To coincide with the release of a new tool to help business owners obtain customer reviews Yodle has released survey data about SMB attitudes toward reviews. Yodle conducted the survey among 300 US small businesses in December using a third party research firm.
The majority of these firms polled fell within the 1 – 5 headcount range; 98% had fewer than 10 employees. Note: the sample size is relatively small and no single survey can be taken as entirely reflective of the market. Having said that there are a number of very interesting and seemingly conflicting findings.
Half of these SMB respondents thought that online reviews were very important or important to their businesses. The other half did not see the importance of reviews. Yet 78% overall appeared to care if they received negative online reviews.
Despite this concern, 69% of the survey respondents said they spent no time (that’s 0 hours per month) monitoring online reviews about their businesses.
Most respondents said that review sites specific to their industry (e.g., TripAdvisor in travel) were most important. By comparison, Yelp was not considered as important as Facebook, Google or even AngiesList.
Asked about whether they actively solicited reviews from their customers, 87% said no. The reasons, 68% said, were either that they hadn’t thought about asking for reviews or felt that it was inappropriate.
A large majority (79%) of these SMBs said that they received no reviews or don’t know if they get reviews online in any given month. A much smaller 19% reported they get between 1 – 5 reviews online per month. These figures are largely based on perception since most of these folks don’t actively monitor.
Among the small minority of respondents who do ask their customers to review them, most simply asked their customers in person. The other widely used method was email. Only 10% reported working with any sort of vendor. Roughly 14% wound up posting reviews on their websites.
Of the 20% of business owners in the survey who said they respond to reviews, 77% responded to all reviews. A much smaller number (10%) responded only to negative reviews.
Here’s an interesting finding and may be partly the result of all the negative PR around Yelp’s review filter: most business owners in the survey assumed review sites favored advertisers. The basis of their perceptions of favoritism weren’t explored.
Half of all respondents believed that online reviews negatively impacted them (SMBs) more than larger enterprises. That’s an accurate perception I would say.
There was also a sense among a substantial minority (43%) of respondents that at least some percentage of online reviews were not left by actual customers. These people believe that some of these allegedly fake reviews are being left by competitors or former friends and employees.
Another paradox: 96% of these survey respondents felt that their businesses had NOT been impacted by negative reviews. They’re concerned about negative reviews, yet they say that negative reviews had not hurt them.
Finally Yodle asked these SMBs how effective or important positive reviews were in driving business vs. other marketing tactics and channels. What the chart below indicates to me, rather than actual ROI, is confusion about the relative importance of all these channels and uncertainty about where to place bets from a marketing standpoint.
This survey is very interesting in part because, as mentioned, it reflects a lot of confusion, uncertainty and ambivalence about online reviews and online marketing in general. The metaphor for all of of that is the conflicting finding that while 78% said they cared about negative online reviews, 69% spent no time monitoring reviews about their businesses.
What do you think of these survey data and what they reflect about the SMB mentality regarding online reviews or online marketing more broadly?