Word-of-mouth used to mean either rave reviews or a dire warnings from trusted friends, family members, and neighbors. That type of one-on-one feedback is how many companies either built their positive reputations or failed to stay afloat. While traditional word-of-mouth is still alive and well, the internet has made it easier than ever to broadcast one’s experiences – both good and bad – to the world. Complete strangers can now access the experiences of others by reading online reviews at the touch of a button. And these reviews can significantly impact who consumers choose to do business with.
The vast majority of shoppers are now reading online reviews before making a purchase. According to data from Vendasta, 92% of consumers will consult online reviews before completing a sale. And positive reviews might even impact how much they spend, with 31% of consumers saying they’re likely to spend more with businesses that have excellent reviews. There might not even be much of a difference between reviews coming from friends and family versus strangers. One study suggests that 84% of people trust the reviews they read online as much as personal recommendations.
On the other side of the equation, businesses are tasked with monitoring the online reviews they receive on a variety of digital channels. Big eCommerce sites like Amazon allow consumers to leave feedback directly on product pages. Search engines like Google bring reviews to the forefront when searching for a business. Social media sites like Facebook offer a different level of personalization by allowing users to easily share their experiences directly with friends. And dedicated review sites like Yelp have built businesses of their own by compiling reviews from a wide array of users into a single digital destination. The businesses being reviewed need to be aware of the digital feedback they’re receiving and respond in ways that inspire consumers’ trust and encourage repeat business.
Vantiv and Socratic Technologies surveyed 500 consumers in the latest edition of ShopTalk to learn more about online reviews and how they impact shoppers’ purchase decisions. In particular, the survey was structured to investigate how online reviews influence shopping behavior, which types of reviews are most popular, and what consumers are looking for in online reviews. Read the key takeaways below.
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Exactly how popular are online reviews for consumers when buying a new product?
More than half of survey participants (59%) say that they read online reviews before buying a new product “Always” or “Most of the time”.
Which generations are most likely to read online reviews before purchasing a new product?
Younger generations are leading the way. Here’s the breakdown by generation:
- 76% of Millennials
- 63% of Gen Xers
- 48% of Baby Boomers
- 45% of Retirees
Do shoppers find online product reviews to be important?
58% of ShopTalk participants describe online product reviews as “Extremely” or “Very” important when purchasing new products. Online product reviews are more important to younger generations (Millennials and Gen Xers) than Baby Boomers and Retirees.
What are the most often-read types of online product reviews?
Here’s a breakdown of the most popular types of online reviews for products:
- Electronics, computers, and phones – 70%
- Home appliances (washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators, etc.) – 57%
- Restaurants – 54%
- Cars, SUVs, and trucks – 50%
Are people reading online reviews before selecting a new service provider?
49% of those surveyed indicate that they read online reviews “Always” or “Most of the time” before selecting a new service provider. Once again, Millennials and Gen Xers are the generations most likely to do so.
Do consumers find online service provider reviews to be important?
Of the people who read online service provider reviews, 59% find those reviews to be “Extremely” or “Very” important.
Which category of online service reviews is most popular?
The clear winner is consumer service providers, with 62% of survey respondents reading these types of online reviews. Consumer service providers include salons, plumbers, house cleaners, spas, landscapers, etc. The next most popular online service provider reviews are as follows:
- Medical services (doctors, dentists, veterinarians, etc.) – 54%
- Professional services (accountants, lawyers, etc.) – 41%
- Utilities (phone, television, gas, electric, etc.) – 32%
What are the key drivers for reading online reviews for products and services?
Consumers read online reviews most often for purchases that require significant financial investments. In the survey, 71% of respondents indicate that this is the key driver for consulting online reviews. The second most popular driver is unfamiliarity with a product or service – 63% of respondents will read online reviews for that reason. In third place are infrequent purchases at 44%.
What sites do consumers most often use to read online reviews?
Big eCommerce websites are the most popular destinations for online reviews – think Target, Best Buy, and Amazon. In the past six months, 74% of survey participants visited these types of sites to read online reviews. Review sites specific to restaurant and food service providers, like OpenTable and Yelp, come in second at 47%. Despite the personal connections, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter lag in popularity. In fact, only 28% of respondents used social media sites to read online reviews over the past six months.
The most important part of online reviews? The overall rating or score.
Consumers are looking for quick takeaways from online reviews – 66% of ShopTalk participants say the overall rating or score is the most important part of online reviews. Here’s a breakdown of the other important aspects of online reviews:
- The ratio of positive to negative reviews – 63%
- The amount of detail within the reviews – 62%
- The recency of the reviews – 59%
How do men and women differ when it comes to online reviews?
Women are more inclined to read online reviews for products – 62% of women will do so compared to 53% of men. The same goes for service providers – 52% of women will read online reviews for service providers versus 46% of men.
What can your business do to address reviews head on?
- Don’t make hasty decisions.
- Use reviews as a learning tool.
- Keep it authentic.
Bad reviews are gut wrenching and something every business owner dreads. Your immediate reaction may be to try to fix the “problem” hastily, but take care to process the information. Your best decisions will be made when you digest and process what the customer is saying, asking for. Provide options for taking the conversation “offline”—think, “Please email me, I’d like to address your concerns…” You may have the opportunity to fix the problem but do so with a clear plan vs. an initial emotional reaction.
Reviews, both good and bad, are a learning opportunity for your business. Use bad reviews to learn where there may be a breakdown in process or an area where employees can be better trained. Good reviews should always be celebrated and recognized where the business is doing well. Those are your opportunities to establish that repeatable process.
It may be tempting to want to delete negative reviews when you can but you want customers to truly get the right image of your business. Taking the opportunity to make it right and being able to address the problem in a positive way will go much further than erasing the problem. The times where you can truly turn a negative review into a positive one will create the best kind of customer: one that will advocate for your business. That’s the ultimate full circle experience.
Even the smallest businesses, without the people resources to management customer and community engagement, can leverage tools offered by companies such as Womply. Read more about Vantiv BizShield and Vantiv Insights, which are powered by those very kinds of tools.