Yelp Finds Local Reviews More Important than Ever in Consumer Buying Decisions

 

A new survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers, conducted by Yelp in collaboration with consumer insights firm Kelton Global, finds that 75 percent of consumers read more online reviews now than they did in the past, suggesting that the importance of reviews for all segments of digital commerce has only increased over time. The study also finds that 70 percent of consumers rarely visit a local business without checking the reviews first, further emphasizing the conclusion that looking at reviews has become an ingrained habit. 

 

Yelp’s survey finds in favor of policies that have been integral to its own review service. In contrast to Google, Yelp has always required users to describe their experience with a business, rather than leaving a star rating with no accompanying text. Showing apparent support for this policy, the study finds that only 3 percent of the consumers favor ratings with no text, while 24 percent prefer short reviews (15 words or less), 59 percent prefer medium-length reviews (16-50 words), and 14 percent prefer longer reviews (more than 50 words). 

 

 

More controversial is Yelp’s policy that businesses should not ask directly for reviews. Yelp has upheld a ban on requesting reviews for many years and has long expressed the view that asking for reviews tends to bias the result in the business’s favor.  (Google actually encourages the practice of asking for reviews, though frowns upon “gating,” or only asking a customer to leave you a review once you’ve determined their experience was positive.) 

 

Again, the survey finds support for Yelp’s point of view, with 64 percent of respondents stating that reviews written in response to a request from the business are probably biased. Some 50 percent of respondents said they do not trust reviews written by request, while 21 percent said they themselves would be more likely to write something positive if asked to review a business.

 

Consumers are likely to read a few reviews in order to absorb a range of opinions about a business, according to the study, which finds that 54 percent of consumers read 3 to 5 reviews. The mere presence of negative reviews does not necessarily deter consumers; in fact, a notable 88 percent of respondents said they would look past a negative review if the business responded to it in a constructive manner. 

 

 

Finally, the study finds that those who habitually write reviews are often prompted to do so in a spirit of helpfulness and positivity, perhaps countering the perception that people only write reviews to vent or complain. According to the study, 61 percent of consumers who write reviews are prompted to do so because they can’t find many reviews about a business online, and 92 percent say they would write a review after a positive experience with a business.

 

Yelp’s findings are generally consistent with similar contemporary studies, such as the BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey which found in 2020 that 87 percent of consumers habitually read online reviews of local businesses. As with any survey of consumer behavior, self-reporting can sway the results towards a perception of one’s own behavior as opposed to an objective measurement, but that fact in itself suggests that consumers, on the whole, consider reviews to be a critical factor in the online to offline purchase journey. 

 

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Damian Rollison

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