Reviews can be an incredibly useful tool for attracting new customers, not only through the psychological effect they have on the reader but by boosting local rankings so that businesses are more likely to show up for searching consumers.
In 2020, how often did consumers use the internet to find local business information?
We have tracked the way consumers search online for local businesses over the past decade, as part of the Local Consumer Review Survey.
In 2020, 93% of US consumers searched online to find a local business. These 34% searched daily, 73% searched weekly, and 70% searched monthly (up from 70%).
Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook are constantly adding new features to help potential customers connect with nearby businesses. It’s not surprising that consumers are increasingly likely to search online for local suppliers.
A large proportion of customers read reviews online about local businesses
Online reviews continue to be important despite the obvious effects of Covid-19 on local economies. In 2020, 87% of online reviewers will read reviews about local businesses. This is an increase of 81% in 2018, 86% in 2018, as well as a significant increase over the 67% in 2010.
While the number of people looking for reviews about local businesses grew, there was a slight dip in those who were “always” looking. It’s unclear if this is due to consumers looking at reviews less often (perhaps in line the decreased demand for local businesses this fiscal year) or if those who have only recently started reviewing reviews are now part of the “occasionally”.
These are the devices that consumers used to read reviews in 2020
Consumers are choosing to view about OveReview on mobile devices instead of desktops for the first time. This year, 57% of consumers viewed reviews on a Mac or PC. This is down from 66% in 2019.
This isn’t necessarily a sign of a long-term trend, given the year. People who have had to leave work may have used their desktops less this year. Those working remotely may also have been less inclined to use their computers on weekends or evenings.
With 60% of consumers reporting that they read mobile reviews this year, the proportion of mobile users reading them has increased. As consumers have access to more features that can help them in their local business searches, mobile review reading has been steadily increasing over the past few years.
The Impact of Covid-19 on Local Businesses
Covid-19 had many businesses shut down around the globe, forcing consumers to make different choices about which businesses they would choose. Trusting local businesses became more important than ever. Online reviews play a crucial role in whether consumers feel safe enough to use them.
Back at the beginning of April, we asked BrightLocal users how the virus was impacting local businesses and marketers. We heard from local businesses how they were losing customers, stopping marketing or closing temporarily. It’s not surprising that consumers changed their behavior in 2020.
Local Search and Covid-19
It is evident that Covid-19 has not had an impact on all US consumers. This is because people have different experiences depending on the extent of the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, 37% searched online for local businesses. This is normal in areas that saw many businesses close.
A further 28% of consumers looked online for businesses that were open in their area, which is more than they would do in a normal year. Customers wanted to know if businesses were available near them, whether they had any additional measures such as curbside delivery or if they had enough measures to make it easy for customers to visit the business or have the business come to their place.
Online reviews and Covid-19
Reviews are a similar story. Covid-19 led to 34% of users reading fewer reviews than in a normal year while 31% read more reviews. With Google temporarily stopping new reviews between March and May, Google reviews may have been a little less used in this time, as there were fewer fresh reviews to read – not to mention lower demand for businesses in the first place.
23 percent of respondents said they would not use a business if it did not have safety and health measures. This shows that customers do care about the reviews.
It’s not only how consumers read comments that have changed since the pandemic. 17% of consumers stated that they had left negative reviews about businesses that didn’t have safety and health measures for Covid-19. If businesses fail to take steps to ensure that consumers feel safe, they could be open to negative reviews that could affect consumer opinions long after the peak of the pandemic.
It’s not all bad news. 22% of customers wrote reviews to help struggling local businesses. With Google adopting a high-budget advertising campaign in the UK urging consumers to support local businesses, Google’s message has been to encourage local reviews, so it’s great to see this echoed in consumer action.
Reviews play a key role in helping consumers to feel able to trust a business. Online reviews are an incredibly useful tool in influencing opinions, with many potential customers making decisions on whether to use or avoid a business before ever getting in touch with them. Companies with a poor review profile could be denying themselves a vast number of new leads without ever knowing a consumer considered them.
Negative reviews can have a major impact on consumers’ behavior and make 92% less likely for them to use the business.
Of course, negative reviews can happen. Negative reviews can happen, even if your team is having a bad day or the reviewer is being difficult to please. It is unlikely that one negative review will ruin your chances of landing local searches, so it’s okay to ignore the occasional one-star rating.
A business that receives a lot of negative feedback or has a lot of bad reviews could be at risk. Although negative reviews are not the only reason for a business’s failure, consumers now have better tools to help them understand what kind of service they can expect.
You’ll likely have heard that unhappy customers tell 9-10 people about their experience – a statistic based on a study of Coca-Cola customers in the 1970s. Local businesses need to be aware that one bad experience can have an even greater impact than before. Reviews are so trusted and easily accessible. An average local business’s Google My Business listing is viewed 1,260 times each month, meaning that a negative set of reviews could have a huge impact.
79% of consumers trust online reviews more than personal recommendations from family or friends. Online reviews can spread word of mouth beyond the consumer’s circle of friends. Customers’ peers.
Consumers also benefit from positive reviews. 94% of respondents say that positive reviews increase their likelihood to use a business. Positive reviews or ratings with high stars can have a major impact on customers’ decisions to use a business. It’s therefore vital to make sure your reviews are top-notch.
What do local consumers do when they read a positive review about a business?
- Visit the website of the company
- To confirm their decision, search for more reviews
- Visit the location of the business
- Continue to search for other businesses
- Get in touch with the company
Our 2019 report shows that consumers still read positive reviews and are more likely to visit the website of the business.
Although some customers may choose to contact the business right away after reading their glowing reviews, others will continue to browse the website until they are satisfied. The website must be able to match the needs of potential customers, whether they are searching for information about local businesses or pricing.
Industries for which the most reviews are viewed
- Hotels / B&Bs
- Healthcare / Medical
- Clothing stores
There are many industries that have very different percentages of customers using reviews to choose a business. Some services, such as childcare or wedding services, may not be as needed. Restaurants, hotels, clothing stores, and other industries are all highly viewed by consumers. These industries are popular because they are widely used and have broad appeal.
A high percentage of customers read reviews about automotive and medical businesses. This makes sense, because every American may need a healthcare professional at some point, and 93% of American households have access to a car.
Reviewers are the most important in which industries
- Healthcare / Medical
- Hotels / B&Bs
Consumer reviews for automotive and medical businesses are equally important when selecting a business. This is likely because of the high stakes involved in choosing a trusted provider for your health or that of your vehicle. Consumers can trust dentists if they have read reviews.
Consumers play an important role in choosing restaurants and hotels. They are not only used extensively but also highly influential in selecting a business. It’s no surprise that many rely heavily on reviews to select businesses in these sectors. There are entire sites, such as Booking.com and Tripadvisor, dedicated to these types of reviews.
It is interesting that consumers think reviews are less important for ‘pubs and bars. These are high-traffic businesses but I have to admit that I don’t recall ever looking at reviews for pubs. Instead, I rely on recommendations from friends or what’s near me.
What Review Readers Care About
There are many options for consumers to see reviews, as we have seen. If you don’t pay attention to specific aspects of reviews like sentiment and recency, local businesses could be losing customers.
What review factors are most important to consumers
We asked consumers to rate how important the factors were this year. The above data shows those who said that a factor was either ‘fairly important or very important. In the past, respondents were asked to select factors that they consider important.
The overall star rating of a company was the most important review factor in 2020. A close second is the legitimacy of a review, which refers to how trustworthy it appears. Fake reviews have been dominating headlines for the past few years. Consumers are now realizing that reviews might not always be as they seem.
It was interesting to note that the recency of a review was less important this year than it was last year when respondents considered it the most important. This may be due to the slightly different question this year. Recency might have become less important to meet the new demand for businesses in this “new normal”. Recency is an important aspect of business reviews that 80% of customers consider when selecting a business to do business with.
We asked our respondents whether they believe it was important for businesses to have multiple reviews. 72% of respondents said yes, which means it is important to share your reviews on all the sites your potential customers might be searching. Find out which sites are being used by your competitors and create a positive profile on all of them.
Local businesses require a star rating
Marketers are all familiar with the question “What star rating should I get?”. But as with any good local marketing question, the answer is “it depends.”
Knowing that consumers can see a big difference between a 4-star and 5-star rating, we added half-star options this year to better meet their expectations. We found that only 12% of consumers will use businesses with perfect 5 stars.
48% of people would not consider using a business with less than 4 stars. This means that businesses below this threshold risk losing half their potential customers who are searching online. Only 19% would consider using a business that has fewer than three stars.
What recent reviews should be
Although reviews’ recency can make a difference in whether a customer chooses a business or not, different people may have different ideas about the importance of recent reviews.
86% of consumers claim they only consider reviews from the past three months. However, a staggering 73% believe customer reviews must be from the previous month to have an impact on their decision to use a local business. This is up from 69% last year. A staggering 50% of consumers only consider reviews from the last two weeks.
Older reviews are less likely to be seen by consumers and may have lower returns over time. Although older reviews can still be valuable (to search engines and readers), consumers may not believe that they will have the same experience as those who saw them.
Local businesses should strive to receive a steady stream of reviews over time, rather than pushing hard and forgetting to request further reviews later.
How many reviews have customers seen online before they trust a business?
We found that an average consumer will read 10 reviews before deciding whether or not to trust a business. This is our third consecutive year. To maximize their chances of impressing potential leads, local marketers must ensure that the 10 reviews posted on each review site reflect the business experience they desire.