There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding Yelp and the impact the online review service can have on small businesses. This has included everything from fake reviews to alleged extortion, with numerous businesses speaking out on the Internet, in the media and in the courtroom against the company and its policies.
But a lot of businesses are finding success with Yelp, and are gaining customers. Merchant Warehouse has put out results from a study finding that 90% of those polled say positive reviews on Yelp impacted their company buying choices, and 72% of them said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
According to Merchant Warehouse’s findings, 44% based their choices for what businesses to go to on text reviews, while 26% cited business ratings, 17% said quantity of reviews, and 14% said reviews from friends or family.
The study finds that 93% of people who conducted research on review sites “typically” make purchases at the businesses they look up. Here’s a look at the types of businesses that are being searched for most:
Merchant Warehouse also points to data from a Boston Consulting Group survey, finding that small businesses that took advantage of Yelp business accounts saw an increase in annual revenue.
According to the firm, 77% of small businesses that use Yelp say the site has changed the way they respond to customer issues and complaints, but many simply aren’t paying attention.
But other businesses are paying plenty of attention to Yelp, and they’re not happy with what they’re finding. Yelp has been going around the country holding town hall meetings, and according to reports, there are a lot of complaints being tossed the company’s way. The LA Times recently shared an account of one of the meetings:
Many slammed the company for allowing reviewers to post inflammatory comments — one restaurant manager said she cried for three days after a Yelper wrote that her restaurant was filled with Nazis. Others said they had been subjected to aggressive advertising calls from Yelp.
Vintage clothing shop owner Reiko Roberts said the advertising pressure amounted to extortion. She said that when she declined to buy ads, “the lower reviews go to the top and the higher reviews go to the bottom.”
Meanwhile, Yelp continues to maintain a focus on “closing the loop,” meaning getting customers to actually engage in transactions with the businesses they are looking at. It’s still early in the company’s efforts here, but already over the last couple months, Yelp has made acquisitions and launched specific features aimed at doing this.