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Local Consumer Review Survey 2015

Local Consumer Review Survey 2015
Key Takeaways
  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014)
  • 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews (vs. 29% in 2014)
  • Star rating is #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
  • 44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant
  • Only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating
  • 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more (vs. 72% in 2014)
  • Consumers are becoming more concerned about fake reviews

Welcome to the findings of the BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey 2015. To see the most recent findings, see the latest Local Consumer Review Survey.

This annual survey is an exploration into how consumers both read and use online reviews. It seeks to qualify the value that users place on reviews that they read & how this impacts their opinions & actions when searching for a local business to use. The survey is specifically concerned with reviews for local business services and not wider product reviews.

About the Local Consumer Review Survey 2015

The Local Consumer Review Survey was first conducted in 2010, and this year’s survey has evolved from 2014 with some variations on the questions we have asked. There are new questions, some modified questions & some removed questions which we felt were no longer relevant or useful for SMBs & SEOs to understand.

As with the 2014 survey, the focus of this year’s survey is on consumers in the North American market. We contacted our Local Consumer Panel which consists of just under 5,000 individual consumers, and received 2,354 entries with 90% of respondents coming from the US and 10% from Canada. The survey was conducted over 2 weeks in July 2015.


Consumption of online reviews

Trust & influence

Reputation traits

Incentive to recommend

Consumption of online reviews

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


Key Findings:

  • Consumers are frequently searching for local businesses online
  • 43% of consumers search at least one time per month (vs. 38% in 2014)
  • 60% of consumers have searched at least 6 times per year (vs. 56% in 2014)


This first question helps us to focus on how active consumers are at searching for local businesses online. We can see there’s a lot of consumers searching on a regular basis, whilst year on year there is a slight increase in those searching on both a weekly & monthly basis.

Change in habits since 2010

We’ve also included data from the 2010 survey to highlight the marked change in consumer habits. There’s a considerable decrease in those that ‘never’ search for a local business online (down from 22% to 9%), and an increase in those that search for a local business every day (up from 7% to 14%).

It all points to the fact that consumers are more than comfortable using the internet to find local businesses, partly due to the wide array of local services available, and partly due to more local businesses building & improving their online presence.

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


Key Findings:

  • 92% of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014)
  • Only 8% of consumers ‘don’t’ read online reviews (vs. 12% in 2014)


As consumers search more frequently for local businesses, their appetite to read reviews is also on the up.

Whilst the chart doesn’t shed light on the value of those reviews, it does highlight that they are being read, and therefore contributing to the online reputation of a business.

There is also a significant fall in consumers that don’t read any reviews – just 8% compared to 29% in 2010!

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3. Which of the following devices / methods have you used to read reviews for a local business in the last 12 months?


*Respondents were asked to select as many answers as they want
**This question is new to 2015 so there is no comparable data from previous years

Key Findings:

  • 73% have read online reviews on a PC
  • 38% have read online reviews on mobile internet vs 24% on mobile app
  • 29% have read reviews on a tablet


Most consumers have searched for a local business on a personal computer (PC), but mobile devices also prove to be popular. As a new question for 2015 we don’t have comparable data, but it’s reasonable to suggest that the amount of mobile users has increased in recent years, and is likely to increase going forward.

Mobile devices mean that consumers can search online for local businesses whilst on the move, whether that’s using a mobile internet browser, or mobile apps like Yelp, Foursquare & Tripadvisor. This of course, is incredibly useful for local businesses, who can now profit more readily from their positive reviews, whilst consumers are on the move & searching for a service like theirs.

In a recent survey on how consumer usage of mobile & mobile devices to find local businesses has changed, we found that:

  • 38% are impressed when a local business has a website designed for mobile (vs. 25% in 2013)
  • 33% believe all local businesses should have websites designed for mobile (vs. 25% in 2013)
  • 61% are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile optimized site

Local businesses should ensure that they have a good presence online, no matter what device a consumer is using. That means ensuring they have a website that is engaging, impressive & helpful – but also mobile friendly.

It’s also important to keep an eye on their presence & reviews on local services with engaged audiences and mobile apps, such as Yelp, Foursquare & Tripadvisor.

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


*Respondents were asked to select as many answers as they want
**% figures displayed are the 2015 results

Key Findings:

  • Restaurants & Cafe reviews are the most commonly read by consumers
  • Doctors / Dentists, General shops, Clothes shops & Hotels are also popular


Restaurants, Cafes, Doctors, Dentists, Clothes Shops, Hotels & B&Bs are the key businesses that consumers are always interested in reading reviews for.

Overall, the types of businesses do not change radically year on year, but there are small changes;

Notable increases year on year:

  • General shops (+10%)
  • Tradesmen (+7%)
  • Garage / Car dealers (+6%)
  • Specialist shops (+6%)
  • Restaurants / Cafe’s (+4%)

Notable decreases year on year:

  • Hair / Beauty Salons (-8%)
  • Hotels/B&Bs (-6%)

How many different business types do consumers read reviews for?

In the following chart we’ve calculated the average number of local businesses that consumers read reviews for:


Key Findings:

  • Consumers read reviews for 3.5 different types of businesses (vs. 2.7 in 2013)


Overall, consumers are reading reviews for 3.5 different business types, which is a small increase year on year (vs 2.7 in 2013). As time has progressed, consumers have grown more accustomed to reading reviews before purchasing a wide range of products & services – not just restaurants, hotels & dentists, but also gyms, realtors & car dealers.

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Trust & Influence

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


*Consumers who said they didn’t read reviews were removed from the analysis.

Key Findings:

  • 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-3 reviews (vs. 29% in 2014)
  • 73% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-6 reviews (vs. 64% in 2014)
  • 88% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-10 reviews (vs. 84% in 2014)
  • Only 12% are prepared to read more than 10 reviews (vs. 16% in 2014)


Consumers appear to be forming an opinion faster now than ever before.

Year on year there is an 11% increase in those consumers who only need to read 1-3 reviews before they can trust a local business (40%). Consumers don’t need to read many reviews before developing a clear opinion about a business. Almost 9/10 consumers are satisfied after reading just 10 positive reviews, so this sets a useful benchmark for SMBs/SEOs.

This also places more significance on the most recent reviews a business has. These are typically the reviews that consumers read first and if recent reviews are negative then many consumers won’t look beyond these to find better ones that may lie further down. Therefore it’s important to monitor reviews regularly and to ‘manage out’ bad reviews and focus on generating regular, positive reviews.

Negative reviews shouldn’t frighten business owners; in fact they should see them as an opportunity. Here’s a great post by Mike Blumenthal on why negative reviews are all bad news.

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6. When judging a local business on its reviews, which of these factors do you pay most attention to?


*Respondents were asked to select a maximum of 2 answers
**This question is new to 2015 so there is no comparable data from previous years

Key Findings:

  • Consumers pay most attention to overall star rating
  • Quantity of reviews is 2nd most important factor
  • Consumers take a holistic view and consider many aspects of a business’s reviews


Star rating is the biggest factor that consumers to pay attention to, and this is probably helped by the fact that it is the most visually striking aspect. However, there are a number of other factors which are also under consideration as consumers build up a 360 degree view of the business & help them to rate its reputation.

Consumers pay attention to the quantity of reviews available to read, and we know from earlier that if a local business has up to 10 reviews then 88% of readers won’t look any further. Other important factors are the sentiment of reviews (i.e. positive or negative comments & statements), and the age (aka ‘recency’) of reviews.

Interestingly, 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews. While this is the lowest factor scored, responding to a review shows signs of life within a business & a willingness by that business to listen to it’s customers and take action on what they say.

Additionally, negative reviews can provide great feedback for a business and an opportunity to show they care in the response they give.

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7. For a typical local business, how recent (i.e. new) does an online review need to be, to be relevant?


Key Findings:

  • 44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant
  • 69% say a review must be written within 2-3 months to be relevant
  • 84% say a review must be written within 3-6 months to be relevant
  • Only 16% say that reviews older than 6 months are relevant


We saw above that 33% of consumers rate the recency of a review to be one of the most important factors when considering a local business. To reinforce this, the above chart shows that if a review is older than 6 months, then it is unlikely to be considered relevant by up to 84% of consumers.

Online reviews should be sought after & encouraged on a regular basis. We can now see that a best case scenario would involve having up to 10 positive online reviews, all written within the last 2-3 months.

Of course, these levels will vary for different types of businesses. Some businesses attract reviews more readily than others – think ‘restaurants’ vs. ‘dry cleaners’ – and the recency factor is more significant. A review that is 9 months old will lose impact for a restaurant whereas consumers searching for a real estate agent will happily consider reviews from 9-12 months ago as this type of service doesn’t change so rapidly.

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8. When selecting a local business to use, what is the minimum star rating a business must have for you to use them?


*Please note: those who said they do not read reviews were excluded from the analysis.

Key Findings:

  • Having a 3 star rating is a real ‘watershed’ level for a local business
  • Just 14% of consumers would consider using a business with a 1 or 2 star rating

Another way of presenting these results – which is easier to interpret:


Key Findings:

  • If a business has a 3 star rating, then 57% of consumers will use that business
  • If a business has a 4 star rating, then 94% of consumers will use that business


Consumers see star rating as the most important factor when considering reviews, and we can see that local businesses should generally aim to achieve a minimum 3 star rating in their reviews.

The jump from 2 to 3 stars is akin to appealing to 44% more consumers, and similarly, if a 3 star business can achieve a 4 star rating, then in theory they will be considered by a further 37% of consumers.

By comparison the jump from 4 stars to 5 stars is just 6%. This shows that consumers are realistic about businesses and very few (6%) expect a business to have a 5 star rating.

Of course, it’s not a set-in-stone rule, but it does serve as a useful guideline, as well as a reminder of just how important star rating & positive reviews are considered.

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


Key Findings:

  • 68% say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more (vs. 72% in 2014)
  • 21% read reviews, but don’t let them influence their decisions (vs. 18% in 2014)


The key takeaway is that positive reviews help to inspire trust in 7 out of 10 consumers.

Interestingly this figure is down 4% from last year but still up 13% from 2010.

21% of consumers read reviews, but they also suggest these don’t actually influence their opinion of that business. This is a strange user-case and we can speculate about why someone would read a review if they have no intention of paying attention to it.

  • Perhaps they have trust issues with online reviews – there has been a lot of negative coverage this year around false & spammy reviews.
  • Maybe they use reviews to identify a short list of businesses but their ultimate decision is based on their personal interaction with that business.

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


Key Findings:

  • 51% of consumers will select a local business if it has positive reviews (vs. 58% in 2014)
  • 33% of consumers select a local business on other factors (vs. 31% in 2014)
  • 16% of consumers say that they read reviews but they don’t influence their decision on which local business to use (vs. 11% in 2014)


Over half of those surveyed say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a local business. However, despite the majority this is still a 7% decline year on year, with an increase in consumers who –

a) select a local business based on other factors such as location & price (33% vs 31% in 2014)

b) those who suggest reviews do not influence their decision on which local business to use (16% vs 11% in 2014).

Is this further evidence that consumers are becoming less trusting of online reviews?

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


Key Findings:

  • 80% will trust reviews as much as personal recommendations – if they meet their requirements (vs. 83% in 2014)
  • Authenticity of reviews is the most important factor for consumers to trust the reviews they read


Please note: In this years survey we gave respondents a new option – ‘Yes, always’ – to provide less ‘bias’ in the results.

Whilst 8% will always trust reviews as much as personal opinions, a further 72% will only do so if certain criteria are met. For 22% this depends on the type of business, for 19% it depends if there are enough reviews to read & make a judgement. However, for a majority 31% it is about the genuineness of the reviews.

Why are consumers becoming more concerned about fake reviews?

31% of consumers will trust reviews as long as they believe they are authentic. This jumped up 9% from 2014.

As online reviews have become a regular step in the purchase path for many consumers the stakes have grown, and the benefits from having positive reviews are clear. With such high stakes, some businesses will always try to tip the scales in their favor using non-legit tactics, and the problem of fake reviews has become one that the mainstream media covers more and more.

In June 2015, a BBC investigation revealed the global market for fake review writers, and the use of stolen identities to post reviews.

Among the potentially misleading cases, on unnamed sites, were:

  • Businesses writing fake reviews of themselves to boost their ratings on review sites compared with rivals
  • Firms writing or commissioning fake negative reviews to undermine rivals, for malicious reasons, or for personal gain
  • Review sites cherry-picking positive reviews
  • Sites allowing businesses to remedy negative reviews, that go unpublished, meaning a complete picture is not clear to review site users

However, despite the above, just 20% of consumers said that they do NOT trust online reviews more than personal recommendations – which is down 33% from 2011.

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12. When you read positive reviews for a business, what is the typical next step you take?


Note: Those who said they did not read reviews were removed from the analysis.

Key Findings:

  • 48% will visit the website after reading positive reviews
  • 23% will visit the business premises directly
  • 21% will continue to shop around
  • 9% will phone the business


By far the most common next step for consumers reading reviews is to visit the business website (48%). This isn’t surprising given they’re already online and there’s typically a link straight through to their website from most review sites. However it does go against some people’s belief that local businesses don’t need a website. According to research approx 50% of small businesses still don’t have their own site so they are really hampering their ability to win customers online.

Just 23% say they visit a business’s premises. Obviously this will vary depending on the type of business a consumer is looking for – if it’s a cafe it will be higher, a gardener or wedding planner then lower.

21% say they continue to shop around. This may be because they’re still in the ‘research’ phase and not yet ready to purchase, or because they didn’t like what they read – more evidence to support the significance & value of having positive online reviews!

Just 9% will phone the business. I assume that this figure would be higher for those searching on a mobile device, as the transition from online to call is easier than via a PC.

But it’s clear that consumer preference is to visit a business website and learn more about that business before contacting them. So it’s crucial that local businesses have a website and that site showcases them positively and is linked to from their various online profiles so consumers can easily click through.

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Reputation Traits

13. For which of these local business types does ‘Reputation’ matter the most when choosing a business?


*Respondents were asked to select up to 3 answers

Key Findings:

  • Reputation matters most for Restaurants, Cafes, Doctors & Dentists
  • It’s also important for Hotels, Tradesmen, Car Dealers, Beauty Salons & Builders


For some types of businesses, reputation is of more importance to consumers, and the chart suggests that Restaurants, Doctors, Hotels & Tradesmen should pay the most attention to their online reputation.

However, this isn’t to say that for some businesses reputation doesn’t matter, it’s simply that consumers will form a hierarchy in their own mind, and this is likely to differ depending on their lifestyle and how much competition a local business has in its immediate area.

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14. Which of the following reputation attributes is MOST important to you when selecting a local business to use?


Key Findings:

  • Reliability, Good Value & Professionalism remain the most important attributes to consumers
  • More consumers are interested in ‘Good value’ than before, while less are concerned about the ‘expertise’ of a business.


Reliability, good value & professionalism are the most important traits that a local business can demonstrate to consumers.

Whilst courtesy & friendliness are obviously welcomed traits, consumers are ultimately more concerned whether a business can deliver a reliable service at the right price.

We saw already that Restaurants, Doctors, Hotels & Tradesmen should pay the most attention to their online reputation, and now we know the sort of reputation traits consumers are looking for when researching these businesses online.

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Incentive to Recommend

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

word of mouth is the most popular way to recommend a business

*Respondents were asked to select as many answers as they want

Key Findings:

  • Word of mouth is still the most popular way to recommend a local business
  • Facebook / Twitter seen a drop in reviews year on year
  • Google+ has seen in increase along with other ‘Directories’ as well as Yelp & TripAdvisor


Word of mouth is still the most popular method of recommendation for consumers despite a 2% drop year on year.

Facebook has experienced a significant drop (23% to 17%), despite being tipped by many experts to flourish as a review platform. In the recent InsideLocal webinar, ‘Making Reviews & Reputation Work for Local Businesses’, our Panelists agreed that Facebook was a real contender in the online reviews game due to its familiarity & ease of use for consumers.

Twitter has also experienced an annual decline, leading us to question whether consumers prefer not to leave reviews on social sites?

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


*Respondents were asked to select as many answers as they want

Key Findings:

  • Reliability & professionalism the most important factors
  • Friendliness & unique experience also very important
  • Good value offering & special offers grown in importance since 2010


Looking at the results from 2010 to 2015, we can see that many more factors influence consumers to review a local business.

Reliability & professionalism are the key factors that lead consumers to recommend a business.

Friendliness & Welcomeness also influence reviews even if they don’t influence the consumers when selecting a business (see above).

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Ross Marchant
About the author
Ross is the former Marketing Manager for BrightLocal. With 9+ years SEO and content experience, Ross spearheaded the marketing and CRM initiatives which focus heavily on creating useful and informative content. Ross coordinated the research program at BrightLocal which delivers unique insights into both the SEO industry and local consumer behaviours.