How Americans Approach Online Consumer Reviews

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Almost 8 in 10 American adults read online consumer reviews for product and services before making a purchase, with this figure relatively constant across generations, according to a survey from YouGov. The study analyzes the use of online reviews from a variety of angles, finding that a bare majority (51%) of those who read consumer reviews generally read at least 4 before feeling that they have enough information to purchase a product or service. Of note, respondents aged 55+ tend to read fewer reviews, with 58% needing to only read 1-3, as opposed to 46% of respondents aged 18-34. Men also report being likely to read fewer, as only 42% read at least 4, compared to 60% of women.

As for the reasons why they read online consumer reviews, respondents were most likely to do so:

  • To make sure the product/service is good (79%);
  • To make sure the product/service works (61%); and
  • To make sure they don’t get ripped off (53%).

Roughly one-third noted that they read reviews if the price is over a certain amount. Among these respondents, about 1 in 5 indicated that a product or service has to cost more than $100 before they’ll read a review about it.

The product or service types (among those identified) that adults are most likely to read online consumer reviews for before making a purchase are include electronics (53%), household appliances (43%), buying a car (40%) and hotels and/or rooms for rent (36%). Not surprisingly, consumers are most apt to read reviews when they’re researching what product/services to purchase (85%) as opposed to just before they confirm a purchase (14%).

How about the reviews themselves? They’re quite influential, per the research, as 87% of respondents who read them indicate that their overall ratings are either very (34%) or somewhat (53%) important to them when deciding whether or not to purchase a product or service. Interestingly, while a similar 9 in 10 find the content written in reviews to be at least somewhat important in their decision-making, this is more then case for consumers aged 55+ (93%) than those aged 18-34 (84%).

Overall, the vast majority (86%) of adults find reviews to be trustworthy, although far more find them “somewhat” (73%) than “very” (13%) trustworthy. While that aligns with previous research from BrightLocal finding that most consumers find online customer reviews as trustworthy as personal recommendations, the YouGov survey also finds that among the 44% who post online reviews themselves, 49% (including 58% of 18-34-year-olds) admit to having at some point written reviews for products and services they haven’t actually purchased or tried.

In fact, almost two-thirds of adults surveyed feel that individuals at least sometimes write online reviews without actually having purchased the product or service in question, with 16% believing this happens often. Moreover, two-thirds believe that businesses at least sometimes write negative online reviews about their competitors’ products or services, and 8 in 10 feel that businesses at least sometime write positive reviews about their own products or services. Given those responses, it’s surprising that so few distrust reviews!

Other Findings:

  • Among respondents who post online consumer reviews, 62% do so because they want to help others make better purchasing decisions, and 35% because they feel it is polite to leave feedback. Of note, reviewers are more likely to post reviews because they want to make sure good vendors get good business (25%) than to make sure bad vendors are exposed (12%).
  • Also among those that post reviews, 74% tend to post positive reviews, compared to 22% who tend to post negative ones.
  • Among respondents who work at B2C companies that receive online reviews, 53% report that the reviews are “very” (29%) or “somewhat” (24%) important to the company.

About the Data: The data is based on a survey of 1,204 US adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between November 4, 2014 to November 6, 2014. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).

I started my first web marketing campaign in 1997 and continue harvesting this fruitful field until today. I helped many startup and well-established companies to grow by applying innovative inbound marketing strategies. In 2001 I designed and managed development of the first automated Search Marketing Management System that opened a whole new era in web marketing automation. For the past 8 years I have been a Head of Marketing for a digital advertising agency, based in Canada. There, I founded the new Search Marketing Department which served over a hundred clients worldwide and tripled the Company revenue in the last 4 years. Currently, I live in Montreal, Canada. With the accumulated 18-year experience in all aspects of digital marketing and communications, I am ready to contribute all that powerful mix of skills and knowledge to your Business now - without a delay!

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