Local Consumer Review Survey 2013

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Local Consumer Review Survey 2013

Welcome to findings of the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2013.

This survey is an annual exploration into how consumers consume (aka ‘read’) reviews and how their opinions and behaviour are affected by the reviews they read. The survey is specifically concerned with reviews & purchase of local business services and not wider product reviews.

Please note, if you want to view the very latest findings then head over to the 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey.

About the Local Consumer Review Survey 2013

This year’s survey has evolved from 2012. We have a tighter set of questions (14 in total) and focus on the North American market with 90% of respondents coming from the US and 10% from Canada. The survey was conducted over 6 weeks in January-February 2013 and we received 2,100 entries.

The findings of the 2013 survey provide further, unequivocal evidence of the growing influence which online reviews have on consumer attitudes and purchasing habits of local business services.

Consumer consumption of online reviews has grown and evolved from 2012, as it did from the 1st wave of this survey in late 2010/early 2011 (refereed to as 2011 for simplicity).

More consumers are consulting reviews as a logical step in their pre-purchase research of local business services. The increasing supply of reviews on all types of business make is easy for us (as consumers) to validate our selection of a local business before we contact them and to learn from the experiences of other consumers. It begs the question: why would you NOT check our a business’s reviews before choosing to use them?

Trust in reviews is also on the up, enabling consumers for form opinions faster and act on those opinions. However the authenticity (or perceived authenticity) of reviews is becoming a more significant factor as consumers become more accustomed to reviews.

Charts, Data & Downloads

We have published 14 charts on this post. These represent the main findings of the survey. We  are happy for the data & charts to be reused by others in their websites, blog posts, articles, presentations, sales material, university coursework. We request that you provide attribution to BrightLocal.com and ideally a backlink to the main survey findings here on BrightLocal.com. At the very least  think kindly of us and tell your friends!

We have also supplied these charts on a downloadable PDF  – Download Local Consumer Review Survey 2013

We will soon be adding in charts for Gender & Age breakdown for key questions. These will be made available to download as a PowerPoint slidedeck (coming soon)

 

Sections & Questions

Consumption of online reviews

Trust & influence

Reputation traits

Incentive to recommend


Consumption of online reviews

Qu 1. How many times have you used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months?

This question sets the scene for the survey and identifies how regularly respondents use the internet to find local businesses. The frequency of usage is on the up (no surprise there) with infrequent users becoming more regular in their use of the web to locate their right local business to use.

Local SEO chart about using the internet to find a local business

Key Findings:

  • Just 5% of consumers had not used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months ( down from 15% in 2012)
  • 37% of consumers used internet to find local businesses at least one time per month (up from 34% in 2012)

Analysis:

The increase in usage at the bottom end of the chart (left hand side) provides the most significant development on this chart.

This move from never using or ‘1 off’ usage to repeat, occasional usage (2-5 times/year) represents a big behavioural shift. These consumers are getting a taste of how easy & helpful it is to find local businesses online, and we can expect them to become more regular users as long as they find the experience a positive one!

Interestingly ‘highest frequency’ users (those using the internet more that 1 time per week to find local businesses) actually fell slightly from 2012. However this fall is not significant enough to draw any strong conclusions or trends from, and can most likely be attributed to changing make-up of our consumer panel rather than a change in global user behaviour.


Qu 2. Select the Business Types you have searched for via the internet in the last 12 months

Local SEO chart about the business type people use the internet to search for

Key Findings:

Lifestyle businesses attract the most searches by consumers. Most popular categories of business are:

  1. Restaurants – 67% of consumers searched for restaurants (up from 57% in 2012)
  2. Doctor / Dentists – 35% (up from 27%)
  3. General Shop – 35% (35% in 2013)
  4. Hotel/B&B/Guest House – 30% (down from 35%)
  5. Clothes Shop – 28% (down from 34%)

‘Doctors/Dentists’ is the obvious outlier in the top 5. The other business types are frequented more regularly, with consumers visiting multiple different restaurants and shops within a year for example.

Obviously it’s important to select the right doctor/dentist – the consequences are very high if you don’t! However, how often does a typical person visit the doctor or dentist and does that require locating a new dentist each time or looking up their driving directions? – surely not?!


 Qu 3. Do you read online customer reviews to determine whether a local business is a good business?

Local SEO chart about online customer reviews

Key Findings:

  • 85% of consumers say that they read online reviews for local businesses (up from 76% in 2012)
  • Only 15% of consumers say that they don’t read online reviews

Analysis:

We (as consumers( are growing more & more accustomed to consulting reviews, and the availability of reviews for different types of businesses makes it easy. Reading reviews is a logical step in the purchasing cycle which is why 85% of consumers did just this in the last 12 months.

It’s important to remember at which point in the buying cycle reviews come into play:

  • By the time a consumer has started reading reviews they have identified an issue/need they have, worked out what service or product satisfies this need and now want to select a business to use.
  • So the path from reading online reviews to purchasing from a business is short which means it’s crucial for local businesses to have a positive online reputation so they convert ‘searchers’ to customers.

 Qu 4.Which of these business types have you read online customer reviews for?

Local SEO chart about which business types people read online customer reviews for

Key Findings:

The findings on this chart show a clear, positive correlation between how many consumers search for a business online and how many read reviews for those businesses. (compare with chart 2 above)

Top 5 local business types by review consumption:

  • Restaurants – 61% (up from 46%)
  • Doctors/Dentists – 32% (up from 21%)
  • Hotels/B&B/Guest House – 27% (up from 22%)
  • General shop  – 18% (up from 9%)
  • Hair/Beauty Salon – 17% (up from 9%)

Analysis:

Consumers now read reviews for all different types of businesses. We are so accustomed to reading reviews for products & services these days that it’s become a logical step in our selection & qualification of a purchase. Reviews are so easy & free to find and read that why would you purchase any product or service without seeing what other consumers say about it?


Trust & influence

Qu 5. How many online reviews do you read before you feel that you can trust that business?

This question looks at how quickly consumers build an opinion of a business based on reviews and are they forming opinions faster now than in previous years.

Local SEO chart about how many online reviews people read

Key Findings:

  • 67% of consumers read 6 reviews or less* (up from 52% in 2012)
  • Less consumers reading more than 10 reviews – 22% vs 35% in 2012

*Statistic ignores those who answered ‘0’ reviews.

Analysis:

Consumers are forming opinions faster now then before. They are reading less reviews before they decide if they trust and want to use a local business.
This means that local businesses need to manage their online reputation even more closely than before. They need to ensure that their most recent reviews are positive because this is what they are being judged on. They need to ‘manage’ out bad reviews and focus on generating regular, fresh, positive reviews.
Even though consumers are actively reading fewer reviews, the quantity of reviews still has a role to play. The more reviews a business has the more consideration their overall rating has. A 4 star rating for a company with just 5 reviews carries less weight than a 4 star rating from a company with 190 reviews.

Qu 6. How do online customer reviews affect your opinion of a local business?

Chart about how online reviews affect your opinion of a local business

Key Findings:

  • 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more (up from 58% in 2012)
  • Only 12% of consumers said they take NO notice of online reviews (down from 17% in 2012)

Analysis:

Consumers are becoming more trusting of online reviews and using them to form opinions (positive & negative) about a local business. SMBs can’t afford to let their online reputation lie idle or unmanaged as a negative reputation will directly impact customer acquisition and ultimately revenue.

Qu 7. How do online customer reviews influence your decision to use/select a local business?

CHart about how online customer reviews influence your decision to use a local business

Key Findings:

  • 65% of consumers more likely to use a business which has positive online reviews (up from 52% in 2012)
  • Just 24% of consumers said that they select a business based on other factors (down from 28%)

Analysis: 

Positive reviews have a real, actual impact on purchasing decisions. From these last 2 charts we can see that reviews influence both attitude and actions and directly impact whether a costumer chooses to use one business over it’s competitors.

A business’s reputation is more public and more accessible than ever before. Consumers are able glean a lot from the experiences other customers have and can judge a business before they ever set foot in the door or pick up the phone to call them. How a business responds to public complaints and praise is of paramount importance. Businesses need to act swiftly & positively to show the listen and care about what their customers think about them. Businesses make mistakes; bad experiences happen. That’s life. But it’s how a business handles these issues which is what determines the type of business they are and gives consumers either concern or comfort about using them.


Qu 8. Do you trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations?

Chart about whether people trust online reviews

Key Findings:

  • 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (up from 72% in 2012)
  • Only 21% said they do not trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations

 Analysis:

This is the major test for online reviews. Can they be taken as seriously as personal recommendations and carry the same weight with consumer. The findings of survey show that they can and that consumers out more trust in online reviews that ever before.

That said, consumers are also increasingly concerned with the authenticity of reviews. They need to feel a review is genuine before they put any weight in the content & sentiment of a review. It’s possible that consumers are more aware of review spam or are becoming more skeptical of online reviews – it will be very interesting to see how this trend develops in 2014. This could be an early warning sign for review businesses to step up their efforts to eradicate review spam from their sites/applications.


Reputation traits

Qu 9. For which of these local business types does ‘Reputation’ matter the most when choosing a business? (select up to 3)

Local SEO chart about whether reputation matters

Key Findings:

  • Restaurant – 51% (up from 31%)
  • Tradesmen – 33% (up from 23%)
  • Garage/Car Dealer – 31% (up from 18%)
  • Hotel/B&B/Guest House – 28% (up from 22%)
  • Builder/Roofer – 27% (up from 19%)

Analysis:

The responses to this question confirm more that ever before that reputation matters! It also confirms that reputation is important for all types of businesses – not just lifestyle, medical services & professional services.

Reputation plays a key role in the purchase decision for most products or services. However it is particularly important where 1 or many of the following is true  -

  1. The consumer knows little about the service they are buying so is at a disadvantage to the seller (e.g. vehicle garage)
  2. The cost of using the service is significant (e.g. accountant/lawyer)
  3. The cost or ‘down side’ of selecting a poor quality provider is significant (e.g. builder)
  4. Once the service is bought it can’t be easily undone or ‘un-purchased’ (e.g. dentist)

Qu 10.Which of the following ‘Reputation Traits’ is most important to you when selecting a local business to use? (select 3)

Local SEO chart about which reputation traits are most important to a local business

Key Findings:

  • 71% said that ‘Reliability’ was most important trait in a local business (up from 64% in 2012)
  • 45% said that ‘Good Value’ is most important in (up from 44% in 2012)
  • Less than 10% said that ‘Friendliness’, ‘Courtesy’ or ‘Localness’ were important traits

Analysis:

Similar to 2012 the survey finds that ‘harder’ traits such as ‘Reliability’ and ‘Expertise’ are more valued by consumers than ‘softer’ traits such as ‘Friendliness’, ‘Courtesy’.

Consumers want to know that the business they choose will provide a professional using will deliver on their promises and

SMBs can use this insight to better pitch their businesses at potential customers. If consumers value ‘reliability, good value & expertise’ then businesses need to emphasise these traits across all consumer touch points – PPC ads, email marketing, on-site content, Google+ profile, telephone calls etc…

This insight can also feed back into online reviews. If a business proactively engages their customers and requests them to write reviews then they can subtly guide their customers to focus on these points within their reviews. Customers will ultimately write the truth about their experiences but often they can be prompted to focus on certain aspects. Many consumers are not regular reviewers so receiving some guidance is actually helpful to them.


Incentive to Recommend

Qu 11. In the last 12 months have you recommended a local business to people you know by any of the following methods?

Local SEO chart about methods used to recommend local businesses

Key findings:

  • 72% of consumers have recommended a business by Word of mouth (down from 78% in 2012)
  • 37% of consumers have recommended a business on Facebook (up from 32%)
  • Just 8% of consumers have recommend a business on an Online Directory (down from 11%)

Analysis:

It’s not surprising that Word of Mouth dominates, but it is interesting to see all social channels growing their share of recommendations. Local directories continue to struggle and justify their value to consumers and this plays out in the falling level of recommendation (review writing) amoung the consumers who responded to this survey.

Some directories/directory-type sites (e.g. Yelp, tripadvisor) continue to pull away from the masses of lower quality and less relevant directories. These sites put a lot more emphasis on the ‘reviewer’ rather than just the review content and have built up loyalty among their users which fuels their ongoing success while others around them struggle to establish & differentiate themselves and to remain relevant to local consumers.


Qu 12.Which of these factors would make you more likely to recommend a local business to people you know?

 

Local SEO chart about which factors make people recommend a local business

Key Findings:

  • 78% of consumers said that ‘Reliability’ & ‘Professionalism’ are most important when recommending a business
  • 46% said that being ‘friendly’ & ‘welcoming’ was important
  • Only 12% said they would recommend a business purely because they were asked to

Qu 13. Would you be more likely to recommend a local business to people you know if they had a good value offer or discount?

Local SEO chart about whether discounts or offers have an effect

Key findings:

  • 54% of consumers would definitely recommend a local business if they had a good offer or discount
  • 84% would do it or consider doing so

Analysis:

Having a special offer/discount significantly increases the chances of a business being recommended. However having a good offer is not enough on it’s own, it’s needs to be underpinned by good service, good product etc for consumers to feel happy recommending it to their friends/contacts.

This won’t come as a surprise to conscientious business owners; but it provides strong evidence which supports for the use of special offers as a lead generation tool and for generating positive word of mouth.


Qu 14. Would you be more likely to promote a local business to people you know if you could benefit personally from doing so?

Local SEO chart about personal benefits affecting recommendations for local businesses

Key findings:

  • 30% of consumers would recommending a local business if they benefited directly (down from 35% on 2012)
  • 45% would consider recommending a business if they benefited directly (up from 40% in 2012)

Analysis:

Respondents in the 2013 survey appear to be less willing, certainly more hesitant, in promoting a business in return for personal gain. That said, 75% of consumers said that they would consider it or actually do it though which is a significant number.

The objective for SMBs is to identify these ‘promoters’ among their customers and play to their ‘machiavellian’ instincts. They need to identify what type & level of benefit would trigger recommendations and factor these into their business models as a marketing cost. Word of mouth is such a powerful and effective channel that even small incentives can act as a catalyst to maximise the returns from this channel.

Download charts: you can download these charts in PSD format here  – Download Local Consumer Review Survey 2013

Myles Anderson Myles Anderson

About the Author

In my capacity as CEO, i get involved in all areas of the business but my 2 biggest passions are our 'Tools' and our 'Customers'. It's my job to ensure that we continue to extend and improve our tool-set to meet our customers ever-changing needs. But it's just as important that we deliver excellent customer service to match our tools - one without the other just doesn't cut it!

18 Responses to “Local Consumer Review Survey 2013”

  1. Rita Delaney

    Thank you for this valuable information, Myles! As an internet marketer with an emphasis on reputation marketing, this is a huge asset in helping explain what the trends are regarding reviews!

  2. Jason Sims

    Hey Miles,

    We met in Orlando, we’ve been waiting for the public results and I must say
    outstanding insight, thought and data analysis my friend. If marketing companies
    are not utilizing this information to show their potential clients the importance of
    building assets by building their online reputation; shame on them.
    Keep up the awesome work Miles; we thank you!

    Kind Regards,

    Jason Sims
    CEO/Mastermind Web Marketing

  3. karen kouf

    Great job, Myles. Great info for all local companies in the US and elsewhere. Thanks.

  4. Team of dialo.de

    This is a great survey! We were looking for new statistics depending on reviews for local businesses on the internet and saw your informative Local Consumer Review Survey 2013. We can confirm that online reputation just started and will get more important over the next years.

  5. Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing

    This key finding alone is enough to make the case for local SEO:

    “Just 5% of consumers had not not used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months ( down from 15% in 2012).”

    Having been in the SEO and Internet Marketing sphere for many years, I personally get very frustrated when I can’t find business information on the internet for a local establishment. With so many free tools out there such as Google Places, Yelp, and Facebook – it is fairly easy for businesses to establish an online presence, and as the data shows – if they aren’t online, they’re missing out on 95% potential traffic.

  6. John Payne

    Thank you for a wonderfully detailed and helpful Survey.

    I found the answers to Q10. fascinating. They show the steady decline in the imortance of ‘Friendliness’, ‘Courtesy’, and ‘Localness’. That seems to say a lot about how the society we live in is changing.

    To the Marketers out there who are thinking of starting a program to encourage Customer Reviews, remember that the more good Reviews you get, the higher you’ll rank in the search engines.

  7. Matt Marko

    Interesting and compelling info! I probably missed it above, but how and to whom was this survey conducted? ie, was it an internet- or email-based survey, or does it truly represent a cross-sample of all “consumers” (not those that just opt-in to an online or email survey)?

    Such info is particularly relevant to consider when looking at results at findings like “Just 5% of consumers had not not used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months ( down from 15% in 2012).”

  8. Jason Wittman

    I am really surprised that you left Yelp out of the question, “Incentive to Recommend”
    I do Reputation Marketing in Los Angeles and most businesses are way more concerned about Yelp than Google+ and, at least amongst the folks I run into, both networking and generally, they all know and post on Yelp. They haven’t a clue what Google+ Places is all about.

  9. Tim Berry

    Myles, thank you for providing this great data. We rely heavily on stats like this when educating our market, and your Local Consumer Review Survey is an important part of this.

    I wanted to point out a discrepancy in Q11 on this page vs. the PDF. The PDF seems to show an opposite trend on social recommendations. Perhaps I am looking at it wrong. Could you help clarify this?

    Thanks again. You ROCK!!!

  10. Organic Bouquet

    Detailed, well-organized and just what I wanted to know about the current trends about the Local Consumer Reviews.

    I agree with the keypoint where you said that, “Just 5% of consumers had not used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months ( down from 15% in 2012).” Unless it’s a business away from their location, I believe they will use the internet to learn more about that certain business.

  11. Micheline Bourque

    Any chance you would have information on the impact of negative reviews on the decision making process? How do customers feel about negative reviews? Thanks for the insight. I found it very interesting.

  12. Francis Ledbetter

    Assuming you’re not trying to trick us with this statement (and it’s just a typo): “Just 5% of consumers had not NOT used the internet to find a local business in the last 12 months ( down from 15% in 2012)”
    Not is used twice – it doesn’t mean only 5% have actually used the internet :)
    Just want to be sure!

  13. Ross Marchant Ross Marchant

    You’re quite right Francis – it’s not a trick answer! typo amended thanks for the heads-up.

  14. Myles Anderson Myles Anderson

    Hi Matt

    Apologies for the very VERY slow reply to your questions on this survey. Another customer has asked the same question which prompted me to jump online and provide some answers.

    The survey is an online survey. We have a consumer panel that we have curated over the last 3 years and we used the panel for this survey.

    The core demographics of the group are well balanced, with good distribution of ages, genders & locations. We don’t ask for socio-economic info when recruiting for the panel; we did initially but the acceptance rate for participation dropped off massively when we added in these more personal, probing questions.

    So we are confident that the panel is a good, representative sample of the whole population.

    Given that this is an online survey then I do think there is a bias towards greater online engagement among survey participants. However i would defend the validity & usefulness of the data by pointing out that we are primarily concerned with the universe of ‘consumers who go online’.

    We’re not trying to reach consumers offline, but we want to understand how best to reach & convert more customers when they are online.

  15. Bob Gravely

    In research I was doing for my recent blog on social proofing I found a statistic from a study conducted by NYU titled THE DYNAMICS OF SELLER REPUTATION: EVIDENCE FROM EBAY (http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~lcabral/workingpapers/CabralHortacsu_Aug08.pdf). One statistic may answer Micheline’s question above.

    They determined in their research that the first negative user review on eBay has been shown to reverse a sellers weekly growth rate from 5% to 8%. It also hurts pricing. a 1% increase in negative feedback has been shown to lead to a 7.5% decrease in sales price realized.

    That’s empirical data that bad or negative reviews has an impact on your business. Hope that helps…

  16. Anne Turner

    I really like what you are doing I am the owner of a medical supply company that specializes in Sleep Apnea, mobility, and ongoing durable medical eqipment education in and around our local areas. We market the old fashion way by word of mouth and doing exceptional
    Patient/client care one person at a time and our goal is to do it right the first time and have a positive outcome that brings us repeat business and new ongoing Business based on our success and high compliance rates. We depend on customer and provider satisfaction Refersls to our medical supply clinics to stay in business and plan for the future. I was very impressed to see the use and increased use of SEO’s in medical and would like to see the particular data available in DME home health supply industry. Our industry serves populations in all demographics but in particular Medicare and the Boomers our utilizing sevices more rapidly then ever before and keeping up with the times and marketing demands can be very challenging without adding the uncertainties that the new ACA and medicares competive bidding have added to our Buisness Plates!
    Thank you again for bringing new ways to market and help the consumer make great choices for services in industries that are so competitive and help for small family Buisness owners like my company to dream and believe in what my Father called the American Dream! With knowledge their is hope but with the tools and education combined with hope and knowledge their is no stopping us! Thank you again…..
    Anne Turner, BA,RRT,RPSGT,RST
    President/Owner A Turning Leaf Home Medical
    Achieve what we learned to be possible in America

  17. Emory

    It’s hard to come by experienced people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  18. url seite

    I love what you guys tend to be up too. This sort of clever work and
    reporting! Keep up the good works guys I’ve added you guys to my
    personal blogroll.

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