Right up there with “fake news” as a current-event irritant, are “fake reviews.” No one appreciates being fooled with something fake, especially when decisions are hanging in the balance. So we appreciate the research of BrightLocal in publishing their annual Local Consumer Review Survey-2017.
Published since 2010, this year’s sample of consumers queried was 1,031 US-based consumers, who provided answers to 18 questions in October 2017. The report includes graphs which compare the result of 2017 with that of 2016 and 2015, offering a helpful view of how trends have changed over time.
Greatest benefit would be obtained, along the path to Five-Star reviews, by reading the original report. However, as the survey provides a helpful list of key findings, this review of the review will focus on some of those key findings, adding personal opinionated comments.
We assume three key factors for each reader: one, that you represent a business with a website; two, that as a websited-business, you are interested in attracting customers; and three, that you recognize the importance of reviews in the process. Of course, you may also benefit simply as a consumer who reads reviews before purchase.
97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking every day
- The growth of review sites and even the concept of providing reviews has become an permanent part of the business process.
- The growing availability of the Internet to all people everywhere has forever changed how people choose a product or service.
- 41% use the internet for local business information on a weekly basis.
84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- As fantastic as such a claim may sound, it is fully representative of the move away from personal social interaction in favor of online social interaction.
- Consumers perceive the impersonal review as less biased, less intimidating and more controllable.
- In fairness, a large segment (25%) said they would trust the online review as much as a personal recommendation “if I believe the reviews are authentic.”
- Personal recommendations are now given online. Those giving recommendations are those ready to receive the same – if they perceive authenticity.
- That leaves 16% who are skeptical or don’t trust reviews at all.
Positive reviews make 68% of consumers trust a local business more
- Not everyone accepts the online review at face-value. Some doubt. But the growth in trust over 2016 (50%) is significant.
- And the common perception is that trust in the business comes from trust in the review.
- The most trusted review sites are Facebook (20%) and Yelp (20%), followed by Google (16%) and BBB.org (15%). It is very odd to see Google ranking so low.
Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as key when judging local businesses
- Engagement of the business with those who review the business is perceived by the consumer as an important factor when deciding whether or not the review is deserved.
- The business response to the consumer review informs the potential customer about the attitude and genuineness of the business.
- Responding to negative reviews is as great or greater than responding to positive reviews.
79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year, but a worrying 84% can’t always spot them
- 54% agreed that they had read at least one fake review in the preceding year.
- One can’t help but wonder whether natural skepticism kicks in when an extreme review is read. We read such reviews and think, “That can’t be right. Something is wrong here!”
- 25% said, “Yes, I’ve read a lot of fake reviews this past year.”
- Here the concern would be, “Where are you reading these (so I can stay away)?” and “Why did you go back (to read so many)?”
- 84% read a review and cannot say with confidence, “That was fake.” Which high percentage may be the result of not wanting to commit on a survey – 54% said, “Yes, sometimes.”
- But the high percentage of inability to spot a fake review may also be attributed to lack of experience. These have never (or rarely) written a review!
- Only 63% claimed they had written a good review and 35% a bad review.
- On the other hand, with good reviews almost double the bad review, we can lay to rest the idea that the only people who write reviews are those with bad experiences seeking to vent their feelings.
- “In today’s post-truth climate, in which the authenticity of online content can be questionable, trust is not a critical consideration.”
- This comment from the survey is remarkable as an acknowledgement of today’s moral climate, which is stated as a driving factor toward maintaining and building a level of trust.
People are becoming less likely to visit businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews – a 17% drop from 2016
- This is a most interesting trend. In 2016, 54% said they would visit the business website upon reading a positive review. In 2017, that had dropped to 37%. What is the common response?
- 26% search for more reviews to validate the internal decision making process (7% increase)
- 17% actually visit the business (10% increase)
- 10% continue to search for other businesses (7% drop)
- 10% contact the business (7% increase)
- Each of these percentage points represents a marked change over 2016.
- In balance, one reason that people are less likely to visit the website is Google’s growing ability to present key information for the business as a part of their Search Engine Result Page (SERP).
- Because the SERP can present opening times, location, bookings, Q&As, pictures and more, the necessity of actually visiting the website is decreasing.
The survey evidence is in
While you may not have a full and final comfort-level regarding all of the statistics, the numbers in context of an annual trend are very compelling. So much so that they cannot be simply ignored out of hand. These are ideas which must be dealt with in any successful marketing strategy.
Do you have a marketing strategy?
- Yes? Then contrast what you are doing to the suggestions in the following Forbes article.
- No? As a starting point, adopt the suggestions given wholesale. It is a start. A good one!
Ryan Erskine, Senior Brand Strategist at BrandYourself!
- Claim your business on all review sites – your favorite review site may not be the one your customers use. Increase your presence at all pertinent sites.
- Find the right software solution – one affordable solution is BrightLocal
- Make reviewing a cinch for your customers
- By adding a link to your business listing in your email signature
- By adding a “Find us on Google My Business” (or other) in your window
- By adding a Google My Business (or other) badge on your website
- Actually ask your customers to give a review
- By saying, “If you had a nice experience, please check us out on Google+ (or other).”
- Some sites prohibit directly asking for reviews; caution is required, payment or reward is forbidden.
- Use an email campaign with current customers to ask for feedback
- Positive responses are sent to a group of review sites you support;
- Negative responses are sent to an internal form which allows the unhappy customer to communicate helpful feedback for your business.
- Respond to reviews like a pro
- Appreciation and honest concern allow the customer with a negative view to feel respected and heard.
- The good reviewer also wishes to be recognized and thanked.
- Use positive and negative reviews to your benefit
- Genuine reception of feedback will produce beneficial change in your organization.
- This kind of honest response produces credibility.