Are favorable online reviews critical for retailers?
A new survey from BrightLocal shows online customer reviews are highly relevant to restaurants, but seem less so for other consumer businesses, including stores.
Asked which types of businesses they’ve read online reviews for, 60 percent of respondents indicated restaurants/cafes. Coming in second was hotel/B&B at 40 percent. Both business types appear to be getting a boost from the popularity of Yelp and TripAdvisor.
In the traditional retail space, 31 percent indicated they’ve read online reviews for clothing stores while 28 percent have read them for grocery stores. Medical/health care professionals and automotive services were also close to 30 percent. Near the bottom of the list were services such as pest control, builder/roofer, accountants and locksmith.
BrightLocal, a search engine optimization specialist, noted that the business types that consumers use more frequently naturally see more reviews and they’re read more often by consumers. But even for services not used as often, the ultimate purchasing decision can be strongly influenced by reviews.
Among a few of New York City’s popular stores, Macy’s Herald Square earned three stars from 1,221 reviews on Yelp. Also earning three stars on Yelp was Lord & Taylor and Century 21. Both Bloomingdale’s and Barneys New York’s flagship locations as well as Nordstrom Rack at Union Square earned 3.5 stars. Those earning 4.0 stars included Tiffany’s on 57th, Saks on Fifth Ave., Bergdorf Goodman and Uniqlo’s SoHo flagship.
Among grocers, Eataly earned four stars with 3,970 reviews. Among others heavily reviewed, Trader Joe’s busy Union Square location, FreshDirect and Fairway’s Upper East Side location all earned 3.5 stars.
The overall survey of 1,062 consumers done in September showed online reviews growing in popularity overall. Among the findings:
- Eighty-four percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation;
- Fifty-three percent of consumers search for local businesses at least one time per month, up from 43 percent in 2015;
- Only nine percent of consumers don’t read online reviews versus 29 percent in 2010, the first year BrightLocal conducted the survey.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should online customer reviews on third-party sites be as much of a priority for traditional retailers as for restaurants? How do you think online customer reviews work differently or the same for traditional retailers versus other business types?