In March, we published the findings of Part 1 of the Local Consumer Review Survey 2012.
Part 1 dealt with the consumption of online reviews and the influence they have on consumer behavior & purchase of local business services. You can view the key findings and analysis here on Search Engine Land.
About The Local Consumer Review Survey 2012
This online survey was conducted between 15th January – 1st March 2012. A set of 18 questions were put to a survey panel of 4,500 local consumers located in US, Canada and UK. We received 2,862 respondents.
This is the 2nd wave of the Local Consumer Review Survey. The 1st wave of this survey was conducted in late 2010/early 2011. We compared results between the 2 waves (2010-2012) to determine any change in consumer attitudes and behavior.*
*2010 survey had 2,012 participants from US & UK, but not Canada.
Local Business Types & Importance Of Reputation
In the 2nd part of the survey, we asked four questions relating to which types of local businesses searchers look for online and the importance of ‘Reputation’ for different businesses.
- Which Types of Local Business you have searched for via the internet? (in last 12 months)
- Which Types of Local Business you have read online reviews for? (in last 12 months)
- For which types of local business does ‘Reputation’ matter the most?
- Which ‘Reputation-trait’ is MOST important to you when selecting a local business?
For this post, we are also including a chart and analysis from Part 1 of the survey (see question 5) which shows how many reviews a consumer reads before they feel they can trust a local business. This provides insight on how quickly consumers form their opinions and relates to the importance of Reputation as a factor in forming this opinion.
Findings, Charts & Analysis
Q. 1 – From the following list: select the Business Types you have searched for via the Internet in the last 12 months? (select as many as you like)
The most searched for type of business was Restaurants / Cafes – 57% (vs. 37% in 2010)
3 other categories also saw significant gains since 2010:
- Hotels/B&B/Guest house – 35% (vs. 29%)
- General Shops – 35% (vs. 30%)
- Clothes Shops – 34% (vs. 31%)
- Dentists/Doctors – 27% (vs. 21%)
A number of categories saw a fall on 2010 figures:
- Specialist shops (e.g. bike shops, computer shops)– 11% (vs. 21% in 2010)
- Hair/Beauty Salon – 9% (vs. 13%)
- Taxi/Car Hire - 5% (vs. 10%)
Entertainment and leisure businesses remain the most popular types of business to search for online (same as 2010). People use these businesses more frequently than most other businesses – e.g. Tradesmen, doctors – and there is a wealth of rich, useful and fun content available online.
The growth in searches for General Shops & Clothes Shops shows that consumers are focused on essential items vs. non-essential services such as beauty salons, specialist shops (e.g. computer shops) & taxis which have seen a drop on 2010.
Strangely, 5% more consumers searched for gardeners/cleaners which are often services which suffer first in recession times.
Q. 2 – From the following list: which of these businesses types have you read online customer reviews for? (select as many as you like)
Up on 2010:
- Restaurants / Cafes – 46% of consumers read reviews (vs. 31% in 2010)
- Doctors & Dentists – 21% (vs. 11%)
Down on 2010 –
- Hotels/B&Bs/Guest Houses – 22% (vs. 26%)
- Specialist Shops – 9% (vs. 12%)
- General Shops – 9% (vs. 13%)
Consumption of reviews closely follows search trends and many searchers don’t separate or distinguish between the 2 actions. Google’s increasing inclusion of map results into main search results (i.e. blended results) brings the prominence of online reviews to the fore.
Review consumption is heavily concentrated in a few categories. However, it’s obvious that consumers do use to the internet for finding and researching local businesses at the point at which they need their services.
Having positive reviews & star ratings offers local businesses a great opportunity to standout from their competitors and grab searchers’ attention at this key point in the purchasing cycle.
Q. 3 – For which of these local business types does ‘Reputation’ matter the most when choosing a business? (select maximum 3)
- Restaurants / Cafes – 32% (vs. 26% 2010)
- Doctors / Dentists – 27% selected (vs. 33%)
- Tradesmen – 23% (vs. 27% in 2010)
As with 2010, this year’s results show that Reputation is a factor which affects all type of businesses. The increasing prominence and consumption of online reviews makes public reputation and Some business types (e.g. Restaurants) have seen an increase in the importance of reputation while others (e.g. Hotels) have seen a decrease.
Across the board, there have been small fluctuations in scores vs. 2010. Some of these changes may be the result of changing consumer spending habits; however with the survey consisting of just 2,812 respondents, we suspect that these marginal changes could be exaggerated by the relatively small sample size.
Q4. – Which of the following ‘Reputation-traits’ is MOST important to you when selecting a local business to use?
- 64% of consumers stated that ‘Reliability’ is most important trait (vs. 47% in 2010)
- 44% stated that ‘Good Value’ was important (vs. 35% in 2010)
- Less consumers are concerned with ‘softer’ traits such as courtesy, friendly service & ‘localness’
In the current economic climate, consumers are feeling the pinch on their finances and so are extremely cost-conscious. When using a local business, they want to know that they’re buying a good, reliable service at a good price. Consumers are prepared to tolerate less personable service if it means they can save a few dollars!
Q. 5 – How many online reviews & ratings do you need to read before you feel that you can trust that business?
- 65% of consumers read between 2-10 reviews (vs. 58% in 2010)
- Just 7% of consumers read more than 20 reviews (vs. 12% in 2010)
This year’s survey shows a decline in the number of reviews being read by consumers. Consumers are forming opinions faster and trusting reviews more, leading to lower consumption of reviews.
This puts even more emphasis on the Reputation, and current reputation at that. if users are reading less fewer reviews it’s likely that they’ll focus on the most recent reviews for a business. Therefore, it’s important for a local business to generate a steady flow of reviews and to manage their Reputation so that positive reviews outweigh the negative.
Having a good Reputation which is publicly-expressed in online customer reviews is valuable for all types of local business.
Entertainment-based businesses attract the most online search activity, but consumers read reviews for all types of local business at the point at which they need those services. Therefore every business can gain from increasing its online presence and generating positive customer reviews.
With consumers reading less reviews, and forming opinions faster, it’s essential that a business manages its Reputation to ensure that it’s both positive and kept current with fresh reviews. In many categories, it doesn’t take many reviews to create standout from competitors and a little effort spent gathering these reviews will bring new customers to your door.
Consumers are looking for businesses which are reliable and offer a good value service. Businesses should emphasize these traits in the content on their sites and in their online profiles/listings.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.