People are increasingly turning to online reviews before buying. They will, for example, check what experts have said about the latest gadgets before purchasing, check out pictures and comments on holiday destinations and read what other consumers wrote about a restaurant before booking.

It has never been as easy to access reviews with so many available online. Consumers have access to thousands of reviews via sites such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, Trustpilot, and TripAdvisor just to name a few. With so many online sources for reviews, where are Canadian consumers most likely to go for reviews?

This report includes statistical insights into consumer behaviour when reading reviews in Canada. It also highlights trends that can help marketers develop strategic approaches to managing their online reviews, customer feedback, and importantly, their reputation.

Online Review Statistics for Canadians

  • Google is the most popular site for reviews with 63.6% of consumers using Google before any other review or search engine.
  • 88% of online reviews come from four sites, with Google being the front runner.
  • Review interaction grew by 50% during the pandemic.
  • 68% of Canadian consumers have avoided a company after reading negative reviews.
  • 2 – 4.5 out of five is the best star rating to attract customers.
  • 70% of consumers will tell friends and family about a negative experience.
  • 92% of Canadians will use a company they trust, even if their prices are higher.
  • Nine out of ten consumers will read at least one review before making purchasing decisions.
  • 33% of consumers in Canada say they feel strongly influenced by online reviews.
  • 43% of shoppers say they trust written reviews more than images or video.

What is the most popular review site?

63.6% of consumers say they check Google reviews before visiting a business in person. The second most popular is Yelp with 45.18%. TripAdvisor and Facebook place third and fourth.

Much of Google’s review growth comes from so-called zero-click searches. Zero-click searches are queries where you are not sent to a third party website from the organic search result. Instead, Google shows the user star ratings and snippets of reviews without having to send them to another website. Google’s zero-click searchers grew to 65% in 2020.

Almost nine out of ten reviews come from four review sites

According to data from ReviewTrackers, four sites dominate the distribution of reviews, with 88% of them coming from Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Tripadvisor. Google is the most powerful review site with 73% of all reviews. Yelp comes second with 6%, Facebook and Tripadvisor both distribute 3% of the reviews.

Review interaction grew during the pandemic

Research shows that interactions such as searching and filtering reviews, and clicking to expand and read the whole review grew by 50% during the pandemic. This growth shows consumers’ increased desire to know what they were getting before parting with their money.

Brands cannot control reviews written by users. However, they can be proactive and ensure information published on directories and review sites is accurate. For example, a common complaint is that a customer had gone to a store after checking opening hours on a search engine but found the store closed. Keeping information such as opening hours up-to-date does not take long, but can reduce negative reviews.

The average review is the length of an extended tweet

Online reviews are now 65% shorter than in 2010 when the average review was 600 characters. Now, the average review is just over 200 characters. The most read reviews are to the point descriptions of the goods and services received.

Some platforms have also implemented an ever quicker way to review with a thumbs-up / thumbs-down rating system. With these types of systems, people can review a business with one click. It also allows others quickly to assess whether it is worth even checking out the reviews.

Companies need to get better at responding to reviews

How a company reacts to reviews has a direct impact on the brand’s reputation. It can weigh as much as what the reviewer said. Companies should respond to both negative and positive feedback from customers.

There is a gap between what customers expect and what actually happens with responses. 55% of consumers expect companies to reply to negative reviews within a week. A third of consumers would prefer to receive a response within three days or less. However, 63% of consumers have experienced at least one occasion when the company never responded.

Almost 70% of consumers have avoided a company after reading a bad review

68% of Canadian consumers say they have avoided buying from or booking with a company after reading negative reviews. However, all is not lost when a company receives a negative review. By responding to it, a company can win some customers back. 45% of consumers will still visit a business if it responds to negative reviews with suggestions on how to rectify the situation.

People aged between 45 and 49 years are most likely to avoid a company after reading negative reviews. Geographically, Atlantic Canadians are most likely to be put off by bad reviews.

Companies that respond to reviews get higher ratings

According to ReviewTrackers’ analysis, which included online review statistics from over 48,000 business locations, the top 10% of brands respond faster and more consistently than average. This had a direct positive impact on their rating.

For example, they found that a leading company in the automotive industry had an average response time of 1.04 days compared to 8.8 days, which was the industry average. The leading company had a rating of 4.31 compared to the industry average of 3.92.

Seven out of ten consumers will tell friends and family about a negative experience

Customers increasingly demand greater value from businesses and when they are left disappointed, they are not keeping it to themselves. 70% of consumers say they will advise friends and family against buying a service or a product from a company following a negative experience. 18% of consumers will also share their views on social media.

Consumers trust companies with both negative and positive reviews more

Companies with only glowing reviews are seen as potentially fake, while those that have a mix of positive and negative feedback are more likely to be seen as honest. According to Ipsos, 92% of Canadians will use businesses they trust even if they have to pay a higher price.

This highlights the fact that people seek authentic feedback, which often includes imperfect reviews and ratings. A survey published by The Drum, found that 80% of Canadian consumers look for authentic reviews and 81% of them want to trust the reviews. However, 78% also said they would like to see companies taking more transparent action to ensure their reviews are honest.

According to an article published by PCMag, as much as 39% of all online reviews are not reliable. Clothing reviews were the worst, with almost half (46.2%) of all reviews being fake followed by home decor with 45.6%. Book reviews were the most reliable, with only 22.9% fake or unreliable reviews.

Ratings between 4.2 and 4.5 out of five are the most influential

Not having a perfect score is better, as it is considered more authentic. When consumers see only perfect scores for a company, they are likely to question the authenticity of the reviews. Therefore, companies should not worry overtly about getting less than perfect reviews, but should focus more on how and how quickly they respond.

According to Retail Insider, Canadian consumers spend 31% more on companies with excellent ratings while as few as four negative reviews can lower sales by 70%.

Consumers avoid companies with less than 4 stars

Consumers make decisions based on the star ratings given to companies and are likely to not trust a company with less than four stars. 70% of consumers say they use rating filters regularly when searching for businesses. Based on online review statistics, the most common filter is to see businesses with four stars or higher.

In addition, a survey by Statista found that 3.3 star rating is the minimum that most consumers will engage with and only 13% of consumers will consider buying from a company that has a one or two star rating.

Over 90% of consumers read at least one review before making a purchase

91% of consumers are likely to read at least one review before making a decision, while 36.4% will read between one and three reviews. Almost a third (31%) of the consumers said they read between four and six reviews before they commit to a purchase.

23.7% say they read over seven reviews and 14.6% are likely to read over ten reviews. Only 8.6% of consumers say they don’t read any reviews.

Most people only read the latest reviews

Most consumers, at 73%, only read reviews that were written within the last month, according to a survey by BrightLocal. The percentage of people reading reviews that are less than three months old is 85%.

About 50% of the respondents said they only read reviews from the past two weeks. People in this group didn’t see older reviews as reflective of a company’s current services or products.

The percentage of Canadian consumers who say that outdated reviews have no impact on their decisions is 61.6%. Only 8% of the consumers who read reviews will be influenced by a review older than three months.

Over 90% of restaurant customers read reviews before visiting

93% of consumers are likely to read restaurant reviews before visiting or ordering food from them, making it the most review focused industry.

The second most popular industry where people read reviews before committing was the hotel industry with 90%. Medical and healthcare institution reviews were read by 89% before visiting, followed by automotive services and clothing stores with 87% each.

Over a third of Canadians feel reviews influence their shopping choices

According to Statista, 37.33% of Canadians say they feel strongly influenced by reviews when making their shopping choices. In the survey conducted between 2018 and 2019 that involved over 30,000 respondents aged fourteen or over, 31.53% of respondents said they were neutral and 31.11% said reviews had no influence on them at all.

Younger people are most likely to trust online reviews with 91% of 18-34-year-olds saying they trust reviews online as much as personal recommendations.

Written reviews are more influential than video and images

According to findings published by Yotpo, 43% of shoppers trust written reviews more than video or images. Even though images and video are popular in both online advertising and reviews, only 33% of Canadian consumers say they trust photos and 24% trust videos.

How to spot fake reviews?

If you suspect a review is fake, there are a few things you can check for. If there is no profile information for the reviewer or there are lots of reviews by them, the review could be generated by a computerized spam persona.

It is more likely to be fake if there are links to other websites or products. The same review might also be repeated as new reviews for other companies and they may be in a different language or use misleading vocabulary. Potential fake reviews can be reported to the platform administrators who will review it and remove it if confirmed fake.

Conclusion

With nine-tenths of Canadian consumers reading at least one online review and seven-tenths saying they have avoided purchasing services or products after reading a negative review, a brand’s reputation is very much affected by their online reviews.

While companies with perfect ratings and only positive reviews are seen as unreliable, those with a star rating between 4.2 and 4.5 are most likely to attract customers. While it is not possible, or preferable, to avoid some negative reviews, companies who respond to them receive higher ratings.

Companies can use their online reviews, both negative and positive, to their advantage by showing their customers they are transparent, reliable and quick to address any issues.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, 91% of Canadian consumers read at least one review before making a decision. 36.4% read between one and three reviews and 31% read between four and six reviews.

Statistics show that 4.2 – 4.5 is the best rating to attract customers. Canadian consumers view perfect scores as suspicious and ratings below 3 will put them off.

Statistics show that 68% of Canadians will avoid a company after reading negative reviews about them, especially if the company has not responded.

Canadians read reviews on Google the most, followed by Yelp!, TripAdvisor and Facebook.

37% of Canadian consumers report they are strongly influenced by online reviews and 68% are influenced by negative reviews. Trust is also important to Canadian consumers, as 92% of them say they would rather use a company they trust even if their prices were higher.

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