In a world inundated with choices, reviews are the holy grail to getting better experiences. An average consumer reads 5-8 reviews before making a decision, making reputation management through reviews a major aspect of marketing. For brands with multiple branches, especially in the F&B and lifestyle segment, this can get tricky, as there are numerous platforms that collect reviews.
Since review management is a relatively new marketing aspect, experienced and specialised support from Localyser, an online reputation management tool, can be extremely beneficial. This is especially true for corporate groups such as Meraas that manages multiple brands in multiple locations.
The idea, as Tarik Qahawish, Founder and CEO of Localyser, explains is to “aggregate the reviews for specific brands at the location level, so that the marketing managers can easily monitor, respond and analyse all the reviews from Google, Talabat, Zomato, TripAdvisor, Hunger Station in Saudi, and so on.”
Moreover, they have localised the platform in two ways: “We aggregate reviews from local and regional review sites. For example, Saudi has Hunger Station, while here in the UAE we have Talabat.” As for the second, “we capture reviews in all languages, not only English and Arabic, but also Chinese, Hindi, Russian, etc. and auto-translate them so marketers and retailers know what people are saying about them.”
The first such startup in the region, Localyser is quickly gaining traction, serving over 350 restaurants and entertainment shops ranging from Meraas, who have their fine dining at City Walk, La Mer, and The Beach, to their entertainment brands like Roxy Cinemas, Green Planet,; along with Shakespeare & Co., Gourmet Gulf and Applebees across the region.
Reviews are one of the best indicators of brand health, which can give valuable insights into why a brand of a particular branch of a brand, is doing better or worse than others. Localyser provides location-based review reports that help brands understand what better-performing branches are doing right, and apply those learnings to improve performances across others.
They also provide local support, by helping brands learn how to manage reviews. Tarik explains, “We tell them about the best practices and monitor how they're doing, and also help them understand the reports.” In addition to personalised support, they also run a weekly blog where they “share the best practise and the insights from the region.” Tarik adds, “We have statistics about the market condition in terms of review management. Our internal study of over 1 million reviews shows that only about 20% of businesses are actually responding to reviews. This is fairly low, and out of the 20% only 40% are responding on a regular basis.”
One of the biggest challenges marketers face is in handling negative reviews. At any given point in time, whether you are just starting to manage reviews, or are doing it on a regular basis, Tarik advises that “The first thing you need to do is acknowledge negative reviews. Even if you don’t have an answer, you need to acknowledge and apologise so that the person who left the review sees your care and support.” Localyser’s studies show that the impact of negative reviews is reduced for other potential customers as well as the original reviewer, and puts the business in a better light. “So even if you have a negative review, a good response balances it out to an extent.”
Localyser provides a filtering technology that “bubbles up all the negative reviews”, making it easy for marketers to respond to the most important reviews right away, even if they are very busy. The tool also helps restaurants request reviews from customers and share them on Google, Zomato, and Facebook, thereby improving the search engine algorithms and increasing discoverability. “This is what helps the conversion from online search to offline sales.”
The F&B sector is treading rough waters as consumers are becoming more cautious with their spending. While some of the restaurants and bars have shut shop in the past couple of years, overall Dubai saw 1,109 new restaurants and cafes open in 2018.
To deal with the changing market, F&B and lifestyle businesses have shifted their focus from outward to inward, putting emphasis on improving operations, reputation, and sales per store.
The closing stores are due to many different factors. The ones that have a good product, service, location and management, will survive in any environment. We’ve noticed some consolidation in the market, some are closing but the good ones are taking advantage of the market being down in terms of real estate and opening more branches.Tarik Qahawish, Founder & CEO, Localyser
Overall, Localyser's platform shows immense potential of scalability. It started in F&B as that showed the greatest promise, with multiple platforms having high frequency of reviews. However, they are already growing. Tarik divulges they are “getting into destinations, malls, fitness gyms, yoga centres, spas and coffee shops. We also have customers in the healthcare industry, with dentists, private clinics and such.”Localyser’s platform and technology have the potential to further scale to help amass reviews for niche sectors, such as finance and tech, to give the general audience a better perspective of such products and services. They could potentially move into managing tech and finance product reviews on e-commerce websites, such as Amazon. While Localyser currently serves B2B customers, it shows the potential to grow to provide a platform for the people. Perhaps in 10 years, we could see it launched a comprehensive review aggregator platform, which would provide a truer reflection of ratings and reviews for businesses and consumers.