Why Consumers Buy: The Importance of Verified Customer Reviews
You can forgive yourself for overlooking it, because the Pew Research Center’s annual Online Shopping and E-Commerce report was released at the height of the 2016 holiday shopping season. The report is the result of a survey exploring an extremely diverse swath of platforms and digital tools and how they influence US adults’ purchasing habits and decisions.
While the report’s insights are comprehensive, some of the more interesting takeaways focus on the importance of verified reviews. Customer reviews, when deemed trustworthy, wield huge influence over shopping decisions, and this, in turn, represents a tremendous opportunity for brands that can leverage customer reviews to better inform prospective customers.
1. Consumers Depend on Reviews
Not only do U.S. adults embrace online shopping, but they rely on “social proof” to make informed decisions about what to buy. In fact, almost three-quarters of consumers told Pew that it is important to be able to seek advice from people they trust when they are shopping for something they haven’t purchased before.
About as many consumers also said that it is important to be able to read reviews when making first-time purchases. What’s more, about 82% of American adults said they actually read reviews before they purchase something for the first time. This all serves to emphasize the impact that reviews have on customers’ purchase decisions.
Given how strongly reviews influence consumers’ decisions, brands have a major opportunity to increase sales conversions by being part of the conversation. Tomer Tagrin, CEO of Yotpo, a platform for collecting and amplifying customer reviews, recently said, “The companies growing like crazy and floating above the noise are the companies who leverage their customers and their experience with the brand.”
This trend isn’t limited to shopping online, however. How often do you find yourself in a physical store looking for reviews about a product you are interested in, using your mobile device? You wouldn’t be alone. Nearly half of all respondents said they do the same thing, and that statistic goes up to 62% for 18 to 49 year olds.
Another strong theme running through the report is that younger consumers are more likely to shop online, refer to reviews, and even use less cash for their purchases. This isn’t particularly surprising, but it is a trend that brands should pay careful attention to and plan for.
For example, when you consider the 18- to 49-year-old age group, bear in mind that 87 to 90% shop online, 64 to 77% shop using their mobile phones, 62% have used their phones to look up reviews online, and 47 to 53% report “always/almost always” reading online reviews when making a first-time purchase. Consumers in this age group are more digitally savvy, so it makes sense that they’d be more accustomed to referencing online product reviews when making purchase decisions.
2. Reviews Have Gone Social
As you might expect, a relatively small proportion of American consumers actually write reviews, compared to those who read and rely on them. Roughly half of consumers surveyed “sometimes” create their own reviews of products and services (with just under half reviewing restaurants).
Social platforms, moreover, have become especially convenient channels for consumers to share their experiences of products and services.