As we reported in our weekly retail round up earlier this week, online reviews have taken on new significance and challenges for retailers ahead of the New Year.

The latest findings of BrightLocal’s Annual Consumer Review study has confirmed that review importance has edged up, with 91% of all shoppers now trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend, family member or co-worker. While this is a huge majority, it’s not the most interesting or notable finding of this year’s survey.

That honour goes to the conclusion that 40% of consumers now only take into account reviews for merchants that were written in the last two weeks – an increase of 18% from last year.  That figure is markedly higher for younger shoppers, with 64% of 18-34 year olds saying they only factor in reviews up to 14 days old when making a purchase decision. A total of 85% of consumers overall consider reviews older than three months to be irrelevant.

Another notable finding to emerge from this year’s research is that 89% of consumers also read the business response to their online reviews.

These findings pose a series of interesting questions for retailers, chief amongst them are:

  • Are you doing enough to encourage shoppers to leave a review for your business?
  • Are you responding quickly enough and in the right way when a review is received
  • Are you receiving enough reviews to meet the two week threshold?

Consumers need to read around 10 reviews before they feel they can trust a business which means retailers must gather a large volume of new reviews on a regular basis to meet the expectations and requirements of the increasingly savvy consumer.

The findings also show that a minimum four star rating is needed to persuade a shopper to buy from you.

Many retailers don’t just focus on obtaining reviews of their brand as a whole but increasingly solicit reviews at product level too. The data from the 2019 Annual Consumer Review Survey shows that this needs to be carefully managed so as not to impede the collection of brand-level reviews which shoppers need to feel trust in a retailer.

For success in 2019, it’s crucial to have a review and reputation management strategy in place. If you aren’t already gathering a respectable number of reviews each day, new strategies and tactics to do so should be a priority going into the New Year.