Survey: Consumers trust online reviews
November 13, 2015  //  By:   //  Consumer News  //  No Comment

BrightLocal has released the findings of their annual Local Consumer Review Survey, which reveals the growing importance of online reviews in the purchasing decision.

This is the 4th year BrightLocal has conducted the study into consumer usage and attitudes toward online reviews. “In May-June, we sent a questionnaire to our local consumer panel and received 2,104 completed survey responses. All respondents are from the USA (90%) and Canada (10%),” the company reported.

According to the survey results nearly nine in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39 percent do so on a regular basis. “The “trend line” over the last four years clearly shows how much more regularly people are reading reviews, clearly highlighting the need for local businesses to attract more reviews and actively manage their online reputation,” according to BrightLight.

The study also found that for seven out of 10 consumers, positive reviews inspire trust and for nearly nine in 10 consumers, an online review is equally as important as a personal recommendation.

However, this trust comes with a caveat, the company notes. “There is almost a 50/50 split in what drives trust for this 88 percent of consumers. For one half, this trust will only be granted if there are multiple reviews to read. For the other half, this trust is dependent on the reviews being authentic. In this case, quality is equally as important as quantity.”

There has been a growing problem with fake reviews, known as astroturfing, which the survey does note.

According to market research firm Gartner, one of every 10 online product reviews are fake, written by paid reviewers. According to studies, negative reviewers can be had for as little as one dollar and as much as $10 on websites such as Craigslist, ODesk, fiverr, and Freelancer.com.

While some websites use filters to weed out fake reviewers, there are many who know how to game the system.

Online reviews are at the center of attention in the US Senate as lawmakers consider legislation that would ban gag clauses that financially punish those who leave negative reviews (see related story).

Senate bill S. 2044, the Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015, would prohibit the use of certain clauses in form contracts that restrict the ability of a consumer to communicate regarding the goods or services offered in interstate commerce that were the subject of the contract, and for other purposes.

Image: Flickr/Jeannie Thiessen

About the Author :

Carol Thompson is a veteran investigative reporter residing in central New York. She spent 23 years with a local newspaper, The Valley News, before leaving for the Syracuse New Times, and now, VNN. Thompson has won dozens of first-place awards for investigative reporting and was the 2006 recipient of the Syracuse Press Club’s prestigious Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award. Thompson’s reporting has resulted in the arrest of public officials and has prompted policy changes. She uncovered two money laundering schemes that traveled the globe and resulted in the indictments of several developers.