Joint Study from SOCi and the Local Search Association Finds Online Reputation Is More Important than Businesses Believe

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New Research Details How Consumer Purchase Habits Are Affected by Reviews, Reputation, and Response

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“These findings reinforce what we have asserted all along: that online reputation is imperative to business success, particularly for multi-location businesses,” said Monica Ho, CMO of SOCi.

SOCi, the leader in social media and reputation management for multi-location brands, today announced the findings of a joint research study in partnership with the Local Search Association (LSA). The study, conducted in August 2018, aimed to uncover the current gap between consumer usage of social media, ratings, and reviews and businesses’ understanding of and engagement with their online reputations. Two parallel surveys were fielded: one asking nearly 400 consumers about ratings and review usage; the other asking 315 local businesses about their perceptions of how consumers evaluated them.

According to survey findings, online reputation is more important than businesses believe: 39% of businesses reported not recognizing that online reputations strongly influence consumer decision-making, yet 66% of all consumers indicated they conduct this type of pre-purchase research every or almost every time before buying a product or service. More than 80% of 18- to 35-year-olds indicated doing the same, showing younger generations are even more invested in understanding a company’s reputation prior to purchase.

Importantly, positive online ratings/reviews are the main purchase consideration compared to any other type of information or sources factoring into a consumer decision. To decide which business to visit, respondents are almost 46% more likely to consider this information above and beyond more traditional factors like location and travel distance, discounts, and promotions.

“These findings reinforce what we have asserted all along: that online reputation is imperative to business success, particularly for multi-location businesses,” said Monica Ho, CMO of SOCi. “It is crucial that companies today are aware of their digital reputation and take a proactive approach to managing it. Otherwise, it is a missed opportunity as they are not only losing out on potential new customers but also, by ignoring reviews and online customer feedback, they lose potentially valuable information to improve operations and the overall customer experience.”

The research details how important the type of research customers are doing is as well. Seven out of 10 consumers who conduct pre-purchase research also read reviews every time/almost every time they make a purchase decision. Top sites where consumers actually wrote these reviews include Google (41%), Facebook (41%), Yelp (25%), travel sites like TripAdvisor (22%), and Amazon (21%). Other important factors include star reviews with 54% of consumers reporting they like to see at least four stars to consider a business and more than half of these potential customers having passed on a business for lack of stars.

“Most businesses generally understand that consumers rely on reviews in making purchase decisions, but there are critical areas where that falls short,” said Greg Sterling, VP of strategy and insights at the LSA. “For example, businesses assume consumers don’t require as many stars as they actually do to consider a business; they also don’t understand how quickly they should respond to reviews. And half of businesses also have no reviews strategy, which means lost visibility and revenue.”

In the joint study, 77% of consumers leaving reviews expect a business to respond to their feedback (40% of customers expect a response to a review immediately or within 24 hours). With a proactive and timely review management process, businesses have the potential to turn negative reviews and experiences into positive ones. Almost nine out of 10 consumers would be willing to change a negative review depending on the business’ response to their criticism.

For more information and full survey results, please visit https://www.meetsoci.com/resource-the-great-conversational-divide/.

About SOCi
#60 on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America, SOCi is the leading social media and reputation management platform built to address the complex needs of highly visible Multi-Location businesses. An award-winning leader in the industry, SOCi has pioneered more than a dozen unique marketing tools to help multi-location brands oversee, maintain, and protect their brand at the national level, while simultaneously scaling presence across hundreds, sometimes thousands, of local pages. For more information on how SOCi can fuel the success of your social media channels while protecting what matters most--your online reputation--visit http://www.meetsoci.com.

About LSA
The Local Search Association (LSA) is a not-for-profit industry association of media companies, agencies and technology providers who help businesses market to local consumers. LSA has about 300 members in roughly 20 countries and the Association helps these members realize the power of local and location-based marketing and commerce through conferences, consulting, insights, advocacy and more.

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Michelle Franco
SOCi
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