We at BrightLocal have released the findings of our annual Local Consumer Review Survey, which reveals the growing importance of online reviews in the purchasing decision.
This is the 4th year we have conducted this study into consumer usage and attitudes toward online reviews. In May-June, we sent a questionnaire to our local consumer panel and received 2,104 completed survey responses. All respondents are from the USA (90%) and Canada (10%).
The purpose of the survey is to understand how online reviews influence the attitudes of consumers toward local businesses and how they directly influence the purchase of local business services.
The survey includes 13 questions. The following 4 charts represent some of the key findings of the survey. Full survey findings and charts can be viewed on BrightLocal.com.
Nearly 9 in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis. The “trend line” over the last four years clearly shows how much more regularly people are reading reviews, clearly highlighting the need for local businesses to attract more reviews and actively manage their online reputation.
The steady decline of consumers in the “No” column also allows us to forecast the way consumer attitudes are likely to continue changing in the future.
Eighty-five percent of consumers are satisfied once they have read up to 10 online reviews for a local businesses. However, there is a greater proportion of consumers who now read in excess of 20 reviews. This obviously signifies more engagement with review sites, but does it also highlight trust issues? Do consumers now feel they need to read more positive reviews before developing trust? (More on this below.)
Most importantly for SMBs and SEOs, this highlights the importance of having at least 10 reviews to satisfy 85% of potential customers. It goes without saying that these reviews should be not only positive, but also fresh; if consumers only read the latest reviews, it’s crucial to ensure that these most recent reviews and positive.
For 7 out of 10 consumers, positive reviews inspire trust. This highlights just how important they are for a local business, and it’s clear that reputation management is something that cannot be ignored. Any negative reviews will directly affect customer acquisition and, in turn, company revenue.
Just 1 in 10 consumers do not take any notice of online reviews (vs. 12% in 2013). We can see from the chart above that this percentage is decreasing year-on-year as review consumption becomes more commonplace.
For nearly 9 in 10 consumers, an online review is equally as important as a personal recommendation. With word-of-mouth still the most popular way of recommending a local business, this stat highlights the value of a positive review.
However, this trust comes with a caveat. There is almost a 50/50 split in what drives trust for this 88% of consumers. For one half, this trust will only be granted if there are multiple reviews to read. For the other half, this trust is dependent on the reviews being authentic. In this case, quality is equally as important as quantity.
The subject of fake reviews has had a lot of news coverage and is clearly in the consciousness of the average consumer. It’s likely that they will only become more discerning in their trust of reviews as this issue becomes more prevalent.