Online reviews shape consumer behavior across a wide range of consumer segments,
More and more people attempt to validate their purchase decisions by using social media and real-time feedback from their peers as their key resources.
But how exactly are they using reviews to find, assess, and ultimately choose businesses? And how are businesses responding to the constantly evolving needs and expectations of today’s research-driven, social-proof-seeking consumers?
Consumers Avoid Businesses With Bad Online Reviews
Almost all consumers say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business.
According to the 2018 Online Reviews Survey by customer feedback software company ReviewTrackers, bad reviews and low ratings continue to drive away customers, with 94% saying they will avoid a business if it has been rated negatively online.
While businesses that have great visibility in search results and on social media enjoy a natural advantage, those that manage their online reviews are more likely to gain the trust of consumers.
When a customer speaks on online review sites and feedback channels, be there to listen and respond. A negative experience, according to survey findings, is more likely to produce a review than a positive one.
Most Businesses Don’t Respond to Reviews
The growth of online reviews is strongly driven by customers’ genuine desire to engage with businesses.
Just as they did previously in traditional channels, such as surveys and support and service phone calls, customers want to be heard individually and addressed personally.
But businesses aren’t meeting their expectations.
According to ReviewTrackers’ survey, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to their online reviews within a week. But 63% (close to two-thirds) say that a business has never responded to their review.
Managers must learn to address the gap between review response expectations and reality.
Responding to customer feedback makes a real and measurable difference: 45% say that they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
45% of customers are more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
Responsive businesses are also the ones that can more easily build goodwill, inspire customer loyalty, and extend customer lifetime value.
Customers Rarely Choose Businesses With Lower Than 4-Star Ratings
Star ratings still matter. And they will matter a lot more this year than in 2017, when only 4 in 10 customers admitted to using rating filters in their searches.
This year, up to 7 in 10 say they actively use rating filters.
About 35% of consumers filter their search to only businesses with 4-star ratings and higher, which means that if your business doesn’t have a rating of at least 4 stars, you could potentially be overlooked in many industries.
Overall, 80% of consumers say the star ratings they trust the most are 4.0-, 4.5-, and 5-star ratings.
This doesn’t mean that people aren’t looking at negative reviews. In fact, they’re more curious than ever to learn what could go wrong when visiting a business.
According to ReviewTrackers’ data, there is an increase in consumers claiming that 1-star reviews are the most trustworthy (3.48% in 2018 vs. 0.63% in 2017).
Google is the Top Review Site
Nearly 64% of consumers report that they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business — more than those consulting any other review site.
Yelp and TripAdvisor, two platforms dedicated exclusively to reviews, trail Google, ranking second and third, respectively; social media giant Facebook is fourth.
Reviews are one of the most important factors in local search, and people continue to trust Google reviews, despite the growth of other review sites.
Reviews on Google not only impact search rankings; they also drive in-store traffic and conversion.
Focus on Online Reviews
Companies must focus on online reviews for the consumer-driven industries of today. Online reputation management is essential, and online reviews are an important research tool for consumers when choosing a business.
About the Author
Max Schleicher is the head of content at ReviewTrackers, where he enjoys culling data from online reviews to write about customer behavior and sentiment.