Survey: After Reading a Good Review, Most Consumers Visit SMB Websites
October 31, 2016 | Contributed by: Greg Sterling
SEO firm BrightLocal is out with its now annual Local Consumer Review Survey 2016. The survey had just over 1,000 respondents.
It reveals a paradoxical pattern: consumers appear to have a specific yet mostly superficial approach to online review consumption. Here are some of the general findings:
- The vast majority of consumers (91%) rely on reviews regularly or at least occasionally to inform their purchase decisions
- More than 60% use a search engine to find reviews rather than navigating to a particular review site
- The dominant device on which reviews are read is the PC (at least here), though a majority also read reviews on mobile devices
- Restaurants and hospitality are the most common categories where consumers seek out reviews (medical follows thereafter)
- Most people seek between 4 and 10 reviews to feel confident about a business
- Most people look at more than one site to find reviews about a business or location (especially in travel)
As indicated, the survey seems to reflect that most people don’t look closely at reviews. The majority look at some overall metric and don’t go much deeper than that. For example, 80% here are not paying attention to whether a business has responded to reviews, let alone what was said.
In terms of the need for freshness or recency, the survey reflected that most people want to see reviews that are no older than six months but 51% expect reviews a month old or newer.
One of the more interesting findings concerns consumer actions taken after reading online reviews. These respondents are: 1) visiting local business websites or 2) going to the physical business locations, much more often than “contact[ing] the business” (e.g., phone calls). It’s not clear whether the website visit then leads to a contact (email, call, form) however.
I’m often critical of the notion that SMB websites figure prominently in the conversion process. But this finding above suggests that they do, even though the SMB website is not the original way the business was discovered.
The question of whether business owners should ask for reviews is hotly debated because of Yelp’s position on the matter discouraging it. Others emphatically argue that business owners must ask for reviews. The finding below validates the “ask for reviews” camp, suggesting that only a minority, if asked, won’t provide an online review.
Furthermore, aggregate data show that the majority of SMB customers generally hold favorable opinions and would likely offer positive reviews if asked. As Ted Paff of Customer Lobby has said, this is the silent, happy majority.
The last finding I wanted to call out is one that LSA survey data has also flagged before but it’s worth highlighting. The dominant place where people are recommending/reviewing local businesses online is on Facebook. Twitter is something of a surprise here in the number two position.
Facebook recently introduced a bunch of new tools for local discovery and commerce and has been incrementally moving in this direction for several years. However this slide reinforces the idea that the company has a massive still-unrealized opportunity in local.