As customers interact with — and review — brands across a growing number of third-party sites, reputation management is the key area of focus for this group, with 66% planning to focus on "collecting customer feedback" and 51% planning to enhance their ability to monitor and respond to online reviews, according to new research produced by Yext, Inc., New York.

 The “Brand Control in the Age of AI” study surveyed 400 marketing decision-makers from organizations across the United States, including 100 food and hospitality marketers, to understand how consumers’ relationship with a company’s reputation.

“Our research shows that an overwhelming majority of food and hospitality brands know they're not doing enough when it comes to managing their brands online," says Marc Ferrentino, chief strategy officer. "We saw that 85% of these brands know they have improvements to make in reputation management, and 89% — more than any other industry we looked at — know that improving their listings is crucial to increasing their sales. There's a growing recognition that these touchpoints with customers across search are critical to the bottom line."

"As the ways consumers look for places to eat and stay change, so are the strategies that businesses need to use to reach and engage with these potential customers," says Lee Zucker, head of industry, food services and hospitality. "Food and hospitality businesses are ahead of the curve in recognizing this, with 74% of those who see the need to improve their marketing strategy saying that enhancing the way they manage their brand online will increase customer loyalty."

Reputation management strategies will increase revenue and customer satisfaction

Brand reputation depends on delivering a great customer experience in every interaction. But, in today's digital world, these interactions are occurring across dozens of touchpoints and channels, making reputation management a greater challenge — and a greater opportunity — than ever before. Additionally, in the food and hospitality sector in particular, review sites impact discoverability and online bookings. The study indicates that hospitality marketers are aware of this, and are prioritizing strategies for streamlining the customer experience and monitoring reviews across sites.

  • 85% of respondents believe that they need to make improvements in local reputation management. This will help them to better understand feedback and craft a better customer experience across touchpoints.
  • 37% report that the improvements needed are "significant."
  • 66% of respondents plan to focus on "collecting customer feedback," and 51% plan to enhance their ability to monitor and respond to online reviews.
  • Overall, 74% of respondents who believe that there are areas of their organization's marketing strategy that need to be improved report that they would see an increase in customer loyalty as a result. Furthermore, many cite benefits such as increased sales/revenues (64%) and increased customer satisfaction (59%).

Improved web listings set to increase online sales 

With consumers finding and interacting with retailers across third-party sites, listings management is key to facilitating discovery. Many hospitality marketers cite improving efficiency in this area as a key concern.

  • Almost nine in 10 (89%) hospitality respondents, the largest proportion of any sector, agree that improving their web listings is crucial for their organization if they are to increase sales.
  • Around half (49%) report that their organization is focusing on claiming and managing online listings on search engines, maps, apps and directories as part of their brand management strategy.

Local landing pages see progress, but can still use improvement

Consumers expect the answers they see in search results to be relevant to their context and location, and it's essential for brands to ensure that the public facts about their business are available in local search results. The study indicates that hospitality marketers may be ahead of other verticals here. When it comes to making physical locations stand out in local search, hospitality respondents are the most likely (10%) of any to report that their organization uses the most mature approach.

But, respondents agree that there is room for improvement when it comes to optimizing local landing pages to rank in local search results at key moments of intent.

  • 83% of respondents agree that local landing pages are an important part of attracting new customers, and this appreciation is further demonstrated through such sizeable proportions focusing on landing page related areas as part of their brand management strategy.
  • 40% of respondents report that their organization is focusing on promoting local and corporate events online, while 34% cite building landing pages for their locations and/or professionals as a focus area in 2019 and beyond.