Mike and Mary discuss the consumers' propensity to leave review, how it has changed over time & how to maximize these reviews.
This is our Deep Dive Into Local from April 10, 2017. In our Deep Dive series, we take a closer look at one thing in local that caught our attention and deserves a longer discussion.
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Research and charts: How Willing are US consumers to leave reviews?
Mike: Hi. Welcome to the Deep Dive into Local with Mike & Mary. This week we are going to be speaking about consumers' propensity to leave reviews and how that's changing over time. Why don't you kick it off, Mary?
Mary: Yes. I'm going to reference an article that Barry Schwartz wrote that talks about how Google is now testing, placing the number of reviews a reviewer has left right at the top of the review with their name. And I'm not sure what Google's trying to convey with that number. Are more reviews by a reviewer better? You know, of course, it makes me think about spammers and how spammers leave many, many, many reviews, professional spammers do and how they will have huge numbers. And I know that you've been doing some research lately, you know, kind of continuing your research on consumer attitudes towards reviews.
Mike: Right. So I, since July of 2014 have run a survey, a Google consumer survey, which basically delivers these questions to a statistically representative sample of American U.S. adult, internet users. And they typically have asked for at least 2,000 responses and sometimes as many as 3,000. So have a very large sample with a very small margin of error. And over the four, you know, basically, the three years I've been running the survey, running July 2014, November 2014, August 2015, and just this past week, well, what I'm seeing is that some big shifts in consumer with self-reported attitudes towards the reviews.
Firstly, people who said they never leave a review has dropped consistently over the last three, two-and-a-half years from 58% in 2014 said they never left a review, to today, only 32% are saying they never left a review. So in other words, literally cut in half, that's part of the public that never leaves reviews.
Those that rarely leave reviews, in other words, less than one a year, increased from 20% to 25%. But that wasn't as significant as both the occasional and the frequent categories. Occasional users which leave between one and five reviews a year has increased over that timeframe from 15.7% to 29.3%, again, almost doubling. And those people that reported frequently, more than six a year, also doubled from 6.8% to almost 13.7%.
Now, in that frequent category, I even have more granular data about people who leave them very frequently. And effectively, the average consumer in 2014 was leaving 1.2 reviews and in 2017 is leaving somewhere on the order of 2.5 a year on the average. But in these highly active groups, like the frequent group, they have increased dramatically from, you know, say, 0.7 to 1.4. So they're leaving, those users, that small percentage of users, 14%, are leaving the bulk of reviews for the most part, and then the occasional snacks. So it's a dramatic shift in consumer behaviors. What do you think? I mean...
Mary: Well, I know that whenever I travel somewhere, when I get back I start getting all kinds of messages prompting me. I get them from hotels.com because I made my booking on hotels.com. I get them from Google because Google knows where I was. I get them from Yelp because I searched for things on the internet. So I think that an awful lot of that is because different platforms are prompting us to leave reviews, they are asking us. And they seem to have a way of easing people into it. Like they'll ask for a star rating sometimes rather than a whole review. And if they get the star rating then they'll say, "Will you give me your review?" They'll actually keep pushing you to leave more reviews as long as you will keep leaving them.
Mike: Right. So certainly, even Facebook, they are, we're now seeing in the stream that if they have knowledge of a visit that you made to a business, because maybe you checked in, they will frequently suggest in the stream that you leave a review. It's a very powerful...
Mary: Yes, so this is something I think small businesses need to be very, very aware of is that even if you're not asking for reviews, all these other platforms are asking.
Mike: And certainly, as you mentioned earlier, in the case of companies like at GetFiveStars and a number of others, BirdEye and Podium, etc. So many, many businesses are asking for reviews. So there it's being driven at the point of transaction as well. And I'm sure that has some impact.
And then I think consumers are just finally, after all these years, getting significantly more comfortable with leaving reviews and whether it was driven by the ask from the platforms, or the ask from the merchant, or whether it was driven by their desire to share this more publicly. But also, I think as the younger demographics move up, over the last three or four years, those people started out being comfortable with reviews, and so they're influencing -- they are now, you know, falling into older cohorts and influencing their behaviors or are carrying forward. So I think there's both an aging out of consumers who are less likely to leave a review and those who are more likely. And it just seems that people appreciate reviews and want to participate in that. So I think it's all those things kind of driving towards what I see as a dramatic change in a fairly short period of time in consumer behavior.
Mary: Yes. I think it's a pretty dramatic change. What is the, like, bottom line number from 2014 to now?
Mike: At that point, 60% said they never leave a review and today only 32% say they never leave a review. So now, that's basically switched.
Mike: We're now at a point, 69% are now leaving reviews and before it was 58% weren't, And even more importantly, 44% are leaving reviews occasionally and frequently. So half of the reviewers in the world ... or half of the people in the world are leaving reviews with a high degree of frequency.
Mary: And, you know, Google is rewarding people for leaving reviews. First, prompting them to leave reviews and then giving them some little stuff for leaving reviews, kind of incentivizing review behavior.
Mike: So right. So that forty something percent that are occasionally/frequently compares to almost just slightly over 20% four years ago. And in Google's local guide programs, as you pointed out, they've expanded that in the form of gameification, that they invite you into the program even if you've only left a couple reviews.
Mike: And then they encourage you through the gameification to both participate in map edits, to upload photos and leave reviews. So they're trying to create a stronger pool. And I think that, you know, when I think about it, that program in the hands of Google with their reach could be one of the largest contributing factors to this increased propensity.
Mary: Yes, I agree. The fact that, you know, Google's asking them for their opinion.
Mike: And encouraging them through gameification, and if you get into this game, you could win a trip to Mountain View, you can win a T-shirt, you get free storage. So there's that and they're asking them as part of this process. So once you leave one or you add one photo, you're in their funnel for increased reviews.
Mary: And Google knows more about their local guides than they know about a lot of people, which makes their reviews a little more trustworthy.
Mike: Right. Yes. So, you know, the question I asked: "After purchasing from a local business, I will take the time to leave an online review for that business --never, rarely, occasionally, frequently, or very frequently." And it's on every one of those categories we're seeing a very consistent timeline that indicates that the general American adult consuming public is leaving more reviews. I think I might want to run this in both Canada and/or England to get a baseline there as well to just see how different it is.
Mary: That'll be very interesting, Yes.
Mike: Anything else on our deep dive?
Mary: I don't think so.
Mike: Well, we'll call it a wrap. Thanks for joining us and as a reminder, this is available both as a video with a transcription on our blog and as a podcast. We'll talk to you later. Thanks again.
Mary: Thanks, Mike. Bye.