Real World Reputation

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With the amount of information available to consumers on the Internet, uninformed purchasing decisions are becoming increasingly rare. People looking for everything from their next meal to their next hairstylist can find unfiltered reviews from fellow customers on sites like Yelp.

Now, when consumers are wondering about a new store or searching for the best version of anything in their area, they aren’t limited to asking their friends and family. They can turn to past experiences and opinions of Yelp reviewers.

Reviews help close the information gap for potential consumers and help them form opinions before ever even stepping foot into a storefront or being sat at a table. Positive reviews can transform unknown ‘hidden gems’ into neighborhood favorites. Customers who have a good experience at your business can recommend it to Yelp’s 66 million unique visitors each month.

Yelp reviews help take the ‘unknown’ out of trying a new business and can be a real benefit to small businesses. Consumers no longer need to rely on known brand name businesses, as they can find answers to their questions about unknown brands through these reviews.

Businesses are ranked on Yelp using a scale of one to five stars and online ratings can truly change a business’ bottom line. Positive reviews can help bring new customers in droves. A study done at Harvard Business School found that “Buy Yelp reviews ratings star added on a Yelp review translated to anywhere from a 5 percent to 9 percent effect on revenues.”

The Yelp app for smart phones helps consumers have access to information about any store right as they walk by it on the street. That can kind of instant information can help draw customers in from the sidewalks.

However, as with all new opportunities, online reviews have their potential pitfalls. Yelp itself even points this out, describing the site as a “fun and easy way to find and talk about great (and not so great) local businesses.” Even top-rated businesses have their fair share of negative reviews. Now, customers who have a bad experience aren’t limited to telling their own social circles, but can air their grievances with Yelp’s entire online community.

Complaints can have a real effect on businesses. Take for example a Naperville Body Shop that sued a Yelp reviewer for defamation, claiming that his negative and false review lost them business and damaged their reputation. B&L Auto Body said that they searched their records and could not match the review up with a customer, and even questioned whether the negative review might be the work of a competitor. Courts have previously dismissed cases against Yelp reviewers citing protection of commercial speech and opinion.

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