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29th December, 2010: Small Businesses and Consumers

New Survey Reveals Heavy Use of Online Ratings Web Sites
Among Small Business Owners and Consumers

Concerns about the reliability and trustworthiness of current resources

NEW YORK, NY – October 15, 2009 – The vast majority of small business owners and consumers are active users of review and ratings Web sites for various professional and personal reasons, according to a new survey. More than 90 percent of small business owners polled and 80 percent of consumers surveyed engage in some kind of activity on review and ratings Web sites, but respondents revealed significant concerns about the reliability and trustworthiness of current resources.

The 2009 Online Ratings Survey was commissioned by LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell®, a leading global provider of ratings services for the legal community. The survey is the first of its kind to examine the general use, attitudes, and experience in using review and ratings sites among small business owners and consumers.

Patterns of Usage Among Respondents 82 percent of small business owners surveyed use review and ratings Web sites for a variety of professional and personal reasons including: legal needs, travel/tourism, local interest/activities, food service/restaurant, trade and medical needs; whereas only 49 percent of consumers said they use review and ratings Web sites for the same reasons.

PATTERNS OF USAGE AMONG RESPONDENTS
Of the various professional and personal review and ratings Web sites in the market today – from travel and medical to food service and local interest, small business owners are heavier users of review and ratings Web sites than consumers. Additionally, small business owners are significantly more actively engaged than consumers:

  • 82 percent of small business owners surveyed use review and ratings Web sites for a variety of professional and personal reasons including: legal needs, travel/tourism, local interest/activities, food service/restaurant, trade and medical needs; whereas only 49 percent of consumers said they use review and ratings Web sites for the same reasons.
  • 87 percent of small business owners surveyed have provided feedback on review and ratings Web sites, only 63 percent of consumers said they have engaged in the same action.

PERCEIVED VALUE AND ADVANTAGES OF CURRENT RESOURCES
According to the survey results, small business owners place a greater value on ratings and review Web sites than consumers.

  • 57 percent of small business owners find review and ratings Web sites useful when making purchasing decisions, compared to 41 percent of consumers.
    More than half of small business owners agreed that ratings Web sites give customers even more control over the quality of goods and services – and 40 percent of consumers agreed.
  • More than half of small business owners also agreed that review and rating Web sites mean businesses are held to higher standards – whereas 43 percent of consumers agreed.

Small business owners and consumers alike see many advantages of review and ratings Web sites, from customer testimonials to easy access of information. Advantages include:

  • Allowing customers to share their own experiences (85 percent of small business owner respondents, 82 percent of consumer respondents)
  • Giving users access to customer testimonials (72 percent of small business owner respondents, 67 percent of consumer respondents)
  • Comparisons across different goods or services (68 percent of small business owner respondents)
  • Providing information in addition to ratings and reviews (63 percent of consumer respondents)

Review and ratings Web sites are being used to a greater extent than ever before to inform buying decisions,” said Alfredo Sciascia, a vice president with LexisNexis. “Ratings offer consumers valuable insight into a wide range of goods and services, and they can be a powerful tool used by business owners to differentiate their goods and services from those offered by competitors.”

RELIABILITY AND TRUST IN QUESTION
Although usage of ratings and review Web sites is high among consumers and small business owners, according to the survey, the reliability of current resources is an issue among respondents.

  • 60 percent of small business owners and consumers surveyed agree that ratings Web sites can be easily biased by very positive or very negative reviews.
  • 53 percent of consumers surveyed said they believe ratings from actual customers to be most trustworthy.

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