Study: Consumer-written reviews matter — a lot

Just how important are those little consumer reviews that get tacked onto listings for local service providers? More than you might think, if new research by The Kelsey Group and comScore is on target.  Consumers are willing to pay at least 20 percent more for services like medical, restaurants, hotel and legal services that get a five-star “Excellent” rating than for services getting a mere four stars, according to Kelsey and comScore. Not only that, consumers who read reviews are  more likely to buy; 41 percent of restaurant review readers (and 40 percent of hotel review readers) actually did business with the referenced merchant after their research.

If I were marketing a local service, these stats would convince me to kick off a review-generating initiative (an e-mail inquiry to existing customers, perhaps?) and tout my best results. Even allowing for the fact that some would inevitably be unflattering–some people will kvetch no matter how good you are–it seems to me that the potential gains outweigh the risks. For one thing, you’ll have a better idea of what they’re saying about you out there–that’s extremely valuable on its own.  And you’ll also get your hands dirty in local-search marketing, a sector everyone will need to understand in the future.

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