Before online review platforms, obtaining trustworthy reviews on a business was usually quite difficult. A customer would generally only have the information given to them by companies. Customers might be able to obtain information about companies from friends and family. In some cases, customers could obtain reviews about particular types of businesses such as Zagat’s book of reviews on restaurants. Mostly, customers would need to rely on intuition much more in the decision making process. With the Internet, customers can obtain a lot of information quickly and without spending a lot of time or money. Nowadays, consumers can find reviews and research anything from products required by insurance, like a low cost interlock, to popular vacation spots. Always having excellent customer service has become a lot more important as customers have a lot of influence in the success or failure of companies by leaving reviews online.
Although rarely used today, Epinions, established in 1999, is one of the first large consumer review sites. Visitors were able to read about products by reading through reviews. Many different types of review sites were created after that included reviews about local businesses, products, and services. Yelp is another one of the first consumer review sites established in 2004. This site was founded when Jeremy Stoppelman caught the flu and was unable to find a recommendation for a local doctor’s office. Yelp uses crowd-sourced reviews in order to try to provide a fair representation of local companies. There was a Harvard Business School study completed by Michael Luca that showed an increase in a Yelp score of a restaurant by one full star leads to a 5 to 9 percent revenue gain. This study shows how much more important customer reviews on a restaurant or any other type of business is today.
Angie’s List is another of the first customer review sites; Angie’s List was originally a database that reviewed local businesses and services. Angie’s List was moved to the Internet as the Internet grew. Angie’s list was originally primarily for contractors and was not as general as the other companies to start. Angie’s list is somewhat different from many other review sites as Angie’s list revenue mainly comes from membership fees where many other sites rely on advertising. Consumers are the customers in Angie’s list compared to advertisers; many say this system leads to fairer and more transparent reviews.
There are a large variety of other type of local sites such as Google Business, Facebook Pages, and Yahoo Small Business that allow businesses to create a site with information about their businesses. These sites generally include a mechanism for customers to review the company. Some of these platforms do allow companies to turn off the reviews completely if the company does not like the reviews received. Many of these local review sites allow businesses to see customer opinions instantaneously and improve their business practices. Also, businesses have the ability to join in conversations and help customers with any problems the customers faced when using the products or services of the businesses. All of these attributes allow customers to have a much louder voice when interacting with businesses.
Overall, customers have a much greater influence on the success of businesses than ever before because of the ability for a customer to easily leave a review online. Because of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, customers can share information with their network quickly. The ability to share and receive information from social media gives customers greater power than ever before.