Local marketing still relies on word-of-mouth recommendations, study shows

word of mouthThis headline caught our eye: “Word of mouth still dominates,” referring to local marketing.

“Word of mouth is still the leading source for new business,” according to F&I and Showroom online. “But a new study says [online] review sites continue to gain ground.”

“In the age of online reviews, it turns out that word of mouth may still be the most common way consumers recommend local businesses – but habitual use of the Internet to find reviews is increasing,” reported F&I, citing a survey of more than 2,000 customers by SEO firm BrightLocal.

The survey found that 61 percent of respondents recommended a local business to people they know by word of mouth, including a car dealership, compared to 38 percent on Facebook. Other online sites also were cited, however, including Yelp, Twitter, Google+ Local and Tripadvisor, though none of those online garnered more than 13 percent of local marketing survey responses.

“Word of mouth is clearly the most popular way for consumers to recommend a business to someone they know,” according to BrightLocal’s analysis of the results. “Consumers prefer to give recommendations to people they know on a more personal basis.”

And what factors “would make you more likely to recommend a local business to people you know?”

They’re reliable and professional – Far and away the most important factor in local marketing, with 68 percent support.

They’re friendly and welcoming – The second most important factor at 44 percent.

I had a unique and original experience – Which drew 36 percent of responses.

*Numbers add up to more than 100 percent because customers could choose more than one response.

Only then did financial factors come into play, such as special offers (32 percent) and price (28 percent). A request by a business owner generated only 9 percent of responses.

However, the survey doesn’t dismiss the potential business impact of online reviews, indicating that 62 percent of the survey respondents said they trust those as much as personal recommendations “if there are multiple customer reviews to read” or “if I believe the reviews are authentic” and another 26 percent were comfortable with online recommendations for some types of businesses. Only 13 percent of the consumers do not trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

“Local consumers are placing more trust in online reviews than ever before,” said BrightLocal, citing the 88 percent of “yes” responses compared to 79 percent in 2013 and drop in “no” replies from 21 percent.

Details of the report, Local Consumer Review Survey 2014, including questions posed to consumers in the United States (90 percent) and Canada (10 percent), are available on the BrightLocal website.

See the Santander Consumer USA blog for more news on auto-, auto-finance and SCUSA-related topics.

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