By Brian Collett — A total of 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as readily as personal recommendations for businesses, products and services, reports a UK survey consultancy.
BrightLocal, an international company based in Lewes, East Sussex, found 29 percent of consumers shunned online reviews when it conducted its first survey in 2010. Today’s figure is 9 percent.
During the six years of annual surveys the number of shoppers regularly reading reviews was found to have jumped from 33 to 50 percent.
The researchers found that 70 percent of shoppers agree to contribute a review if asked and 54 percent visit a website after reading positive appraisals.
The largest number of consumers reading reviews was reported to be looking for hospitality businesses, such as hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and cafes.
Reviews of lawyers, accountants, locksmiths and retirement accommodation are less widely read because the services are not needed so regularly or are required only at certain times, says the report.
About 90 percent of consumers said they read fewer than ten reviews before forming an opinion, and 73 percent believed that reviews more than three months old were not relevant.
Myles Anderson, founder and chief executive of BrightLocal, whose main clients are smaller businesses, digital marketing agencies and search engine optimisers, said: “This year’s survey results provide conclusive proof that online reviews are now more important than ever.
“Consumers consult reviews more frequently and for a wider range of businesses and services than ever before.
“This growing habit among consumers to proactively look for reviews is encouraging for businesses who have a positive online reputation. Those businesses not proactively building up their reviews need to beware.
“There’s new evidence that Google is placing more weight on reviews for search engine optimisation purposes and (there is) a clear preference from consumers for relevant and recent reviews at the time they make their buying decisions.
“A positive reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a business can wield to convince new customers to contact them. The social proof contained in reviews and star ratings helps consumers shortcut their research and make decisions faster and with greater confidence.”