We at BrightLocal have just published the findings of the 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey.
This annual exploration into the consumption, attitudes and influence of local business reviews by consumers is now in it fifth year, giving us half a decade of trends to analyze and compare.
In this year’s survey, we asked 15 questions and had 2,354 people complete the survey, with 90 percent of respondents in the US and 10 percent in Canada.
You can find the full survey data and charts on BrightLocal.com. The following five charts show some of the key findings from this year’s survey.
This year continues the upward trend of consumers putting stock in reviews, with more reading reviews than in previous years.
Whilst there is a small year-over-year drop in the number of consumers who say they “regularly” read reviews for local businesses (33 percent versus 39 percent in 2014), overall there is an increase in the number who do read online reviews, up to 92 percent.
Just eight percent of respondents said they don’t read online reviews for businesses — down from 29 percent in 2011 and 12 percent in 2014.
PCs remain the primary device that consumers use to read local reviews. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they read reviews on a PC versus 38 percent who read reviews on a Mobile Browser — that’s nearly twice as many.
Mobile browsers are the second most popular method for reading local business reviews online. We split Mobile Browsers out from Mobile Apps to see which users preferred, and mobile browsers were considerably more popular than apps (38 percent versus 24 percent, respectively).
Back in May of this year, we conducted a separate study looking at Local-Mobile usage, which found that 50 percent of consumers prefer using a mobile browser versus 10 percent who favor mobile apps — so the data from this survey support those earlier findings.
As mobile usage continues to grow, and the experience gets better, it’s likely that there will be a continued shift towards consumers conducting more searches and research on their mobile device. And if consumers are reading reviews on mobile devices, then there’s a high chance that they will also visit the business website using the same device.
Local businesses need to be alert to this shift to mobile — and consequently, the increasing importance of having a mobile-optimized site that provides the key information that consumers want (Physical address and driving directions are the top two).
*Note: Consumers who said they didn’t read reviews were removed from the analysis.
The results here point to consumers continuing to form opinions about local businesses faster than before.
40 percent of consumers say they form an opinion by reading one to three reviews, and 73 percent say they need to read fewer than six reviews.
So while having hundreds of reviews doesn’t hurt (provided they’re mainly positive reviews), most of these will never be read by new customers. What is more critical is the overall star rating that a business has and the recency of reviews.
With most consumers only reading a handful of reviews, the most recent reviews are the ones they’re likely to see, which makes it critical for local businesses to monitor their new reviews and act on them so that any negative reviews are managed carefully and quickly.
Review “recency” is one of the most important factors for consumers when assessing the online reputation of a local business. Businesses are organic and changeable (e.g., new chef, new owners, change of focus), and consumers know that a positive (or negative) review from two years ago may not be relevant, as the business will have changed from that time.
This “review lifetime” varies depending on the business; but we can see that for a typical local business, a review needs to have been written within the last three months to be considered relevant by most consumers. Business owners shouldn’t view reviews as a one-time activity; they need to generate new reviews on a regular basis to keep converting new searchers into leads.
Star rating is the most important review factor for consumers when they analyze the reputation of a local businesses. There is a huge jump in the number of consumers who would consider a business with two stars versus three stars (13 percent versus 57 percent), and there’s another big jump for four stars (94 percent).
These findings reveal how important it is for a local business to have at least a three-star rating if it wants to appeal to the vast majority of local consumers — any less than three stars, and they’ll be overlooked. On the flip side, the survey also shows that consumers are realistic; only six percent expect a business to have a five-star reputation; they appreciate that perfection doesn’t exist.
Note: In this year’s survey, we added “Yes, Always” as an new option for respondents.
Eighty percent of consumers trust local reviews as much as personal recommendations — so long as the reviews meet certain expectations.
The most significant of these is “Authenticity.” Thirty-one percent of consumers will trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation if they believe the review to be authentic and genuine. In 2011, this figure was 21 percent, and in 2014 it was 22 percent, so what has been the catalyst for this increase?
Consumers are possibly more concerned about fake reviews than ever before due to increased publicity around faked reviews and a number of businesses being slapped with hefty fines for falsifying reviews. As the influence of reviews grows, so the stakes have grown, and more businesses are keen (desperate) to attract new customers, so the will stoop to such dodgy tactics!
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