Increasing Trust of Online Reviews

BrightLocal’s annual survey of consumer trust showed that consumers are even more likely to trust and rely on reviews they find online this year than they were last year. The survey of more than 2,000 consumers turned up strong trends:

  • 84% of respondents use the internet to search for local businesses — 15% do so almost every day.
  • 88% read reviews to decide whether or not to visit a local business.
  • 85% read up to 10 reviews (67% say up to six).
  • 73% say that they trust a business with customer reviews more.
  • 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations (up from 79% last year).

Restaurants are the most-searched local businesses, followed closely by doctors and dentists. These, along with hotels, are also the types of businesses for which respondents were most likely to seek out reviews.

What do people do after they read those online reviews? They visit your website.

It was interesting to us that, while the majority of respondents said they’d visit the business’s website as their next step after checking out their reviews, the two groups which were most often searched and for which reviews are most important are also two of the types of business most likely not to have a website.

Nielsen’s most recent Trust in Advertising report, just a year old today, polled 29,000 consumers in 58 countries, and found that these consumers trusted these sources of information most, and in this order:

  • personal recommendations
  • company websites
  • online reviews

The 2014 version may show us the same increase as BrightLocal’s survey. Personal recommendations clearly continue to be important; however, consumers’ feeling of knowing trusted online sources continues to increase.

Aggregate numbers are all very well, but not all online reviews inspire equal amounts of trust. “I like to see a variety of reviews,” Rosie says, “and I want to see at least one crazy one in all caps with spelling errors. If they’re all positive, it looks fake.”

Rosie’s views echo those of many readers of online reviews. Broadly speaking, consumers are more likely to trust longer reviews that give more specific information and mention both positive and negative points. But they’re also likely to identify reviewers they consider trustworthy — from their favorite YouTube beauty guru to the Yelp reviewer who hasn’t steered them wrong on local lunch spots. These people gain the rank of trusted adviser. Recommendations from a trusted adviser are just as good, for the modern consumer, as personal recommendations.

What does this mean for your website?

  • Include testimonials and reviews at your website, and allow people to leave product reviews directly whenever possible. Consumers know the difference between a review and a testimonial.
  • Remember that consumers’ top response to reading reviews is to visit your website. Have something good for them when they get there.
  • Consumers check out reviews in the store while shopping. BrightLocal’s survey didn’t ask about this kind of behavior, but surveys on mobile use tell us that ever-increasing numbers of shoppers use their smartphones in this way. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly.
  • BrightLocal also didn’t ask about the trust level for company websites, but Nielsen found that consumers trusted company websites more than consumer reviews. Make sure that your website shows that it is trustworthy.

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