Corporate Eye

Local Marketing and the Effect of Online Consumer Reviews

local marketing business mapLocal marketing is becoming more competitive every day and online consumer reviews play a large part in motivating consumers to make purchase decisions. For the fourth year, BrightLocal conducted its annual Local Consumer Review survey and found that online consumer reviews are critical to small businesses and large businesses operating on a local level.

BrightLocal surveyed 5,000 consumers in its Local Consumer Panel with 2,104 people responding (90% from the U.S. and 10% from Canada). Overall, 57% of respondents search online for a local business more than six times per year, but 39% search online for local businesses at least once per month. Many consumers (15%) search for local businesses online almost every day.

As you might expect, all of this local business searching has increased each year, and online consumer reviews are used by nearly all of the respondents when making purchase decisions. In the last 12 months, nearly nine out of 10 (88%) of respondents had read reviews to gauge the quality of a local business before making a purchase. Furthermore, 39% of respondents read reviews on a regular basis. That’s a significant contrast to the small percentage (12%) who claim to never read online reviews.

All Online Consumer Reviews are Not Equal

Given the fact that so many consumers are taking the time to seek out and read online reviews about local businesses, it’s critical for all businesses that operate at a local level to increase the number of reviews published about their products and services. However, not all online consumer reviews are equal, and consumers know the difference.

Respondents to the BrightLocal survey are reading more online reviews this year than in the past in part because they need to confirm the validity of the reviews they read. In total, 67% of respondents reported that they read up to six reviews before they feel like they can trust a business but 85% read up to 10 reviews and 7% read more than 20 reviews. In other words, it takes a lot of consistent proof before consumers will trust the authenticity of the reviews published about your local business.

Taking a closer look at the data, 72% of survey respondents claim that reviews make them trust a local business more, and 88% claim that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Furthermore, consumers’ trust in online reviews is growing (up from 13% in 2013 to 21% in 2014). Nearly one in three consumers (32%) will trust a consumer review as much as a personal recommendation from someone they know as long as there are multiple positive reviews to read. Similarly, nearly one in three respondents (30%) will trust a consumer review as much as a personal recommendation as long as they believe that the review is authentic.

Bottom-line, online consumer reviews can lead directly to customer action and sales. Of the consumers who responded to the BrightLocal survey, 72% will take some kind of action after reading a positive online review about a local business while 57% will visit a local business website after they read a positive online review. It doesn’t matter if you’re marketing a brand for a local small business or a global company doing business at a local level, online consumer reviews can have a significant effect on awareness, reputation, and sales. Prioritize them!

Image: Vicchi licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.