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Web Users Put More Stock in Consumer Reviews

Over the past five years, internet users have begun paying much more attention to reviews of local businesses

September 1, 2015

Customer reviews have gotten more important for local businesses over the years, according to research. And that means positive reviews appear to be having a bigger effect than in the past.

Effect of Online Customer Reviews on Their Opinion of a Local Business According to US Internet Users, 2010, 2014 & 2015 (% of respondents)

Based on 2015 polling from local search marketing firm BrightLocal, more than two-thirds of US internet users trust businesses more because of positive online reviews. While that’s down slightly from 2014, it still represents a significant increase over 2010 levels of trust in positive reviews. Five years ago, 45% of respondents said they either didn’t pay attention to online reviews at all, or didn’t let reviews influence them. This year, that share is down to 32%.

The increasing import of reviews has gone hand in hand with consumer likelihood to search for information about local businesses. In 2010, just 7% of internet users surveyed by BrightLocal said they searched for local business information "almost every day." By 2014, that share had more than doubled to 15%, and remains at 14% in 2015. In the same timeframe, the share of respondents who searched weekly also almost doubled, from 9% in 2010 to 17% in 2015.

Primary Action Taken by US Internet Users After Reading a Positive Online Review for a Local Business, July 2015 (% of respondents)

Typically, positive online reviews motivate US internet users to visit the business’ website, rather than the business itself—which was the No. 2 response. That means websites are a key part of local business’ marketing efforts.

That, in turn, means mobile websites are key. According to BrightLocal, 38% of US internet users read online reviews of local businesses on the mobile internet via a browser, and 24% do so using mobile apps. There is likely significant overlap between the two groups, but at a conservative estimate, around two in five internet users are reading mobile reviews of local businesses—and a significant share of that group is likely heading to those firms’ mobile websites if they see something positive on a review site.

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