It’s a Steal: Why Shoplifting Incidents Rise with Negative Online Reviews
The Denver Post recently published a story about a Denver-area Walmart that has all the markings of a shoplifter-friendly store.
In one week of 2013 at the Walmart in Stapleton, Colorado, a pair of men walked out of the store with a paintball gun, while another attempted to steal pillows and a futon. Finally, a fourth shoplifter was by a cop after absconding with nearly 100 items in his shopping cart.
This Walmart has reported 283 shoplifting occurrences in 2013, 179 more than Denver’s second-place finisher, a downtown Rite-Aid. Denver police officers have resorted to parking squad cars around the building in hopes of warding off thieves. However, this tactic has yet to yield positive result.
So what’s happening at the Stapleton Walmart? Stapleton is not traditionally known as a crime-ridden city – and none of the other businesses in the neighborhood are seeing the same amount of trouble. In fact, the Home Depot just up the street has experienced one-tenth as many incidents in 2013.
Theft may be on the rise for a variety of reasons. The removal of door greeters has taken away a number of Walmart employees who might be poised to look for thieves.
Negative Reviews = Sticky Fingers?
Almost all of the store’s Yelp reviews are negative, with several reviewers complaining about the limited staff and cluttered shelves. When multiple reviews discuss the same issue, it’s a major problem. The Stapleton Walmart has garnered 34 Yelp reviews, half of which a single star. Meanwhile, store earned zero five-star reviews and just two four-star reviews. Words like “friendly” and “helpful” are nowhere to be found in the Walmart reviews.
How do these ratings and reviews correlate with shoplifting? Research studies have demonstrated that shoplifters will search online for information on less-than-ideal stores. In fact, the store’s layout might have a significant impact on the prevalence of retail theft. Stores can install mirrors and cameras, tidy up their cluttered areas, and tweaking their designs, stores can greatly decrease their losses. Unfortunately, Walmart greeters are now a relic of the old days. Their absence is the result of cost-cutting measures that might now have an adverse effect on overall operations.
A Poor First Impression Means Less Business
By engaging in consistent interactions with customers, regular employees had been able to fend off shoplifters until recently. For these shoplifters, the possibility of being accosted by a friendly employee might just be enough to deter them. It helps tremendously if a store’s employees remain alert at all time. According to Yelp, the Stapleton Walmart hasn’t succeeded in this endeavor. The Denver Post stated that the police had previously counseled Stapleton Walmart managers on the need to increase safety measures.
Websites like Angie’s List, Ripoff Report and Yelp have shown businesses that the Internet is a sprawling playground lined with opinions and other commentary about the consumer experience.?Just one negative review published to a wide audience could lead to a decrease in store traffic or a decline in sales. The recent developments at the Stapleton Walmart indicate yet another reason why business owners should ensure online reviews will portray them in a positive manner.
Yelp’s Enormous Impact on Consumer Decisions
Yelp continues to be the most prominent review site online. Since its creation in 2004, Yelp has provided the structure for users to communicate about their individual consumer experiences. Yelp concentrates on long-form reviews rather than the short one-liners present on most sites. Customers can offer an in-depth review answering a wide array of questions. Dentists, doctors, restaurants, auto-repair shops and other places of business are all include on this consumer-friendly service. Plus, Yelp features millions of photos that show weekly discounts, storefronts, products, services and other visual elements that play an important role for consumers when making a decision. According to a Review Trackers survey, people spend 2.5 times more time on a business page that contains photo compared to one without.
Yelp currently attracts more than 100 million unique visitors on a monthly basis. In the past year, mobile devices with Yelp’s application installed grew nearly 60 percent. A recent Nielsen study revealed some interesting customer habits that could alter how local businesses approach online review sites like Yelp.
- A whopping 93 percent of those surveyed said that visited Yelp directly led to a purchase.
- Plus, 82 percent of users replied that they visited Yelp with the intention of purchasing a service or product.
- 89 percent indicate that they will make a purchase within one week of examining businesses on Yelp.
The opinion of Internet users is often shaped by the affirmative feedback provided by their fellow consumers. The survey also revealed that 73 percent of customers trust a local business more when there are several positive reviews, which increased from 58 percent in 2012. Although people will argue about which online review or rating site is most influential – Yelp, Google Places, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc. – it’s clear that online commentary has had a dramatic effect on a number of industries. Comprehensive surveillance and maintenance of review sites could save on a number of business costs, and allow you to communicate directly with consumers to monitor and manage your business’s online reputation.