A Review of Online Reviews

It’s no secret that people are referring to online sites as primary sources of information these days. Whether they’re looking for a new five-star restaurant for a special date, a medical professional that suits their growing family, or a plumber to fix that stubborn leaky faucet, the numbers are increasing as to those who rely not only the web to find resources, but who seek and trust online reviews when making their decision. 

Online ReviewsWho is responsible for these online reviews?

As a business owner or prospective client, it’s important to understand who is taking the time to write online reviews. According to a 2013 Pepperdine study, most reviewers are women between the ages of 26-35. Men report their experiences 35% of the time, but it’s the women who are generally willing to take the time and to craft a thorough review. In one year, the number of women over age 55 who wrote an online review doubled, clearly showing that baby boomers are catching up with the online craze and are a demographic to consider when choosing marketing strategies.

Who uses online reviews?

When asked if they used online sites to research companies, over 80% of people in both the 2012 and 2013 Pepperdine studies answered with a positive response. This indicates that companies need to be paying close attention to the online reviews they receive, and follow-up accordingly. Clearly, their consumers and prospective customers are watching. Though asking a friend for a recommendation received the largest response, online reviews were right behind it as the second most popular place people go when determining which business to patronize.

Customers were most likely to use online reviews for fine dining restaurants, hotels, spas, arts & entertainment, and automotive references. From 2012 – 2013, the people referencing online reviews to find medical and healthcare professionals increased, suggesting both the serious nature of those seeking out online reviews, and reviews’ expanded influence. Although the desktop and laptop are the most common places used to review an experience or investigate a previous rating, 2013 showed a marked increase in the use of smart phones and tablets in regards to online reviewing.

If a consumer is debating about using a particular service or visiting a specific establishment, a few swipes on their smart phone are all it takes to determine whether they drive by, or park and enter. If the company has 4 or 5 stars, it’s likely, but with only 1 or 2 stars or with no rating, it’s not. And if a customer is sitting in your business finishing a meal, or completing their checkout, 28% are willing to give you a glowing online review which would be sure to bring in more customers, while 25% are sure to make people think twice about patronizing your business.

Oh No! A negative review… 

People generally respond well to second chances. When asked in 2012 whether they would not return to a business they already patronized after reading a negative online review, 61% said they would consider it, and in 2013, 70% agreed. If the complaint was noted and resolved, 59% of people in 2013 said they would “most likely” give that establishment another try. This is yet another example of why online ratings should be reviewed consistently and taken seriously by companies. Consumers don’t even need to read a slew of reviews to consider them credible. Organizations that had as few as 4 reviews were as valued as high as those with over 12.

The bottom line is this: online reviews matter. From 2012- 2013, people consistently reviewed their positive and negative experiences, and prospective customers read and respected these in their decision-making. As technology continues to become more user-friendly and mobile, it will be easier to quickly check an online review than to catch a friend on the phone for a reference.

Byline: J. Garcia is a writer for Review Inc. He has years of experience in social media and online reviews.

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