Reviews have always been an important part of a business’s reputation. With the advent of the internet, the significance of consumer opinions has increased. Many shoppers spend time reading reviews before making a purchase.
Long ago, the review process was simple. Most platforms had a star rating system. Consumers would provide their rating with a few words, and it was enough to convince others to buy.
It was easy, but it was also easy to manipulate. Unethical businesses and scammers could create accounts and post fake reviews, artificially inflating their ratings. Detecting fake reviews has become more important than ever before.
Today, most platforms have mechanisms in place to prevent people from posting fake reviews or removing negative reviews posted by real consumers. As people become more tech-savvy, those mechanisms have to be smarter and more complex to get ahead of the game.
Business reviews are a powerful tool. That’s why anyone selling a product or service needs to know how reviews influence consumer behavior and how to look out for questionable content on third-party platforms.
Why are reviews an essential part of online reputation for businesses?
A Closer Look at Consumer Behavior
Some platforms are more influential than others. According to Brightlocal, consumers used Google to investigate local businesses 87% of the time last year. That is up from 81% the previous year. However, the overall number of consumers regularly reading online reviews dropped from 77% in 2021 to 76% now.
The focus on Facebook as a review resource has waned. Approximately 54% of consumers used the platform to research local businesses in 2020. That number dropped to 48% in 2021 and again to 46% in 2022.
What else has changed over the past few years?
- Requests for reviews in exchange for a discount have increased from 15% in 2021 to 26% in 2022.
- Brightlocal found that 36% of female customers and 24% of male customers were likely to post positive reviews for businesses that they knew were eco-friendly.
- The variety of platforms people use to look for local reviews and business information is more diverse than it was long ago. Approximately 35% of consumers use YouTube, 32% go to Instagram, 20% search TikTok, and 35% visit a local news resource.
How Often Do Consumers Read Online Business Reviews?
If your business isn’t online, you could be severely limiting your reach. The internet has become the biggest source of information for consumers. Brightlocal reported that 98% of consumers used the internet to search for local business information last year. That was an increase from the 90% reported in 2019.
98% of respondents said that they occasionally read online reviews for local businesses while 76% said that they always or regularly do the same.
Every day, consumers use the internet to learn about local businesses. Around 34% searched the internet in 2020. That number went down to 21% in 2021 and has stayed the same through 2023.
While the daily searches may have dropped a little over the past few years, the number of searches performed has increased. People are using the internet more frequently to obtain business information.
In 2022, 7% of consumers said that they searched for business information online less than once per month, which was an increase from 5% in 2021.
The fluctuations are minimal and generally represent a stable outlook. Small adjustments can hint at the economic climate and how consumer needs have shifted in the United States.
Where Do Consumers Look for Business Reviews?
As the popularity of different platforms changes, businesses need to know where consumers are looking for reviews.
If someone is on the internet, they have likely heard of Google. It’s no surprise that the platform is a popular resource for consumers. Around 87% of internet users turned to Google to find local business information in 2022.
Yelp’s popularity decreased from 53% in 2021 to 48% in 2022. Users turning to Facebook for business information dropped two years in a row to 46% in 2022.
ReviewTracker reported that Google has the largest quantity of reviews, holding 73% of all reviews posted online. Naturally, people are likely to use Google due to the sheer volume of content alone. Google also continues to test its platform and release updates meant to improve the user experience, which helps its popularity.
If you had to choose one platform to have reviews for your business published, Google should be at the top of your list.
What Influences Consumers to Write Positive Reviews?
Every business wants positive reviews. Unfortunately, at some point, you are likely going to receive a less-than-perfect review. The goal should be to try and get as many positive responses as possible. To do that, you should understand what it is that makes consumers write positive reviews.
One of the most obvious factors is how well the business handled the transaction or encounter. Around 81% of consumers were likely or highly likely to post positive reviews when they felt that a business went above and beyond for them.
A negative situation doesn’t have to lead to a bad review. Around 79% of consumers were likely or highly likely to post positive online reviews when a business turned a problem or bad experience into a positive one.
Some people are also sympathetic to the challenges that come with opening a new business. Around 73% were likely or highly likely to post positive reviews for businesses that are new.
Consumers also appreciate businesses that are owned by or associated with groups that they care about. They are more likely to post positive reviews for businesses owned by a community they support or those that are eco-friendly.
Many consumers feel more generous toward businesses that are new or those facing economic instability.
How Do Consumers Respond to Requests for Business Reviews?
In a perfect world, consumers would post reviews without any prompting. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Some don’t feel motivated to take the extra step to post a review. Others may forget to review a product or service after the transaction is complete.
To combat this, many businesses will request reviews after a sale. Around 80% of consumers were asked to leave a business review in 2022. In response, around 65% of consumers left a review while 19% did not.
Email was the biggest method that consumers said they would respond to when requesting reviews.
In-person requests and requests printed on receipts were close behind with 33% and 32% respectively. SMS text messages came in at 23% while phone calls were just 12% and chatbot requests were at 9%.
Business cards were even lower with a review response rate of just 8%.
Businesses have a lot of competition when it comes to review requests. Statista reported that more than 306 billion emails are sent daily. That means a lot of competition will also be trying to get consumers’ attention to post reviews or make purchases.
Do Business Responses to Reviews Affect Consumers’ Opinions?
Convincing consumers to post reviews isn’t the only thing businesses have to do to build their online reputation. They also need to be prepared to respond to reviews.
This can be challenging because you will likely have to deal with neutral to negative reviews about your product or service at some point. How you handle the situation will inform the decisions made by future potential customers.
Around 88% of consumers said they were likely to use a business if they see that it responds to all reviews, including both positive and negative ones. Compare that to:
- 60% of consumers would likely use a business when it responds to negative reviews only
- 50% of consumers would likely use a business when it responds to positive reviews only
- 42% of consumers would likely use a business if it responds to none of its online reviews
If you want to maximize your reach and customer base, then the data makes it clear that responding to all reviews is going to get the best results.
It’s also important to remember that how you respond plays a role as well. Sometimes, a negative experience can be turned into a positive one through a review response and follow up. This will send a positive message about your business to future customers who see the interaction.
What Matters to Consumers About Online Reviews?
What consumers care about when reading online reviews can vary based on industry. Brightlocal’s survey found that:
- 88% want to see business owners responding to all reviews
- 52% want to see recent reviews posted within the last 2 to 4 weeks
- 38% want to see a rating of 4 stars or better to consider using a business
Reviews matter more in certain industries. Consumers considered reviews either important or very important when looking for:
- Automotive services
- Services and trades
- Legal services
Reviews were particularly influential in finance and legal services, with 81% of consumers considering them important or very important in these industries.
Surprisingly, reviews had the lowest importance to consumers in the retail industry. That doesn’t mean that stores and shops don’t need reviews, they were just not as in demand as they are in the industries listed above.
Many things can influence the importance of reviews in a specific industry. Rising inflation and reliance on credit services may have helped boost review significance in finance and legal services.
Around 76% of consumers reported that business reviews were important for local transport services, including travel agencies. The travel and tourism industry has bounced back since the COVID-19 pandemic, which has helped keep reviews for these businesses more relevant.
Where Have Fake Business Reviews Been Found?
Trust and reviews go hand in hand. If you want your business reviews to count, they need to appear on sources that consumers trust. With the influx of fake reviews, it’s become harder to know where to go to get accurate information. Trustworthiness has become extremely important across all industries.
Unfortunately, the biggest platforms have had reports of fake reviews. What matters is that they take steps to stem the tide of false information being posted. Where are consumers finding fake reviews online?
- 54% reported finding fake reviews on Amazon
- 50% reported finding fake reviews on Google
- 42% reported finding fake reviews on Facebook
With more fake reviews to wade through, some consumers have gotten better at looking for red flags in comments and ratings. What did consumers look for when identifying a fake review?
- 47% look for a star rating with no words added
- 40% look for reviews with over-the-top positive comments
- 32% look for reviews with over-the-top negative comments
While Amazon isn’t a review platform specifically, it is popular among consumers and a frequent source of fake product reviews. It also demonstrates how sellers can encourage consumers to publish fake reviews through incentives like discounts or free products.
The number of suspected fake reviews on Amazon has increased slightly. Meanwhile, the number of consumers who believe they saw fake reviews on the site grew from 52% in 2021 to 54% in 2022.
Facebook is another platform that has lost consumer trust in recent years. Business Intelligence reported that U.S. consumer trust in Facebook fell more than any other social network in 2022. The statistics show that 82% of consumers felt unable to trust Facebook concerning data protection and privacy.
Google has held fast at 50%, which isn’t entirely surprising given the size of the platform.
Online reviews are an essential part of building a strong reputation for your business.