It’s fair to say that 2020 was a year unlike any other that we’ve ever witnessed or lived through before. With COVID-19 closing many businesses around the world, customers suddenly found themselves having to use different ways to find the businesses they needed. Feeling able to trust a local business became more important than ever before with online reviews playing a key role in whether customers felt safe enough to use a business.
How do we know COVID-19 has impacted reviews?
Well, at the beginning of April last year, BrightLocal asked their users how the virus was impacting local businesses.
They heard of local businesses who were losing customers, pausing marketing or having to temporarily close. BrightLocal’s survey also found that;
- 28% of respondents searched for more local businesses – trying to find out which businesses were open nearby, which had additional measures in place such as curb side delivery, and which had sufficient measures in place to help their customers feel comfortable visiting.
- 31% read more reviews – again, probably due to trying to find the right businesses to visit/purchase from.
- 67% said they wouldn’t use a business if reviews said it didn’t have COVID-19 health and safety measures in place, showing that customers really do take the content of reviews seriously.
- 17% have written negative reviews for businesses that do not have health and safety measures in place for COVID-19. This statistic clearly demonstrates that those not taking steps to make customers feel safe could be opening themselves up to negative reviews that could, in turn, negatively impact customers opinion even long past the peak of the pandemic.
- 22% have written reviews to support local businesses that may have been struggling due to the pandemic. You may have seen Google’s high-budget advertising campaign which ran in the UK urging customers to support local businesses. It seems Google’s message has been taken to heart with customers responding and writing reviews for businesses they know, like, and trust.
How has this changed over the years?
We’ve known for a long time that reviews impact customers behaviour and, it appears, never more so than in a crisis. BrightLocal’s survey also compared and contrasted responses to three key questions from 2019 and 2020 as shown here:
|Positive reviews make me more likely to use a business||91%||97%
|Negative reviews make me less likely to use a business||82%||92%
|I trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends or family||76%||79%
…and what do customers do after reading a positive review? They:
- Visit the business’ website
- Search for more reviews to further validate their choice
- Visit the business’ location
- Continue searching for other businesses
- Contact the business
We’d also urge you to remember these key facts too – again from BrightLocal’s survey:
- 86% of customers only pay attention to reviews written in the last three months
- 73% of customers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month (up from 69% in 2019)
- 50% of customers only pay attention to reviews written in the past two weeks
This clearly shows that older reviews may get less of a look in among customers and have diminishing returns as time goes on. Whilst older reviews are far from worthless (to either readers or search engines) if customers don’t see recently posted reviews, they may not trust that their experience would match the previous reviewers. As we’ve said before, and we’ll continue to say, local businesses should aim to get a steady stream of reviews over time rather than making a big push and then forgetting to ask for further reviews later.
Reviews should be a part of your marketing strategy!