Consumers are already engaging more with online reviews in 2018 than they did last year. They are more likely to leave more positive reviews, and more likely to expect a response to negative review from a business. We surveyed more than 400 consumers to find out the top online reviews trends in 2018 for local businesses.
5 online reviews trends you need to know in 2018
Here are some of the biggest trends we found:
Google is where customers find you.
Focus on local search.
Reviews are the battleground for brand reputation.
2018 will be the year of brand reputation.
Reviews will continue to affect all industries.
Let’s dig into our findings.
1. Google is where customers find you
To get started with online reviews trends, consider that today’s No. 1 review site of choice is Google.
According to the 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey, 63.6 percent of consumers say they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business — more than those consulting any other review site.
More than 90 percent of businesses have at least one review on Google, whereas only 40 percent of businesses have reviews on Facebook.
2. Focus on local search
Google’s popularity means businesses need to pay more attention to the factors that affect local search and their appearance on Google.
More than 35 percent of all search traffic has local intent, according to research by ReviewTrackers. Local search traffic means you’ve got to optimize your online presence for local search. One way to optimize for local search is to manage your business’s Google My Business page.
An example of a local search is when a consumer types “doctors in Chicago” in the search box on Google. Google will then show the consumer reviews, star ratings, and where local doctors are located on the map.
Review signals are one of Google’s top eight determining factors that affect where a business ends up in local search. Review signals include the amount of reviews your business has and how often reviews are posted.
To put it simply: if you get a ton of positive reviews, Google will show your business in more search results.
3. Reviews are the battleground for brand reputation
The customer experience you provide offline is a determining factor of your brand’s reputation online. However, providing a customer experience that meets or exceeds expectations is just part of what’s going to make your reputation stand out.
Consider that 53 percent of customers expect a business to respond to their online reviews within seven days. Ninety-four percent of consumers say an online review has convinced them to avoid a business — 94 percent.
There’s good news when it comes to online reviews trends.
Although negative reviews convince consumers to avoid a business, 45 percent of consumers say they are more likely to visit a business with negative reviews if the business responds to those reviews. While a negative review is damaging, addressing a customer’s complaint can actually improve your reputation significantly.
4. 2018 will be the year of brand reputation (even for small business)
Speaking of online reviews trends, every business is now rated. Search for a business and you’ll see stars listed by their name.
The proliferation of reviews means that all businesses big and small will have to be proactive about addressing issues that come up — and maintain a star rating that is high for their industry.
How do you improve star rating?
It comes down to customer experience. Customers will be more likely to write a positive negative review after a positive experience. When the customer feels like he or she can tell other consumers that the business is more than worth the consumer’s time and money, that’s when they’ll brag about you online.
Reviews are a tool to improve the customer experience. Listen to what customers are saying. Use that information to improve the customer experience. If customers say the fries are soggy, make them un-soggy.
5. Reviews will continue to affect all industries
With online reviews trends, it doesn’t matter whether you run a food truck in Austin or an accounting firm in New York — reviews will affect your business.
But reviews don’t affect every industry equally.
For businesses in the finance and insurance industries, more consumers this year than last year say they are likely to leave a review about a positive experience, according to the survey. Only 13 percent of consumers said they were likely to leave a review after a positive experience at a bank in 2017, compared to 19 percent in 2018. For insurance, that number increased from 14 percent in 2017 to 18 percent in 2018.
While these increases are a good thing, let’s compare those numbers to the restaurant industry. When asked about restaurants, 43 percent of consumers said they’d leave a positive review after a good experience — which means that restaurant guests are 2.4 times more likely to leave a good review than a consumer who visits a bank or insurance agent. That means financial services will have have to work twice as hard as restaurants to get reviews.
While you might think that this means reviews are less important in industries like banking, it’s not true. More than half of consumers say reviews are influential when choosing a new bank. In addition, more than 60 percent of consumers say reviews are influential when choosing an insurance agent. Consumers still look for reviews in these industries — even if they’re less likely to leave them.
The takeaway for a business owner: Your industry might provide challenges for you when it comes to getting more reviews and maintaining a high star rating.
Your most powerful weapon for social proof
Review management is only increasing in importance for your brand reputation. It’s crucial that you generate reviews, respond to reviews, and manage your local listings, especially Google My Business.
Online reviews are the tools consumers use to make decisions about where to take their business. As our data shows us, consumers are only going to be more engaged with reviews in 2018. It’ll be up to make sure they’re listening to their customers online. They’ll need to respond to any issues that come up in reviews to make the experience enjoyable for all customers.