Prior to the advent of the internet, social media, and online reputation management, the typical consumer experience with a business involved a trip to a brick and mortar location where a purchase would be made. These visits may have been preceded by consumers seeing advertisements in traditional media channels, but the actual interface with the company began when they stepped through the door of the store. This paradigm has now been turned on its head as the internet has delivered the double-edged sword of a virtual presence for businesses whether they like it or not.
For many businesses, the number of customers who now experience the virtual presence first can be a high multiple of those whose walk through the front door is their first impression. This presents a new challenge for business owners due to the fact that their potential customers’ perceptions are now being shaped by what they see when they search for information online, long before they have the experience of visiting a brick and mortar location. That is if they decide to visit the physical location at all. Additionally, there is a myriad of components that can play a role in shaping initial perceptions, which generally come from two sources; the business and its customers.
Meeting these new challenges requires that companies take an active role in developing an online presence that reflects the same customer experience standards as those set forth at the brick and mortar locations, which can be accomplished by developing and executing strategic and comprehensive reputation management practices. These practices will have two primary objectives; generating content that adds value for the target market and committing to full and positive interaction with communities on social media platforms. The integration of these objectives can then result in high visibility for the sponsoring company’s content on search engine results pages (SERPs) while also building a positive perception on social networks. When fully actualized, this type of reputation management plan can build a positive perception at the virtual presence that becomes a driver of new business to the physical location.