3 Consumer Trends Affecting the World of Online Reviews  

When it comes to technology, only one thing remains constant: change. As a business owner, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of those changes, or you risk falling out of touch with your own customer base. 

But staying ahead of the curve means more than simply adopting the latest gear and equipment — it also means keeping tabs on how consumers’ shopping habits are evolving thanks to technology. And when it comes to online reviews, there have been major evolutions over the past few years. 

As review platforms have proliferated and grown more sophisticated, the way consumers engage with and perceive them has also shifted — in some ways dramatically. In this week’s article, we’ll look at some of the most notable trends and changes in how consumers use business reviews — and what they might signal for your small business. Follow along as we compare data from 2017 and 2018 against 2022 and 2023, and learn how you can leverage these trends to help your business grow. 

How Do Consumers Engage Differently with Reviews Today Compared to the Past? 

Each year, BrightLocal releases a survey analyzing many different aspects of online reviews, such as how often consumers read or write them, how consumer opinions are affected by star ratings, and what sorts of review-sharing platforms consumers use and trust the most. By comparing old and new surveys, it’s possible to see how consumer attitudes, preferences, and behaviors are changing over time as they relate to business reviews.

For example, in 2017, 39% of consumers said they wouldn’t use a business if it had a star rating below four stars. In 2022, that percentage was almost identical at 38%. But on the flipside, 9% of consumers said that five stars was the minimum star rating in 2017, which dipped to just 5% in 2022: almost one in 10 people, compared to just one in 20.  

So, what else has changed in the past few years? Here are three notable trends that are reshaping the world of online reviews — and how consumers engage with them. 

Google is Now the Most Trusted Review Platform

In 2017, when BrightLocal asked consumers which review platform they trusted most, there was no single platform that clearly dominated the others. The most trusted platforms, Yelp and Facebook, both received 20% of the vote; but Google followed closely behind at 16%, with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) at 15%. Other survey responses included TripAdvisor (11%), Yellow Pages (10%), and Citysearch (4%). 

By 2022, that trust was much less evenly distributed — and, with a whopping 87% of the vote, Google had risen clearly to the top. Yelp and Facebook, by comparison, trailed far behind at 48% and 46%, respectively — a shift that might cause some businesses to reconsider how they prioritize their online listings.

Consumers Are Becoming More Suspicious of Fake Reviews 

In 2017, the majority of survey respondents said they would potentially trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, depending on the circumstances (19% “always,” 27% “if I believe the reviews are authentic,” 20% “if there are multiple reviews,” and 20% “for some types of businesses”). But by 2022, less than half of respondents said they trusted reviews as much as personal recommendations, signaling a major shift. 

This shift is likely related to the growing issue of fake reviews and ratings, with some research showing that up to one third of online reviews may be fraudulent. Consumer awareness of — and wariness around — fake reviews likewise seems to be growing. For example, in 2017, only 25% of respondents said they had read “a lot” of fake reviews during the past 12 months. By 2023, however, 50% said they had seen fake reviews on Google alone, with even more (54%) noticing them on Amazon. 

Not only are consumers adept at spotting fake reviews, there are also serious penalties for using them. Even if your business is currently struggling against low ratings, purchasing fake reviews will just make the situation worse. If you’re dealing with bad reviews, the right approach is to implement a new review management strategy, which will enable you to gather valuable customer feedback, resolve complaints more efficiently, and win back customers’ trust — all with the added bonus of improving your local search ranking. 

online reviews

Non-Traditional Platforms Are Gaining More Influence Over Consumers 

When you hear the term “review platform,” you probably automatically think of sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and TripAdvisor. Depending on what your business does, you might also be familiar with industry-specific review platforms like Angi, Zillow, or ZocDoc. 

But what about websites and apps that aren’t traditionally thought of as being review platforms? 

In the 2023 survey, BrightLocal asked consumers about the “other platforms” they used to evaluate local businesses outside the dominant platforms like Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and Google. Some of the results might surprise you: 

  1. YouTube — 35% reported checking YouTube 
  2. Local News — 35%
  3. Instagram — 32%
  4. TikTok — 20% 
  5. Twitter — 15% 
  6. Reddit — 15% 
  7. Local Bloggers — 14% 

Approximately half of the survey respondents indicated that they did not use any of the platforms or sources listed above. 

Grow Your Small Local Business with Our Human-Powered and AI-Generated Review Response Services 

No matter which industry you’re in or how many competitors you’re up against, responding to your reviews will help you gain more brand visibility, retain more of your existing customers, and drive more business to your website, app, or storefront. But many businesses simply don’t have the time to request, manage, or monitor reviews, let alone reply to each one. That’s why we created ResponseScribe, a new service that provides your small businesses with personalized responses to every customer rating and review. 

With ResponseScribe, there’s no need to manually monitor or reply to your reviews. Simply choose a human-powered, AI-powered, or hybrid plan, and our team of experts will take care of the rest — from requesting and replying to reviews on your behalf, to taking down reviews that are inaccurate or false. You always have the power to review and edit responses, and will receive every response within 24 hours or less. 

Implementing a review response strategy doesn’t need to be a hassle. Book a demo to preview our platform’s features. 

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