Consumers Increasingly Reading, Trusting Online Customer Reviews for Local Businesses

BrightLocal-Use-of-Online-Customer-Reviews-July2014More than ever, consumers in the US and Canada are reading online customer reviews to determine whether a local business is a good one, according to results from the latest annual BrightLocal survey examining consumer attitudes to reviews for local businesses. This year, 88% of respondents claimed to regularly (39%) or occasionally (49%) read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, up from 85% last year and 71% in 2011. More than 7 in 10 also said that positive reviews make them trust a business more.

BrightLocal-Trust-in-Online-Customer-Reviews-July2014
Meanwhile, asked if they trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations, respondents answered as follows:

  • 32% (up from 25% last year) indicated that they do, if there are multiple customer reviews to read;
  • 30% (flat from last year) indicated that they do, if they believe the reviews are authentic;
  • 26% (up from 24% last year) indicated that they do, for some types of business, no for others; and
  • Just 13% (down from 21% last year) indicated that they do not.

With the most common answer being that they do trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations if there are multiple customer reviews to read, it’s interesting to note that two-thirds of respondents need to read up to 6 reviews before they feel that they can trust the business.

Also of note: 92% of respondents will use a local business if it has a 4-star rating; 72% if it has a 3-star rating; but just 27% if it has a 2-star rating.

Turning to business types, the survey of 2,104 consumers (90% in the US; 10% in Canada) reveals that:

  • Restaurants and cafes are the business type that have been searched for by the largest proportion (58%) of respondents during the past 12 months, followed by doctors/dentists (38%), general shops (36%) and clothes shops (34%);
  • The largest share (56%) of respondents have read online customer reviews for restaurants and cafes, with hotels and B&Bs (35%) and doctors and dentists (35%) next; and
  • Reputation matters the most for doctors and dentists (47%) and for restaurants and cafes (46%).

In terms of reputation, the study indicates that the most important of 7 identified traits when selecting a local business to use is reliability (27%), with expertise (21%) and professionalism (18%) next-most important.

Finally, some 61% have recommended a local business to people they know via word-of-mouth, with Facebook (38%) the next-most popular recommendation method.

The 2013 study results can be accessed here.

About the Data: The survey was conducted over 6 weeks in May-June 2014.