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Online Reviews are as Trustworthy as a Personal Recommendation to 72% of Consumers

            Changing patterns of opinion in consumers are highlighted in 2012’s Local Consumer Review Survey, a study of home care reviewsconsumer thought and behavior. Online reviews have risen in the view of many consumers, achieving much greater levels of trust and belief in their reliability.

            Online reviews are now viewed as being as trustworthy as a personal recommendation by close to 72% of consumers. Reviews found on the Internet increase people’s likelihood of using a local business by 52%, assuming, of course, that the reviews are positive.

2012 Local Consumer Review Survey details

            The Local Consumer Review Survey was organized in two waves, the first one occurring during the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, and the second taking place from January 15th, 2012 to March 1st, 2012. The results of the two waves were then compared in order to detect changes of consumer opinion over time.

            All of the consumers from the 2012 wave were from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The earlier wave made use of US and UK consumers only. A total of 4,500 local consumers were picked to be part of the survey panel for the 2012 Survey, of whom 2,862 eventually responded and provided their answers to the survey’s questions.

            The survey was organized in three parts of six questions each. The data here is from the first set of six questions, or Part 1 of the Survey.

Question 1: How frequently have you used the Internet in the past year to find a local business?

            Many more consumers are now using the Internet to locate businesses in their area. Searches conducted in this way have become more regular, also.

            Some of the most important findings include: 21% of consumers stated they did not use the Internet to find local businesses in 2010, but this had fallen to 15% by 2012; and the number of consumers stating that they use the Internet weekly to locate these area businesses rose from 9% in 2010 to 16% in 2012.

Question 2: Do you make use of online reviews to judge the quality of a local business?

            The use of online reviews by consumers is rising, with 27% now making frequent reference to this Internet information when selecting what local business they should patronize.

            Some of the most important findings include: regular use of online reviews to figure out which local business is best has increased from 22% to 27% of consumers between 2010 and 2012; and the number of consumers who do not refer to online reviews at all has dropped from 29% to 24% over the same period.

Question 3: What number of online reviews do you consider is enough to prove a specific business to be trustworthy?

            The number of reviews being read by consumers before making a choice has declined noticeably in the past two years. This means that reviews are viewed as more trustworthy and informative, since most people view that fewer reviews are needed to give a clear picture of a local business’ quality.

            Some of the most important findings include: 65% of consumers can now form a complete opinion from 2 to 10 reviews, as opposed to 58% in 2010; and only 7% of consumers feel that they need to read more than 20 reviews to get a clear picture of a business, rather than 12% formerly – a drop of almost 50%.

            It should be noted that the total number of reviews for a specific business still affects its overall reputation, however. A large number of reviews makes consumers believe the averaged rating (for example, in stars, numerical rating, etc.) more and lessens the number they actually feel they need to read.

Question 4: What influence do online reviews have on your opinion of a local business?

            The number of people reading online reviews of area businesses is climbing, and this has an important effect on their view of these businesses. Positive reviews appear to be a solid foundation for improved trust in a local business.

            The most important finding from this question is that the number of people who trust a local business with positive online reviews has risen from 55% in 2010 to 58% in 2012.

Question 5: In what way do online reviews from other customers alter your choices when picking a local business to patronize?

            Online reviews are far more prominent in general consumer consciousness today, which translates into these Internet ratings having a strong influence on decisions of which business to use. Location and price seem to be declining as decision-making factors relative to good online reviews.

            Some of the most crucial findings from this question include: positive reviews make around 52% of consumers more apt to use the local business with these reviews; and 28% of people now list price and location as the main influencing factor, down from 38% in 2010.

Question 6: What is your opinion of online reviews’ reliability relative to personal recommendations?

            Online reviews are gaining ground quickly in the view of consumers, who are now very likely to trust them as much as a personal recommendation.

            The most critical finding from this question is that 72% of consumers now think online reviews are as reliable as a personal recommendation, up from 67% in 2010.

Conclusions about consumers and online reviews

            Part 1 of the Local Consumer Review Survey from 2012 shows clearly that online reviews are becoming a very important and very trusted part of consumers’ opinions. Online reviews are becoming more trusted and more appreciated as guides to local business patronage as consumers become more familiar and comfortable with the concept.

            Since online reviews are more trusted, fewer need to be read in order to cause a positive influence on consumers. They are coming to be viewed as quick, accessible sources of accurate information about businesses.

            Mobile devices, such as tablets and cell phones, show skyrocketing popularity, increasing the reach of online reviews to the consumer population in general. Finally, the clarity and quick snapshot of quality offered by star-ranked reviews is becoming a central tool of consumer decision-making, and a vital boost to any business’ chances of success.

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