Throughout the entire year of 2020 and the start of 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed utterly everything about the way that we live. Due to various closures, people in most parts of the world cannot go and do anything they want to as they could before the pandemic. Many businesses have been severely affected and have been forced to adapt to the new ways of the world. As businesses work to adjust to new requirements put out by government officials, one thing is noticeable: the increase in the importance of online reviews.

As we have mentioned in our other blog posts this month, online reviews can be one of the most essential parts of a successful local business. This was true even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it continues to make reviews grow in importance as time goes on. In this blog post, we will give you some more information about COVID-19 and online reviews so that you understand how they have become even more critical to the success of local businesses everywhere.

COVID-19 and online reviews

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, many local businesses were thriving in most places. Local restaurants were growing at an extreme rate, small shops were always full of customers. But with the pandemic comes hard times for a lot of these businesses, especially specialized businesses that cannot adapt as easily as others. With that being said, many people have started to prefer to support local businesses rather than national chains. Reviews play a bigger factor than ever before in customer decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent research by Podium.

In their research, Podium has found that 88% of users say that online reviews matter to them when choosing a business to visit. This leaves only 12% that do not care about reviews, which is pretty similar to the percentage of these people pre-COVID. Also, 71% believe that reviews matter more during the COVID-19 pandemic than any other time. In fact, 33% of people have found a new local business near where they live that they did not visit before.

In addition to the fact that more people want to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, they may also be reading online reviews due to economic concerns. Money struggles have become a reality for an overwhelming majority of customers that likely did not have these problems a few years ago. In turn, many people do not want to take a chance on going to a “bad” business when they could read through the many reviews that a local business should have. They want to get the most out of their money because they may not have much to spare, especially if they could potentially have a bad experience.

Content of online reviews

As for the content of these reviews that is important to customers, many are looking for how local businesses are handling COVID-19 with safety protocols. Some of the top safety protocols that online review readers are looking for include mask-wearing, social distancing, and availability of sanitization products. In fact, social distancing policies and signage are about as important as the store’s actual appearance. We recommend following your local government’s COVID-19 guidelines in order to keep your employees and customers safe, while also increasing the risk for an all-important positive online review.

Regardless of what the content of an online review is, customers still want to see businesses respond to the review even during the COVID-19 pandemic. 56% of the people surveyed by Podium say that their perspective on a business may have changed depending on if and how a business responds to reviews. To read Podium’s full report on COVID-19 and online reviews, visit this link! By combining all these tips and COVID-19 safety protocols, you will give your local business a chance to survive this difficult time as well as build a new customer base. Be sure to contact us today for expert help with online review cultivation, responding, and much more!