Customer service and ranging are the two most commonly highlighted factors when shoppers recommend a convenience store in Google reviews, according to analysis by betterRetailing.

A survey of more than 500 five-star Google reviews across more than 100 highly rated independent and multiple owned sites across the UK revealed the factors most important to shoppers.

More than 55% of reviews referenced great customer service while nearly half said the range of products on offer left them impressed. Price was the third most mentioned, but was significantly less common at around 21%.

The research also highlighted differences between independent and chain-owned stores. Ranging and access to speciality categories such as world foods were more commonly praised in independents than multiples.

Google key to footfall in stores, say tech experts

However, independent stores fared worse in praise for store location, ease and speed of shopping, and availability.

The research also throws into doubt a common belief that independent stores are better known for their community support, with multiples and independents receiving similar levels of reviews.

Multiples were commonly applauded for token-based donation boxes, where customers can vote for which local cause the store donates to.

Jay’s Budgens in London has gathered 180 reviews, boasting a 4.4-out-of-five star rating. Store manager Tilak Patel told betterRetailing he uses the reviews to monitor feedback. “People just started reviewing the store and others have caught on. We use it as feedback for what to focus on, where we can improve and the issues we need to iron out,” he said.

He advised retailers to ensure every customer is treated with the expectation they will leave a review.

Google says digital shop front ‘vital’

Yext specialises in making sure that businesses, including convenience stores, have up-to-date online listings.

Nisa signed a deal with the company in early 2019 to improve customer ability to find Nisa-partnered stores online. According to Yext managing director Jon Buss, having a positive Google rating from reviews isn’t about vanity, it has a direct effect on store footfall. “We’re seeing an increase in the number of ‘near me’ searches and the word ‘best’ is a key word being used in search terms,” he said.

“This is where Google reviews come into play – if the store doesn’t have at least a four-star rating, it won’t be included in the algorithm.”

Asked what stores can do to improve their rating, he said: “Businesses that interact with reviewers can also increase their rating.”

Google can put independent stores on the map