Following the release of the 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey, we uncovered some important information about how consumers think about, and interact with online reviews for local businesses.
We learnt that 92% of consumers now read online reviews for local businesses (vs. 88% in 2014), and that consumers are forming opinions about businesses quicker than ever – with 40% suggesting they only need to read between 1-3 reviews (vs. 29% in 2014).
But how can SEOs and local business owners use the survey data effectively?
Age Comparison Yields Actionable Insights
With so many variables at play we decided to take a deeper dive into the data to understand how consumers of different ages respond to reviews and if their attitudes differ.
In this follow-up study, we breakdown the data by age bracket (18-34 / 35-54 / 55+) and see if younger consumers attitudes to reviews differ from older consumers.
How many times have you used the internet to find / search for a local business in the last 12 months?
- 58% of consumers aged 18-34 have searched online for a local business at least 1 time per month
- 43% of consumers aged 35-54 have searched at least 1 time per month
- 26% of consumers aged 55+ have searched at least 1 time per month
There’s a clear difference in the search behavior of younger vs older consumers here. Younger consumers search more & more frequently for businesses online.
Lets take a more detailed look at this behavior by age group:
58% of this age group will search online for a business at least once per month, 45% will search once per week, and a whopping 21% will search online every day.
So if you’re a business, or have clients, that target 18-35 year olds then it is vital to have a strong online presence.
Almost half (48%) of this age group will search online between 1 & 10 times per year. They are not as active as the 18-34s but still 31% of them will search online every week.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 55+ group are the least active searchers for local businesses online. Just over 1/2 of them will search online between 2-5 times per year, whilst 19% will either ‘never’ search or do it just 1 time per year.
So we know which age groups are the most active at searching online, but do they read online reviews?
Do you read online customer reviews to determine whether a local business is a good business?
- 97% of consumers aged 18-34 read online reviews for local businesses
- 91% of consumers aged 35-54 read online reviews for local businesses
- 86% of consumers aged 55+ read online reviews for local businesses
Consumers of all ages will read online reviews to some extent, and although younger consumers are the more regular readers, even 86% of the oldest age group (55+) either regularly or occasionally read reviews.
So for businesses targeting all age groups, their potential customers are highly likely to read the reviews they have.
Reading reviews is 1 thing, but how do they read these reviews and are they trusted by consumers?
Which of the following devices / methods have you used to read reviews for a local business in the last 12 months?
*NB: respondents were asked to select as many answers as they want
- Older consumers are more likely to read reviews on PC (desktop / laptop)
- Younger consumers are more likely to read reviews on tablet / mobile devices
The data shows another big disparity between younger & older consumers.
As expected, younger consumers are far more active on mobile devices – both mobile browsers & mobile apps.
- 62% aged 18-34 have read reviews on mobile internet
- vs 35% aged 35-54
- vs 13% aged 55+
We can make the following educated assumptions on the users who read reviews on each device:
PC / desktop:
In the full survey findings we showed that 73% of all consumers had read online reviews on a PC.
So the PC is still the most popular device for reading reviews – especially for older consumers and still (just!) for those aged 18-34.
In the full survey, 38% of consumers had used mobile internet to read online reviews.
We can see now that the vast majority of these consumers are in the 18-34 group. Those aged 35-54 are somewhat inclined to use mobiles to read reviews, but those aged 55+ rarely do.
App usage follows a similar pattern to mobile internet, but review consumption is significantly lower.
Interestingly, of all the mobile device options Tablets are most popular for 55+ consumers. Possibly they prefer larger screen sizes when searching / researching. We do know from countless pieces of research that this age group are not so wedded to their phones, so if they have a tablet they’ll reach for that device first.
Do you trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations?
- 31% of those aged 55+ do not trust reviews as much as personal recommendations
- Consumers aged 18-34 are most likely to trust reviews vs other age groups
- Outright trust of reviews is low among all age groups
In the full survey, 80% said they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations, but 72% said they will only do so IF certain criteria are met.
Now we can see that there is a correlation between age of consumers and the level of trust they have.
Younger consumers are more likely to trust reviews vs older consumers.
However that trust is not given freely and the vast majority of consumers (of all ages) will only trust online reviews if certain criteria around those reviews is in place – i.e. authenticity & quantity.
How many online reviews do you need to read before you feel that you can trust that business?
- Most consumers of all ages only need to read 1-10 reviews before forming an opinion
We saw in the Full survey findings that consumers are forming opinions about a local business faster than ever; 88% said they only need to read 1-10 reviews before they develop trust in a business.
There isn’t a significant difference across the age ranges.
A higher % of 55+ consumers read 0 reviews – this is because they don’t search online much and don’t read reviews at all.
The % of consumers reading 1-10 reviews is as follows –
- 18-34 – 84%
- 35-55 – 78%
- 55+ – 77%
Because consumers of all ages are reading fewer reviews before forming an opinion about the business, it’s important for local businesses to not only have positive online reviews but also to ensure that they have regular, new reviews being written.
In the last 12 months have you reviewed / recommended a local business to people you know by any of the following methods?
*NB: Respondents were asked to select as many answers as they want
- Younger consumers more likely to recommend a business via many channels
- More consumers aged 18-34 have reviewed a local business on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+)
- More consumers aged 55+ have reviewed a local business by word of mouth
A high proportion of consumers aged 18-34 have reviewed a local business on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. And this age group is much more likely to do so vs those aged 35-54 & 55+.
Whilst social media is clearly a more comfortable medium for younger consumers, word of mouth is favored by those aged 55+ – a high proportion of them have recommended a local business in this way.
Overall, word of mouth and Facebook are the most common ways that consumers will review or recommend a local business, but the ratio of each will depend on the typical age group of customers. Younger consumers will use Facebook more, whilst older customers will prefer to verbally recommend a local business.
So what does it mean for SEOs and business owners? well, consumers of all ages will review / recommend local businesses, but the means of doing so will differ depending on their age group / preferred method of communication. Ultimately, businesses need to ensure that they have a good presence on Facebook, Yelp, or other directory sites, but first and foremost they need to ensure that they are creating a good impression on the customer. The rest will take care of itself.