers. Based on my observations, they are mostly under 30, can write pretty well and have the time to do so, and are comfortable taking and giving advice online.

I also noticed that reviewers on Yelp - in a very general way - are a little more positive on local businesses than chains, at least from what I read. And, human nature being what it is, consumer reviews are usually complaints vs. complimentary pieces.

Of course, negative reviews about your business by competitors can appear on the site, even though Yelp said it monitors such postings.

Still, if I was a retailer with a couple of stores, or a regional manager of a chain who thinks he may have problems with a location or two, I’d check out Yelp and other review sites out there to get another perspective on your operation. Many of your customers are doing it already.

What’s your view of review sites like Yelp in providing some insight into your retail operations? I’d like to hear from you.

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