Marketers understand the incredible impact that online reviews can have on their business and on the ability to bring in new customers. However, the world has entered into uncharted territory as consumer behavior rapidly evolved due to the pandemic—which begs the question: How have online reviews been impacted?
New survey research from multi-location businesses experience marketing platform Birdeye sought to understand the effects of the pandemic on online review generation and management, as well as the resulting takeaways for industries, such as retail, automotive, healthcare, and beauty and wellness.
Additional data uncovered in the firm’s 2021 report, The 2021 State of Online Reviews, found that:
- 45 percent of all review requests were sent through text messaging in 2020
- Retail businesses sent more review requests than any other industry in 2020
- In 2020, the average consumer open rate for review request emails was 69%
- The conversion rate for emailed review requests is 21 percent, and 30 percent for text messages
- Only 28 percent of reviews are currently responded to by businesses, across all industries
To secure online reviews, many marketers send out requests for reviews via email or text messages. While the pandemic required many businesses to close their storefronts, the overall review request numbers only decreased slightly. In 2020, the average business sent out 1.2 percent fewer review request emails and 4.6 percent fewer requests texts, per location, than they did in 2019. This shows that once businesses reopened, they generally picked right back up where they’d left off, highlighting the value of online reviews for businesses.
SMS vs Email: Which channel are businesses using?
“During the pandemic, we had to quickly shift our business strategy from in-house dining to offering curbside pickup,” said Carissa Newton, director of marketing at Cunningham Restaurant Group, in a news release. “We’re fortunate that many of our customers over the past year have left us reviews, in which they thanked us for the cleanliness and safety precautions we have provided during COVID. Those reviews helped our restaurants stay open, even when our foot traffic decreased.”
In the first three months of the pandemic, Google turned off its reviews to safeguard the online reputation of small businesses. Yet, even without those three months, the research uncovered Google’s disproportionate impact on reviews. According to the report, 67 percent of all reviews posted online are written on Google, and Google is quickly gaining traction on sites like Facebook and Yelp.
Where are reviews being written?
“The pandemic changed so many consumer behaviors that marketers naturally wondered if online review traffic would be impacted,” said Dave Lehman, president and COO of Birdeye, in the release. “Our report illustrates how much the marketing world has shifted in the digital age. Consumers will make their voices heard—even in the middle of unprecedented circumstances. Multi-location businesses have a real incentive to not only listen to their customers but actually understand them, connect with them and act.”
For its first annual report on the reviews economy, Birdeye analyzed its own customer data, comprised of 60,000-plus businesses.