Study from SOCi and the Local Search Association Finds Online Reputation is More Important than Businesses Believe

Nov 22, 2018

SOCi, a provider of social media and reputation management for multi-location brands, announced the findings of a joint research study in partnership with the Local Search Association (LSA). The study, conducted in August 2018, aimed to uncover the current gap between consumer usage of social media, ratings, and reviews and businesses’ understanding of and engagement with, their online reputations. Two parallel surveys were fielded: one asking nearly 400 consumers about ratings and review usage; the other asking 315 local businesses about their perceptions of how consumers evaluated them.

According to survey findings, online reputation is more important than businesses believe: 39% of businesses reported not recognizing that online reputations strongly influence consumer decision-making, yet 66% of all consumers indicated they conduct this type of pre-purchase research every or almost every time before buying a product or service. More than 80% of 18- to 35-year-olds indicated doing the same, showing younger generations are even more invested in understanding a company’s reputation prior to purchase.

Importantly, positive online ratings/reviews are the main purchase consideration compared to any other type of information or sources factoring into a consumer decision. To decide which business to visit, respondents are almost 46% more likely to consider this information above and beyond more traditional factors like location and travel distance, discounts, and promotions.

The research details how important the type of research customers are doing is as well.  Seven out of 10 consumers who conduct pre-purchase research also read reviews every time/almost every time they make a purchase decision. Top sites where consumers actually wrote these reviews include Google (41%), Facebook (41%), Yelp (25%), travel sites like TripAdvisor (22%), and Amazon (21%). Other important factors include star reviews with 54% of consumers reporting they like to see at least four stars to consider a business and more than half of these potential customers having passed on a business for lack of stars.

In the joint study, 77% of consumers leaving reviews expect a business to respond to their feedback (40% of customers expect a response to a review immediately or within 24 hours). With a proactive and timely review management process, businesses have the potential to turn negative reviews and experiences into positive ones. Almost nine out of ten consumers would be willing to change a negative review depending on the business’ response to their criticism.

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