Online Reputation Management: A Growing Need
Developing and maintaining a company’s online reputation has become an integral aspect for all modern businesses. Large corporations are particularly vulnerable because they often operate in competitive markets where brand reputation is more complex than the word-of-mouth approach that small businesses rely upon. Fortunately, larger businesses have funding and resources to properly address attacks against their band. They can employ someone from within the company to manage their brand reputation or they can outsource this service to an agency that specializes in this field. Smaller businesses are more likely to look for outside help because they often do not have the resources to manage their online brand.
According to Forrester Research, e-commerce sales are growing at a rapid pace; industries they surveyed saw their online sales grow by 28 percent in 2012 over 2011. They estimate industries will generate close to $560 billion in sales this year in the United States alone. Several studies have shown that 8 in 10 shoppers will research a product online before making a purchase. Some shoppers will simply research and purchase a product online; others will go in-store to purchase after they have done some online investigating.
Retailers have become recently frustrated with the growing practice of showrooming; costumers walk into a retail outlet to examine products or speak to in-store staff regarding the features of goods and services only to leave the store and purchase the item online at a discounted price. Conducting online research of products and services has become a common practice for shoppers, regardless of the shopping strategy they take. Therefore, it is vital that businesses carry a positive image online.
The Canadian government has acknowledged the importance of e-commerce in Canada, noting it is “a key pillar of the digital economy.” While the United States has a larger economy, maintaining a strong online reputation may actually be more important for Canadian businesses. Several studies have effectively illustrated Canadian consumer’s growing hunger for online goods and services. For example, both Netflix and Facebook had large subscribers in Canada well before they garnered international popularity. In fact, Canada was Facebook’s largest per capita user during the social network’s early years of operation. As of 2009, 7.5 of 10 Canadians had used the internet for window shopping or researching goods and services; this figure has likely increased. In addition, more than half of Canada’s population has placed an electronic order at least once in their life.