VendAsta is releasing its 2014 SMB Digital Marketing Benchmarks in a few weeks. A glimpse into the research on reviews illustrates the continuing trend with reviews and the opportunity it’s creating for SMB solution providers.

Online reviews are driving consumer decision making more than ever, and that means they are driving online conversion for local SMBs. The data is clear: 85% of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses — up from 76% in 2012 (2013 Local Consumer Review Survey), and 67% of consumers read six reviews or less. This usually means the most recent reviews will be the most important. Furthermore, about 88% have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision (Zendesk), emphasizing the importance of reviews with establishing customer trust.

Review Volumes are Rising

While the consumption of reviews continues to trend upwards, so does the creation of these posts. VendAsta’s measurement of 100,000 business locations shows that the average number of reviews written about the typical business has increased 81% from 2011 to 2013.

Selling Point #1: Business categories that receive a high number of reviews have a simple problem of keeping up with new customer comments. Given that the most recent 6 or so reviews are the most important, they must keep on top of new arrivals. A platform that helps businesses stay on top of all these sources and comments will help them boost customer confidence and improve conversion.

Despite Increase in Volume, Many Business Don’t Generate Enough Reviews

Contrary to the overall increase, the average number of reviews per business across all verticals still remains surprisingly low. Number of reviews per business varies greatly depending on the vertical and the market.
Selling Point # 2: These businesses with low review volumes face the reality that each review is very important, especially if readers tend to linger around the top half dozen on the list. With low volumes, overall rating drastically changes by a small number of negative reviews as well.

Selling Point #3: Some of the local search ranking factors listed by include the quanitity of reviews, the velocity of new reviews, the authority and the diversity of reviews. In short, generating reviews and generating positive reviews from a variety of sources aids your foundational search placement. This means from Financial Services to Retail, all local businesses could use some help making sure more of their customers leave reviews.

Shaping Customer Service with Online Reviews to Boost Conversion

We know that customer service is important but exactly how important is customer service and the overall experience? People Claim indicated 90% of consumers will not return or reuse a business if they had a negative experience, but a whopping 19 out of 20 consumers will return to a business if their issue was resolved quickly and efficiently. According to a 2013 survey by Zendesk, the impact of customer service, good or bad, is long lasting. More than two years after a positive customer service experience, about 24% of participants continued to change their buying behaviour. Negative customer service had even larger long term impacts, with about 39% of participants continuing to change their buying behaviours more than two years past a negative incident.

Selling Point #4: Online reviews contain a wealth of knowledge about what kind of experience the business is creating for its customers. Moreover, they contain a wealth of knowledge for business owners on how their employees are performing and highlight where some management efforts must be placed. Perhaps the most noteworthy selling point about online reviews is that they provide immediate feedback for business owners — something everyone is constantly seeking.

A World of Opportunities

We believe there is a huge opportunity for digital agencies to offer review monitoring and management products that can make it easy for SMBs to nurture their online reputation and promptly respond to and learn from consumer feedback.

Our extensive report, Digital Marketing Benchmarks 2014, delves into more detail on reviews, local business listings, SMB social media usage and websites. We’ll be releasing it in a few weeks — sign up below to be the first to receive it.

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