Consumer study: People’s behaviour on online reviews

Customer reviews and overall e-reputation are now strategic issues for companies in all sectors. 70% of Internet users refer to online reviews before visiting an establishment because they want to be sure to make the best choice.

To understand the behavior of Internet users regarding customer reviews and their interactions with local establishments, Partoo joined forces with the independent firm Happydemics for an exclusive study on a panel of 1,100 respondents aged 18 to 64. Here are the results of the survey.

How consumers read and write reviews on the Internet

  • 70% of internet users read reviews of establishments they intend to visit in the future
  • 33% of users publish at least 1 review per month for an establishment
  • 60% of consumers believe that a rating of less than 3.5/5 is a deterrent to visiting an establishment

For several years now, reading reviews before visiting an establishment has become a habit for Internet users. This trend is even more prominent among the youngest respondents (18-24 years old), more than 25% of whom systematically analyse reviews of an establishment before deciding to visit it.

In addition to reading reviews, there is a significant growth of Internet users leaving reviews after having visited a local establishment. This is again seen in younger users habits when it comes to posting reviews. In fact, 14% of them write more than 10 reviews per month on local establishments.

It is not surprising to discover that the same group has the highest standards when it comes to ratings online. Compared to overall score of 60% of Internet users who reported that they don’t visit establishments with a rating of 3.5/5, 20% of them still declare that they wouldn’t visit businesses with a rating of less than 4.5!

Which types of businesses do consumers place the most importance on reviews?

Overall, reviews are very important for all industries. However, they are most useful for industries such as leisure and medical.

Here are the main activities where reviews play a role in consumers’ decision-making processes:

  • Bars and restaurants: 23% of consumers believe this is the sector where reviews matter most
  • Hotels and temporary accommodation (14%)
  • Health establishments (13%)

It goes without saying that restaurants full under the most popular sector for reviews, picking a gem amongst stones comes with good research, in the form of referrals. It is the 25-34 year olds who read the most reviews of this type of establishment (62%), whereas older groups value reviews for hotels (35% of 55-64 year olds), this explained by level of income and luxury to travel more.

Reviews also play an important role in the health sector, especially among 25-34 year olds. Today, we see more young people invested in their own health, and in search of the best health professional, which may not be the “family doctor”. They take to the internet to find a new and trusted practitioner to whom to entrust their medical file with.

What Internet users look for in customer reviews

For algorithms such as Google’s, the frequency, average rating and quality of reviews are decisive in highlighting a local establishment in a search result.

But what about Internet users? What do they look at first when they read reviews?

  • 24% of internet users read recent internet reviews first
  • 15% of consumers look at relevant reviews first
  • Reading negative reviews is a priority for only 12% of users
  • 93% of Internet users consult owners’ responses to negative reviews
  • 68% of respondents say they are prepared to change their minds about a place, based on the staff response

In general, Internet users want to be the most prepared when it comes to what to expect in an establishment. This is why 53% of Internet users say they consult the most recent customer reviews on a business. This is true for all age groups.

Relevant reviews, i.e. those that are given the most prominence by the algorithms of search engines such as Google and that contain the most keywords, are consulted most frequently by Internet users (41%). This is mainly due to the fact that they appear first when people want to consult reviews.

Even though they are consulted by 39% of Internet users, negative reviews are not the reviews that Internet users read first. We explain these figures by the fact that users are now aware that an establishment cannot please all its customers and that it is therefore normal for it to have negative reviews.

What matters in this case is the response given by the owners to these negative reviews. It is worth noting that if 93% of users have read the responses of establishments to negative reviews at least once, 45% always read them before deciding whether to go to a sales outlet.

In the same vein, consumers are aware that it is difficult to run an establishment. This is why 68% of them say they are indulgent and would even be prepared to change their negative review to a positive one if the business manager responded appropriately.

The most effective methods for collecting reviews

  • 46% of respondents believe that soliciting a salesperson is an effective method of collecting reviews
  • 27% of consumers say that SMS is a useful technique for collecting reviews
  • 18% of respondents think that QR codes are a good way to request reviews

Overall, internet users prefer the least invasive methods of collecting reviews. It is therefore no surprise that 35% of respondents believe that an oral request from a salesperson is the most effective method of collecting feedback. In practice, oral requests alone result in few reviews being submitted, as customers forget as soon as they leave the establishment or some even do not know how to do so.

This is why it is preferable to combine this oral request with collection methods that facilitate collection, such as SMS or QR codes. These make it possible to go directly to the opinion space of a Google listing, for example. This explains why QR codes are widely used to request reviews, especially if the target audience is young.

In addition to collecting reviews, using QR codes is becoming a habit for people all over the world. They have even become essential in certain sectors such as the restaurant industry, where guests can order and pay via a QR code. It is easy to imagine that the next move will be the collection of reviews through QR code will be the next step for digitalisation of an establishment’s reputation.

Internet users’ preferred means of communication with establishments

Information requests on products, opening times, and scheduled appointments have significantly increased since the arrival of COVID . More Internet users are opting to contact the store ahead of their trip, to avoid any disappointment of not finding what they in search for. Let’s see how users reach businesses.

  • 33% of internet users frequently contact for booking and appointment purposes
  • 31% of respondents contact local businesses for order follow-up
  • 32% use email as their main channel of communication with a local business
  • The telephone is used by 31% of Internet users to request information
  • 49% of instant messenger users say they prefer to use the company’s website to talk to them

Generally speaking, Internet users contact local businesses in order to make a purchase. In fact, despite preconceptions, after-sales service is only a reason to contact a quarter of respondents (25%).

Another interesting fact: many Internet users still use so-called “traditional” communication channels to contact businesses on the Internet. This is particularly true for the 45-54 year olds, 41% of whom prefer email. However, there has been a strong increase in the use of messages, which were not used much in recent years but which are becoming an essential communication channel, especially among 24-35 year olds. Thus, 26% of young respondents say they communicate mainly via message or chat.

Finally, message users still communicate mainly via chatbots present on company websites. SMS as well as instant messaging applications such as Messenger, Google Messages or WhatsApp are used by nearly 30% of Internet users and will certainly grow in importance in the years to come.

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To summarise

Customer reviews remain a decisive lever for businesses as they allow Internet users to form an opinion on the establishments they wish to visit. In addition to reading reviews, many users post reviews at least once a month, with this proportion increasing significantly among the younger respondents.

Contrary to popular belief, negative reviews are not the ones that Internet users read first. However, the response to a negative review remains a determining factor in the choice of an establishment. Internet users are now more indulgent and a large majority are even prepared to change a negative review into a positive one if the establishment gives a constructive response.

Lastly, Internet users contact companies mainly to make an appointment or follow up an order. Although traditional communication channels (email and telephone) remain the majority, young people mainly use messages or chat to talk to a sales outlet. These exchanges are mainly done on company websites via chatbots, but instant messengers such as Google, Facebook or WhatsApp are also widely used by users.

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By Andile Khuzwayo

Content Creator

Heading Marketing expansion efforts in the EMEA region. Andile holds a Masters degree in International Business Management, with 8 years in Marketing and Events, the mission is clear, to help businesses get closer to their clients.
Heading Marketing expansion efforts in the EMEA region. Andile holds a Masters degree in International Business Management, with 8 years in Marketing and Events, the mission is clear, to help businesses get closer to their clients.

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