According to a recent study by brightlocal.com, online reviews are more important than ever and, when it comes to the origin of those reviews, the closer to your business, the better.

Brightlocal has conducted the survey every year since 2010. Last year, they polled more than 1,050 individuals to get insight on how online reviews changed their purchasing habits.

According to the survey, about 92 percent of consumers now read online reviews and about 63 percent of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site with reviews, rather than one that does not feature any customer feedback. Here are three other takeaways:

The trust factor
Of those polled, 84 percent said they trusted online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. That number fell a bit with the younger demographic, with about 50 percent of 18-34 year-olds indicating they trust online reviews more than they trust the recommendation of their family members or friends. Still, those are compelling figures and they speak to the kind of loyalty positive customer reviews can instill in your business.

The star factor
Of course, you’d expect businesses with more favorable reviews would do better than those without. It speaks to the quality of customer service you use to compete against larger businesses or retail chains. The numbers add up: about 57 percent of people would use a business with a three star review—which isn’t entirely bad—but that number jumps to more than 90 percent, for businesses with a four-star review. For customers that browse reviews on sites like Yelp, a positive review is more likely to translate into a visit to your website: Nearly half of the respondents said they that they would visit a business’ web site if the reviews were positive. That extra effort—or extra star—could be crucial to your bottom line.

On the other hand, about 86 percent said they would hesitate to visit the shop or purchase something from them if it had too many negative reviews.

The time factor 
As important as it is to have positive local reviews, that’s not the only factor. The more current they are, the more they will find favor with potential customers. Ninety percent of people who read reviews before they visit a business web site or make a purchase read less than 10 reviews. About 73 percent of people surveyed said reviews that were older than three months are no longer relevant.
 Having fresh content—and that includes frequent new reviews—will also improve your search engine rankings.

Obviously, positive reviews are more important than ever. So how do you go about getting them? Pistn has developed a complete Customer Retention Management (CRM) system that takes all of the guesswork—and most of the work—out of the equation. It sets up an automated system where positive reviews are posted right away, while less-than-stellar reviews are filtered out for your direct feedback before they are posted. You can find details here.

Another way? Ask! Seven out of 10 customers say they would leave a review if asked. Make it easy for them, and don’t be bashful.

How important are online reviews to your business? How do you solicit them? Let us know in the comments!

 

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