Consumer reviews published online have become very important for local businesses because no less than 92% of consumers read online reviews before deciding whether to use a local business or not, according to a recent study by Bright Local. One of the key findings of the study is that no less than than 87% of potential customers simply won’t consider a business with low ratings, that is, with a Google business listing rating below three stars. What this means for your local business is that if you don’t have favorable consumer reviews and a rating of at least three stars, you will lose customers even if you effectively use SEO, advertising, social media, and other marketing tools to drive traffic to your website.
The Importance of Recency
Having positive ratings is, however, not enough. The recency of your consumer reviews carries a lot of weight for most consumers. According to the same study cited above, 69% of consumers believe that a review is relevant only if it has been written within the last three months, while 44% are even stricter, believing that a review must have been written in the last month to be relevant. Only 31% of consumers are willing to give reviews older than 3 months a chance.
These interesting findings underline the need for your business to encourage customers to continually leave consumer reviews on your page. This can be done through calls to action placed on your website and social media pages, as well as through your customer support team through the branded materials that accompany your products and services.
Why the Last Reviews Are Most Important
The majority of consumers, 73% to be more exact, form on an opinion about your business by reading between 1 to 6 reviews, but no more than 6 — only 13% read 10 reviews or more. This creates a situation in which older consumer reviews, while useful because they help increase your overall star rating, don’t carry as much weight as new reviews; most people simply don’t read them. Monitoring consumer reviews and responding to negative ones as soon as they are published on your page becomes imperative.
The good news is that most customers are realistic and don’t expect your business to have a perfect rating and flawless consumer reviews. The majority of consumers, 57%, are willing to consider buying the products or services of a business with a three-star rating. If you manage to attain the four-star rating and keep your business at that level, you’re in for a treat because a whopping 94% of consumers consider using a business with a four-star rating.
Online Reviews = Personal Recommendations
The same study found that 80% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, provided that the reviewer has a genuine profile. This is great news if you are a start-up or run an online-based business, where personal recommendations are harder to generate due to the lack of person-to-person interaction during the buying process. While online consumer reviews do not replace personal recommendations, they do complement them and, for many local businesses, can even be the key to attracting more prospects online and generating more sales.
In the end, it is not reasonable to assume that all satisfied customers will rate your business and leave reviews. Writing a consumer review takes time and many of your customers won’t even bother unless they are reminded to do so. Not reminding your customers to provide customer feedback can result either in a scarcity of reviews, which can be very bad for business, or in reviews which are wildly disparate, in that they are left on one side by extremely satisfied customers, and on the other by deeply unsatisfied ones. A safe strategy is to integrate business ratings and business reviews in your marketing strategy and to try to generate favorable, genuine, and relevant reviews and ratings on a regular basis by directly asking your customers to provide them at the end of the buying process.