Whether it’s fair or not for businesses, online reviews that are over a few months old have little value anymore for consumers. That’s one of the findings of the most recent survey from BrightLocal, an English citation-building company that has been surveying online reviews for years.
For medical practices, that means if you have a bunch of great reviews, but they were six months ago, they will likely be discounted in the consumer’s mind. In other words, what did you do for me lately, reviewers? This information makes it paramount to keep the reviews coming in.
The survey had lots of other interesting tidbits about trends in online reviews and how they are used.
The survey was titled BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Reviews Survey. This is the 2018 edition, and it surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults.
Here are some of the survey’s top tidbits:
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
- 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks (this increased from just 18% in 2017)
- 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 stars or more
- 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews
Everyone’s reading your reviews
With nearly 90% of people reading online reviews, it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of what they do with them. On to that in a minute. First, how are they reading them? These results could skew a little towards businesses where immediacy is key — restaurants, for instance — but more and more reviews are being read on mobile devices.
This does vary by age, however. For medical practices, this variation can be relevant, depending on what procedures you specialize in. For instance, laser tattoo removal would interest a far younger audience than a facelift.
Here’s how different ages read online reviews:
- 18-34-year-olds — 59% on personal computer, 58% on tablet, 71% on mobile browser, 51% on mobile app
- 35-54-year-olds — 64% on personal computer, 51% on tablet, 75% on mobile browser, 36% on mobile app
- 55+-year-olds — 78% on personal computer, 33% on tablet, 34% on mobile browser, 16% on mobile app
What reviews are they reading?
What online reviews are being read also varies by age, as you would expect. For instance, medical and healthcare isn’t in the top five for 18-34-year-olds. This makes sense as they are still in the stage of life where they don’t require much healthcare. As age rises, however, so do the numbers reading medical/healthcare reviews.
18-34-year-olds Top Five online review categories being read
- Restaurants = 57%
- Clothing stores = 40%
- Grocery stores = 40%
- Hotels/B&Bs = 37%
- Hair/beauty = 33%
35-54-year-olds Top Five online review categories being read
- Restaurants = 55%
- Hotels/B&Bs = 41%
- Medical/healthcare = 33%
- Grocery stores = 33%
- Clothing stores = 31%
55+-year-olds Top Five online review categories being read
- Restaurants = 82%
- Medical/healthcare = 43%
- Hotels/B&Bs = 39%
- Clothing stores = 33%
- Automotive services = 3%
Trust varies by age
Online reviews have come under scrutiny within the last couple of years, as reports of fake reviews have been in the news. People are receiving free goods in exchange for positive reviews; others are being paid to trash competitors. This has impacted the trust that people place in online reviews, but this again varies with age. Younger people trust them far more.
To this question, “Do you trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations?” there was serious variance by age. These are a couple of the response categories:
- Yes, always — 39% of 18-34-year-olds compared to 1% of 55+-year-olds
- Yes, for some types of businesses — 8% for 18-34-year-olds compared to 20% for 55+-year-olds
- No, I’m often skeptical about online reviews — 7% of 18-34-year-olds compared with 26% of 55+-year-olds
You can see that younger people trust online reviews more faithfully than older consumers. The fact that older people are more discriminating about reviews is probably good for medical practices. They are more skeptical overall toward online reviews, but not for certain businesses (probably where more research and interaction is involved, such as healthcare procedures) where they trust them more easily. Plus, multiple reviews make the older potential patients more comfortable with the reviews.
How recent are they?
The relevance of how recent the reviews were posted is increasing. These are the key findings about the age of the review:
- 85% of consumers think online reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant
- 40% of consumers only care about reviews submitted within the last two weeks (this jumped from only 18% in 2017, but may not be as relevant for healthcare decisions)
- 64% of 18-34-year-olds are only impacted by reviews from the past two weeks
Like them or not, online reviews are now critically important for decisions about all sorts of purchases, including medical/healthcare/beauty. As we’ve discussed in past blogs, it’s important for your practice to monitor your online reviews and to respond to them. This shows you are engaged as a practice and care about the outcomes your patients are sharing. It’s also important to have a continuous stream of reviews coming in.
If you have questions about the online reviews for your practice, simply ask your Advice Media representative.