Poll: 93% of Respondents Check Reviews Before Dining or Shopping

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A majority of American consumers check online reviews before shopping or dining at a local business, according to a recent Street Fight poll. The three-question poll of 200 U.S. consumers points to a customer base heavily reliant on local reviews sites, particularly among the crucial 18-34 age demographic marketers everywhere covet.

According to the poll, conducted on behalf of Street Fight by third-party opinions site Toluna Quick Surveys, 93% of respondents acknowledged they at least sometimes check business reviews before visiting a particular establishment. 15% reported checking every time, another 16.5% about eight out of 10 times, and 30 percent half the time. Almost 32% reported checking reviews rarely, and 7% never. Among the 18-34 group, more than 98% acknowledged viewing reviews.

Also in the poll, nearly 65% of consumers, and more than 76% among the 18-34 set, reported a review has previously encouraged them to avoid shopping at a business, and 74% said online reviews are an accurate way to evaluate a local merchant.

The results are certainly encouraging for reviews hosts, such as Google, Yahoo, Angie’s List and, most notably, Yelp. Yelp especially is emerging as a giant in the hyperlocal space; last Wednesday, shares of the publicly traded company surged 22.51% in its largest one-day gain since going public in March. Earlier this summer, the social media company also reported a 67% increase in year-over-year revenue.

With gaining consumer confidence, reviews sites, mainly Yelp, should only continue to grow, all but forcing local marketers to take them very seriously.

But the poll results are not all sun and rainbows for reviews sites. More than 35% of consumers said they have visited certain businesses regardless of their reviews, implying that, at least for some, reviews should be read but not always trusted.

A Street Fight poll conducted in late July concluded that consumers are slightly more likely to write a business review after a negative experience than a positive one. So in the eyes of the consumer, some reviewers, it seems, just have an axe to grind.

Patrick Duprey is an editorial assistant with Street Fight.