At Shout About Us, we often blog about the importance of responding to online reviews. While we frequently focus on the content of reviews, such as our tips for dealing with customer complaints or fake reviews, this week we’re shifting focus to look specifically at star ratings: why they matter, how they influence consumer behavior, and — most importantly — how they can be improved.
If you think star ratings don’t matter, think again: as we’ll explore in this blog post, they’re actually one of the most important factors consumers rely on to help them evaluate brands. By successfully increasing your star rating on platforms like Yelp or Google Business Profiles (GBP), you can generate more interest — and more trust — in your product, service, or client.
Whether you’d like to increase your own company’s star rating, or you provide online reputation management services for other businesses, this article will walk you through some of the basics you need to know. In it, our response scribes will answer questions like how much ratings matter to shoppers, how many stars you should aim for at minimum, and whether a perfect 5-star rating is really necessary (or even ideal), taking a look at data from sources like BrightLocal and Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center. Read on to learn more about the best star rating for businesses — and how to achieve it.
How Much Do Consumers Care About Business Ratings?
New data from BrightLocal can help answer this question — and may offer some surprises. According to a recently released report, which surveyed more than 1,100 consumers during November 2021, star ratings ranked as the number two factor that determined whether consumers would “feel positively about using a business.”
As this chart shows clearly, a “high star rating” was identified as the top review factor by over half of those surveyed — a total of 58% — surpassed only by the 75% who identified descriptions of “positive experiences” as being most important. When it came to making shoppers feel good about brands, high star ratings mattered less than positive descriptions, but more than review recency, review length, review grammar, review images/photographs, or even the presence of owner responses.
Not, by the way, that owner responses aren’t important — as the survey also noted, “55% of consumers said that a response from the business owner makes them feel positive about that business” — but, that’s a topic for another blog post. For now, let’s review the ideal star rating a business should aim for in 2022.
What is the Best Star Rating for a Business to Have?
Should your business really chase after a 5-star rating? Or is a slightly lower score actually better for your brand? What’s the minimum amount of stars that consumers expect your business to have in 2022? In short, what’s the ideal star rating your company or client should strive for this year? Keep reading for answers.
Is a Perfect 5-Star Rating Necessary?
Every business wants to achieve that perfect 5.0 score (especially if its competitors already have). But just how valuable are perfect ratings? How are they perceived by consumers, and what can the data tell us about their impact on businesses? Experts have conflicting views on this topic.
On one hand, there is research suggesting that good ratings may be preferable to excellent ratings, with one study finding that “product purchases were most influenced by reviews with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5” — not, as you might expect, a perfect 5. Researchers attributed this to a sense of “healthy skepticism” among consumers, who value authenticity and may doubt reviews that seem “too good to be true” — a subject we addressed in our post about why you should never purchase positive reviews.
On the other hand, there is also research showing that some consumers won’t buy from brands with imperfect ratings. BrightLocal’s survey, for example, found that 4% of consumers would not use a business with less than 5 stars.
The bottom line is that there’s room for some debate around this issue. Some consumers demand 5-star ratings — but at the same time, many others distrust them. Ultimately, we think it’s probably most productive to focus less on achieving a perfect score, and more on successfully meeting the average consumer’s expectations.
So what does the average consumer expect when it comes to star ratings? Let’s take a more detailed look at current consumer attitudes toward various scores.
What’s the Minimum Star Rating a Business Needs in Order to Gain Shoppers’ Trust?
As we were just discussing, there is a small percentage of consumers who only trust businesses with perfect ratings. At the opposite end of the spectrum, equally few consumers trust businesses with very low ratings: only 3% for 2.5 stars, 2% for 2 stars, and 1% for 1.5 stars (with 0% for 1 star, down from 3% in 2020).
The vast majority of consumers fall somewhere between these poles, preferring to shop with businesses that have positive (but imperfect) ratings. According to the data, 16% of consumers are willing to trust businesses with a minimum of at least 3 stars, 23% will trust businesses with at least 3.5 stars, 40% will trust businesses with at least 4 stars, and 10% won’t trust businesses until they achieve at least 4.5 stars.
As you can see, 4 stars was the cutoff point for most consumers, with dwindling numbers toward the extremes at both ends of the scale. Therefore, the ideal strategy is to aim for at least 4 stars, which will help to ensure that a majority of consumers feel they can trust (and buy from) your brand. It is also important to highlight that, from 3 stars to 2.5 stars, there is a sharp decline from 16% to just 3% of consumers who would be willing to use the brand.
How Can Your Business Improve its Star Rating?
If your rating is slightly lower than you’d like, don’t panic just yet: ultimately, consumers care more about review content than star ratings (which is why we often like to share tips on handling negative comments from reviewers). As we mentioned a little earlier, 75% of BrightLocal’s survey participants said that descriptions of positive experiences were most important to them, compared to the 58% who selected high star ratings. Likewise, a recent Yelp survey found that 97% of consumers prefer a short review (24%), medium review (59%), or long review (14%) as being “the most helpful,” compared to only 3% who preferred “star ratings only.”
With that in mind, it’s important to remember some of the other statistics we’ve covered and acknowledge the impact that star ratings have on consumer behavior — along with your bottom line. While consumers may prioritize comments over stars, ratings still play a major role in helping shoppers choose (or reject) brands. Here are three ways to help earn a higher star rating — and more business.
1. Ask for More Reviews
Data shows that “35% of consumers…left a review at least half of the times they were prompted to do so” by a business during a single year-long period. While you should never purchase or fabricate good reviews, which can lead to penalties (and bad publicity), you should proactively gather honest feedback by using an automated review generation service.
2. Provide a Thoughtful Reply to Every Rating
Data shows that consumers like to see review responses from business owners. But with no comments or details to work from, how can you craft a thoughtful response?
If the rating is positive, express enthusiastic gratitude and make sure the reviewer feels welcome to contact your team any time. If the rating is poor, apologize for the negative experience and encourage the reviewer to contact you for assistance. Regardless of whether the rating is positive or negative, you should offer thanks, encourage them to reach out to you directly, and, where possible, include the reviewer’s name and/or name of your business for extra personalization.
3. Work with a Review Reply Service
Don’t have time to write your own custom responses to each rating you or your client receives? Trust the experienced response scribes at Shout About Us to manage the task for you, ensuring that each rating receives a personalized reply within 24 hours.
Get Better Star Ratings with Our Custom Review Response Service for Digital Agencies
We work with digital agencies across a wide range of industries and verticals, providing your team with the resources to manage your clients’ reviews easily and efficiently. Brands that utilize our response scribe service see a rating increase from 3.9 stars to 4.6 stars on average, empowering your clients to reach a wider audience of customers.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.