Welcome to this year’s Local Consumer Review Survey! We’ve compiled the latest trends in online business reviews, giving you all the statistics you need to develop your online reputation management strategy for local businesses in 2019.
When we first released this report way back in 2010, we could never have imagined how important online reviews would become to businesses – to now being one of the fastest-growing local ranking factors.
This year, the main themes uncovered in the report highlight consumers’ changing behavior when reading reviews, an increased frequency of review searches, and the true worth of businesses responding to their reviews.
For the first time, we’ve delved into trends among different age categories, to find out how the different generations use and value local business reviews. Because of this, we’ve slightly altered the proportion of each age group to ensure this is closely tied to the US population. You can find more on the age breakdowns in the methodology.
Local Business Review Habits
- How many times have you used the internet to find a local business in the last year?
- Do you read online reviews for businesses?
- Which devices have you used to read consumer reviews in the last year?
- Which business types have you read online reviews for?
- What is your typical next step after you read a positive review?
Trust and Influence
- How do online customer reviews influence your decision to actually use a local business?
- Do you trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations?
- Have you read a fake review in the past year?
- When judging a local business on reviews, what do you pay attention to?
- What’s the minimum star rating a business must have for you to use them?
- How many reviews does a business need before you believe its Average Star Rating?
- How many online reviews do you read before you can trust a business?
- How recent does an online review need to be to impact your decision?
Responding to Consumer Reviews
- When searching for a local business, do you read businesses’ responses to their reviews?
Posting Online Reviews
- Have you ever left a local business an online review?
- Have you ever been asked to leave a review for a business?
Local Business Review Habits
How many times have you used the internet to find a local business in the last year?
- 27% of consumers looked online daily for a local business in 2018 – more than double the proportion in 2017
- 69% look online for local businesses monthly (up from 54%)
- 56% search for local businesses weekly (up from 41% last year)
Substantially more consumers searched daily, weekly and monthly for local businesses this year. After the gradual increases seen over the last few years, it’s fascinating to see this huge leap.
This year, we chose to focus on the differences in the use of reviews by consumers aged 18-34s, 35-54s, and 55s. Subsequently, we’ve slightly increased the proportion of over 55s to suit the US population. Generally, the over 55s in the study tended to be less familiar with searching the internet for local businesses, as well as using online reviews. This is the likely cause of the slightly higher proportion of consumers who didn’t search for businesses at all.
At the other end of the scale, more than half of 18-34-year-olds search for local businesses every day, while 81% check every week.
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
- 50% of 18-34-year-olds always read online reviews
- Just 5% of 18-34s never read reviews
The vast majority of consumers (86%) read reviews for local businesses.
While there was a slight growth in those surveyed who’d never read a review, this could be a quirk of this sample. We’ll be looking forward to comparing this next year, to see if this trend continues.
When looking at the different age splits, there’s a clear trend between the frequency of consumers reading reviews, and their age group. Just 6% of people aged 55+ ‘always’ read consumer reviews, with a further 69% regularly or occasionally reading them.
Only 5% of people aged 18-34 never read reviews, with 50% always turning to them.
Which devices have you used to read consumer reviews in the last year?
- Fewer consumers used PCs or Macs to read reviews in 2018
- 78% of over 55s read reviews on PCs or Macs
- 75% of 35-54-year-olds read reviews on mobile browsers
One key story this year is the dip in consumers reading reviews on computers. Could review reading be being reserved for portable devices?
When looking across age groups, there are plenty of variations. Over 55s are far more likely to use computers to read reviews than their younger counterparts, while 35-54-year-olds opt for mobile browsers. 18-34-year-olds are far more likely to read on apps.
Overall, there wasn’t a lot of change in the proportion of consumers reading reviews on mobile this year. Tablets, on the other hand, have become slightly more important.
Which business types have you read online reviews for?
For the sixth year running, consumers are most likely to read reviews for restaurants and cafés. In fact, even more consumers read restaurant reviews this year than they did the year before.
|Restaurants / cafés (57%)||Restaurants / cafés (55%)||Restaurants / cafés (82%)|
|Clothing stores (40%)||Hotels / B&Bs (41%)||Medical / heathcare (43%)|
|Grocery stores (40%)||Medical / healthcare (33%)||Hotels / B&Bs (39%)|
|Hotels / B&Bs (37%)||Grocery stores (33%)||Clothing stores (33%)|
|Hair / beauty (33%)||Clothing stores (31%)||Automotive services (30%)|
The above table shows the proportion of review-readers in each age group by the types of reviews they have read. It does not include people who do not read reviews.
Interestingly, the majority of review-reading consumers aged 55+ have looked at restaurants and cafés. Of course, these are very traditional types of reviews, with plenty of industry-specific sites to choose from.
What is your typical next step after you read a positive review?
- 50% of consumers visit local businesses’ websites after reading positive reviews (including 69% of 55+)
- 13% contact a business after reading positive reviews
- 21% of 18-34-year-olds visit the business
Last year, we saw a significant dip in consumers heading to local business websites after reading positive reviews (54% in 2016, down to 37%). In 2018, this bounced right back up, with half of the consumers visiting websites as their first step.
Interestingly, this seems to be lowering the proportion of consumers who continue reading after seeing a positive review. This year, 78% of consumers’ typical next steps are straight to the business, compared to 64% last year. Are positive reviews now the deciding factor, meaning consumers need no further convincing to get in touch?
Across the ages, there does seem to be some key differences in consumers’ actions. 69% of over 55s head to the website first – clearly, websites aren’t dead yet! The younger group are more likely to visit or contact the business than their older counterparts.
Trust and Influence
How do online customer reviews influence your decision to actually use a local business?
Consumers were able to choose up to two options.
- Positive reviews make 68% of consumers more likely to use local businesses
- Negative reviews stop 40% of consumers wanting to use a business
There has been very little change over the last year on how reviews influence consumers’ decisions – with a significant proportion being influenced by reviews.
- 91% of 18-34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- More consumers require multiple reviews to trust reviews
- Older consumers are more likely to be skeptical about online reviews
Over the last year, there was a slight decline in the proportion of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Could this be a reaction to fake reviews in the news damaging customer trust in online reviews?
Interestingly, there was a growth in the proportion of consumers requiring multiple reviews before feeling able to trust a business. In our recent Google Reviews Study, we found that the average local business has 39 reviews on Google. However, businesses ranking in the top 3 search positions have 47 reviews. The more reviews, the easier it is for consumers and search engines alike to trust that review ratings are accurate.