The popularity of online review sites is on the rise, a new study found. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2013, the number of company reviews on websites has increased significantly over the past several years, and most importantly for small businesses, more consumers than ever trust online customer reviews.
The survey found that 79 percent of those surveyed trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, up from 72 percent in 2012. In 2011, more than 30 percent of respondents said they did not trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations – this year, that figure dropped to 21 percent.
With this elevated level of trust in online reviews, it has become increasingly important for small business owners to focus on customer service and having a strong web presence. That online presence, however, does not mean that entrepreneurs should go online and review their own services – the study found it is also important for consumers to believe that the reviews they are reading are authentic.
Rather, developing a high-quality website and delivering consistent services to customers is what helps drive business and improve online ratings.
Increased influence on business
The BrightLocal survey also found online review services are increasing not only in popularity but in influence over customers as well. Around 65 percent of respondents said they were more likely to visit a local business that has garnered positive online reviews, up from 52 percent in 2012.
Furthermore, only 24 percent of consumers said they chose a business based on other considerations such as location and price, underscoring the increased influence of sites like Yelp on the state of small business. A business’ reputation has become information that is not only available to the masses, but created by the public itself.
The study also asked customers what kind of businesses they were most likely to look into based on customer reviews. Restaurants were by far the most popular – 61 percent of respondents said they had read reviews on restaurants and cafes, up from 46 percent last year.
Hotels, guest houses, and bed and breakfast establishments came in at 27 percent, up from 22 percent in 2012. General shops doubled the rate of reviews read, up to 18 percent in 2013 from 9 percent in 2012.
Improving customer satisfaction and creating a positive online presence is essential for success. However, making changes to a company can be expensive, which is why many small business owners come to National Funding; check out some of National Funding’s customer reviews. National Funding can help an entrepreneur with equipment financing to invest in new technology and other financial services to improve company operations and customer relations.