It used to be that online reviews were typically thought about with products, restaurants, and movies. As the Internet has matured, we’ve seen that it is now become the major way that customers are finding that businesses that they need to solve the problems that they have. Also at the same time, search engines have recognized this trend and have gone to great lengths to improve the discoverability of new businesses that customers are looking for.
In this article, we are going to talk about four major game changers and why reviews are critical to local businesses.
Game Changer #1: Reviews show up Everywhere
No matter what search engine you use, reviews for local businesses have been showing up directly within the search results. This is a huge game changer. Instead of drilling down into several different business websites, consumers are more apt to simply read a few reviews about the business and decide who to call off of those. The business that has the highest reviews and ratings is typically wins.
This is also a major liability for those businesses who do not have a review generation and marketing system like our service RatingsByMe. A few bad reviews can dramatically lower the number of new customers your business receives. Considering that 85% (BrightLocal Survey – 2013) of consumers have searched for a business online, this is a huge problem.
Game Changer #2: Consumers Trust Online Reviews
In a 2013 Nielsen survey, 74% of the participants said that they trusted online reviews second to only a personal recommendation. In the same year, BrighLocal came out with their annual survey that confirmed the same results within one percentage point. In this day and age, online reviews from seemingly anonymous people, actually have a very large impact on the choices that consumers make. In fact, we would go as far as to say that those businesses who are ignoring online reviews, are really ignoring their business and it’s financial health.
What about referrals?
There will always be the argument that “referrals” will keep their business going as it always has, but the times are changing. Referrals are now looking online at the reviews of the business that are being referred to. Just by simply searching for the contact information a businesses online reputation is immediately present. A bad or non-existent reputation will turn a referral into a consumer looking for a more reputable company.
Game Changer #3: Search Engines are the New Telephone Directory
When was the last time you opened up a phonebook? Search engines have permeated everything from our computers to the cell phone we carry with us on a daily basis. Furthermore, the experience found on the search engines is vastly superior to looking up business contact information. Because of this, and the fact that reviews are shown immediately with this contact information a business with a poor reputation is hurting. What motivation does a 2 or 3 star reputation bring to a consumer who wants to use your services?
Game Changer #4: Search Engines make it Easy to Compare Competitors
In less than one minute, I can compare three or four different businesses all while relaxing on my couch. The speed in which I can this information is astounding. If I am recommended a certain company to work with, my immediate reaction, like most, is to hop on a search engine and get the businesses information. But now with the pervasiveness of the online reviews, I also see the reputation of the company and with a quick search for the type of business I am looking for, I can find a much better choice.
If the reputation is great, the business gets the call. If the reputation is poor, the business won’t get the call.
Small Changes, Massive Shifts
While most of what was presented in this article were not massive changes in it of itself, when combined, as they are now, they are game changers. The businesses that can see the larger picture and the fundamental shifts that have happened over the last couple years will be able to take advantage and become the market leader. The businesses who sit back and try to continue to run their business the “old way”, and ignore their online reputation, will click quickly see the impact on the bottom line and will be scrambling to come up with a plan.
It is my hope, that we can help as many businesses as possible before it becomes too late.