Successful businesses know their clients. For instance, Amazon and Google built empires by harnessing data and behavior patterns about their customers. So, when Better Business Bureau (BBB) wanted to understand the factors and considerations that come into play when consumers seek a company for a product or service, we enlisted Nielsen to conduct a survey.

The result — Consumer Journey — was developed from answers by a diverse demographic sampling of more than 2,000 U.S. and Canadian consumers. In addition to learning about the various factors that influence buying decisions, the survey provided insights on the buying process and sources used to gather information.

The data is helping BBB improve and can help your business, too.

What was most important to the customer?x Not surprisingly, quality and price were at the top of the list. Consumers then ranked reputation and rating as the third and fourth most important factors when making a decision to buy. Convenience, word of mouth, online reviews and advertising rounded out the list. When the survey compared the sources that influence buying decisions with the frequency of their use, we saw that family and friends ranked highest for frequency and influence, but that online reviews had virtually the same amount of influence and were relied upon nearly as often.

As a business, this means it’s critical to make sure you know what your customers are saying about you online. While many larger companies use reputation management firms to monitor their cyber footprint, you can start by setting up simple Google alerts for your company name and key personnel. You also may find it beneficial to see what customers are saying about key competitors by setting up alerts for them, too.

One of the most frequent questions we hear from business owners is: “What is the value of becoming BBB accredited?”  We can tell you about all the different programs, resources, events and tools available to accredited businesses to help them build and deepen buyer trust and loyalty, but customer responses were most telling: Consumers reported they were 83% more likely to buy from a BBB Accredited Business and 84% more likely to buy from a business with a high letter grade.

Promoting your BBB rating, whether accredited or not; and, for accredited businesses, displaying the Accredited Business Seal, can help your business win customers. For more information on the Consumer Journey, visit

Angie Barnett is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland. She can be reached at 410-347-3990 and [email protected].