Here at ConsumerAffairs, we love reviews! But, more importantly, we know consumers love reviews. But, why? What makes reviews such a valuable resource to consumers? And to what degree are reviews used to inform purchase decisions?
We recently surveyed 895 people to find out why they read reviews and how they decide whether or not to trust a review. We wanted to find out what consumers value most when they read reviews and how they determine whether or not a review is trustworthy.
The results from our research weren't necessarily surprising, but they were certainly enlightening.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to trust a review, people want well-balanced reviews from verified sources that include context, detailed content and star ratings. Consumers want to read reviews from people who are real customers, not celebrities who are endorsing a particular product or brand. Our research also found that people trust reviews hosted on third-party websites more than any other source.
What makes a review trustworthy?
When it came to trustworthy sources of information, online consumer reviews ranked second only to recommendations of friends and family. Marketing/advertising by a company ranked a far fourth, with only 2% of respondents ranking company advertisements as highly trustworthy, and celebrity endorsements came in dead last, a notable shift from the "influencer" trend that saw a surge only a few years ago.
When it comes to how consumers evaluate reviews, our results show they consider the specific content in a review first, followed closely by whether the reviewers are verified customers. Star ratings and the number of total reviews also ranked, coming in third and fourth on the list, respectively. The item that consumers consider to be the least important? Their impression of the brand's reputation prior to reading reviews. This result suggests that brands are better served to spend their time and money collecting comprehensive, legitimate reviews than they are spending marketing dollars on advertisements to improve their brand reputation.
Perhaps the most enlightening discovery was the influence of where consumers read reviews. By far, the most credible source for reviews is on third-party websites (like ConsumerAffairs.com). Our respondents ranked third-party websites as the most trustworthy sources of reviews, with reviews posted in search engine results, reviews posted in social media feeds and reviews about a product on a brand's website rounding out the list at second, third and fourth, respectively.
What does this mean for brands?
So, what can you, as a brand, do to provide a trustworthy experience for your existing and potential customers? To start, you can give customers a platform to read and write reviews. With the majority of consumers consulting customer reviews before making a purchase, working with a third-party review site, like ConsumerAffairs.com, is the best way to collect unbiased, verified reviews that can help consumers during the buying cycle.