As part of our coverage leading up to ICSC, Stacy Baker Stemen, Director of Marketing at Passco Companies, gives us her insider perspective for this edition of Counter Culture. Passco Companies will be at Booth C143 L at the Las Vegas ICSC RECon Convention May 18–20.

Yelp is growing fast. 

The business review giant recently posted a 30 percent year-over-year growth in users, reporting that it now draws approximately 132 million visitors each month.

Consumers today, especially those in the new, more tech-savvy generation, rely heavily on the internet to make purchase decisions. These consumers are increasingly turning to Yelp and its customer reviews to choose everything from where to dine, to which dry cleaner to use.

In addition, today’s widespread use of smartphones and tablets has significantly contributed to Yelp’s increasing popularity. The company’s volume of mobile visitors has grown more than 50 percent in the past year.

In other words, Yelp matters.

So what is a retailer, or retail owner to do?

The short answer is that it’s all about proactive reputation management.

Those in the retail industry should have someone monitoring their store or retail center’s Yelp page on a regular basis, and should take reviews seriously.

If a store or center receives a negative review, posting a response is essential.

By responding honestly, and openly addressing a customer’s concerns, the retailer or retail owner can demonstrate that they care about their consumers. In addition, a response can provide the personal touch needed to correct any issues that might arise.

The fact is, Yelp can be a very useful tool in driving new and repeat customers to a retail center or store, and those who take it seriously will reap the rewards.