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When do consumers use online customer reviews?

Posted by Jessica Render
Jessica Render

Reviews connect brands with their customers. By collecting reviews and engaging with customers through their feedback, a business can nurture loyal audience, solve customer issues, increase satisfaction and reduce churn. But there's another side to reviews, shopping consumers. 

 

Customers who leave reviews are doing the heavy lifting for businesses by building a knowledge base online that provides critical, relevant, and trustworthy information to the consumers researching that particular product or brand. As a result, the information provided in online reviews is significant for customer acquisition.

 

When consumers do not have familiarity with a product, they are more likely to factor online reviews into the decision making process. In fact, our most recent study discovered that people use online reviews 2x more when buying something for the first time.

 

Consumers are more likely to use online reviews to inform purchases that have some degree of uncertainty. They may feel uncertainty when they buy a product for the first time, purchase a product that requires significant investment or use of savings, or when the purchase has an emotional component, such as those revolving around life change events like having a baby or taking care of an aging parent. In each of these scenarios, there is a heightened sense of the unknown.

 

Am I buying the right product? Does this product solve the problem I have? What makes this brand better than another?

 

Not surprisingly, the trepidation associated with these purchases drives consumers to seek out reviews and recommendations before committing to a purchase. For these consumers, it’s all about social proof. 

Reviews and the buyer's journey

 
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Given the types of situations where online reviews are most likely to be used, it is not surprising that the perusal of online reviews happens relatively early in the purchase process and continues through to the final decision. While reviews are used throughout the buyer journey, ur study found that reviews are used most often during the research and comparison stage of the buying cycle.

 

  • 68% of respondents said they look up online reviews for a product in the research stage.

  • 62% of respondents said they look up online reviews when they have narrowed down their options and are ready to make a purchase decision.

Not all online reviews are created equal, though. Consumers are looking for authentic, trustworthy online reviews that include helpful content during the consideration and decision stages of the buying cycle.

 

Consumers seek out third-party websites that verify authenticity of the content posted in their reviews so they can feel confident in the information they’re viewing.

 

Ultimately, online reviews play a critical role in the selection of a product for the vast majority of consumers, and can quickly sway a consumer's opinion of a brand -- for better or worse. In fact, respondents in our latest consumer survey reported their impression of a brand prior to reading online reviews was the least important factor influencing the final purchase decision, and only 1 percent of our respondents indicated that they do not consult online reviews at all when making a purchase. Consumers read reviews, and they form opinions and make decisions based on what they read.