Impact of Reviews on Consumer Purchase Decisions

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In 2023, Emplifi conducted a survey among over 2,000 consumers in the USA and the UK, aged between 16 and 55, who are active on social media and regularly make online purchases. It revealed that customer reviews and ratings are currently the most important factor influencing online purchase decisions – surpassing even price, return policy, and shipping costs. They play a significant role in today’s digitized shopping world, significantly influencing the purchase decisions of potential customers. 93% of consumers admit that their choices are shaped by other people’s reviews, and in the context of products from unknown brands or those from a higher price range, this figure rises to 98%. Meanwhile, nearly half of the buyers avoid products that do not have any reviews, showing that reviews not only build trust but also serve as an important source of information about the product.

In the era of information available at one’s fingertips, purchase decisions are often based on the experiences of others, and managing customer opinions and consciously acquiring reviews is becoming the norm. The issue of opinions is too important to be left to chance. How they are acquired is crucial for companies, which should effectively engage customers in sharing their experiences. Let’s analyze where consumers most often look for opinions and why the conscious acquisition of reviews and responding to them by companies is so important.

Where Consumers Prefer to Look for Reviews

Reviews and ratings from others matter to buyers both when choosing products and the stores where they can purchase them. Searching for information about the products themselves leads to various places – to portals Consumer Reports, to marketplaces like eBay, BestBuy, or Amazon, to individual online stores, and to YouTube. It’s crucial to access multiple reviews to discern a pattern in the evaluation of a selected product. When choosing the product, attention is paid to specific features or parameters, and – of course – to the price.

Once the consumer knows which product they want to buy, they move on to selecting the store where they will make the transaction. If they intend to purchase online, then – besides information about the price and declared delivery time – the opinions of other customers about the actual order processing time or return policies are important to them.

If a potential buyer wants to go to a brick-and-mortar store because it’s important for them to try on or test the product, they want to speak to a specialist for advice, or they simply want to have the chosen product today, they will most often turn to Google Maps or local Google search (where they enter the name or category of the product, adding the name of the city). Similarly, they will act when looking for restaurants, cafes, hairdressers, beauticians, and other services. In 2022, as many as 87% of users in the United States used Google to search for information about local businesses (by “local”, we mean here physical premises of both small businesses and global retail or service chains), which is an increase of 24 percentage points compared to 2020. According to Statcounter data, the percentage of people using this search engine daily is higher in Europe than in America, which means that this result is probably even higher on the Old Continent. It’s also worth mentioning that Google’s dominance in terms of trust concerning local information is present in all industries. Interestingly, social media platforms are becoming less popular in terms of searching for opinions from other users. The percentage of internet users using the reigning Facebook in this regard has dropped from 54% in 2020 to 46% in 2022.

How do Google Maps perform in statistics? The latest studies on local SEO optimization on this platform show that as many as 86% of users use Google Maps to search for information about local stores and companies. For brick-and-mortar stores, this means the need to ensure not only up-to-date information but also an attractive image of the company on this channel. Service providers also cannot ignore this, as many people use Google Maps to find specialists in their region, and the reviews there play a crucial role in shaping a company’s reputation. Positive reviews and company responses to feedback build brand trust, which can persuade potential customers to choose the products or services of a particular company. It’s essential to foster good relationships with customers in this realm and use reviews as a tool to build a positive company image online.

Importance of Responses

Online reviews are a key factor in the decision-making process, and for most consumers, it’s also important whether the business owner responds to them. A 2023 BrightLocal study found that 88% of customers in the United States are more likely to use a company’s services if they see the business owner responds to all reviews, regardless of their nature. This highlights the importance of customer engagement in building trust. Additionally, 60% of customers are inclined to use a company’s services when the owner responds only to negative reviews. However, if a company responds only to positive reviews, 50% of people are willing to make a purchase. This data suggests that responding to criticism is particularly valued by customers. Only 42% of those surveyed said they would likely use the services of a company that does not respond to any reviews. This implies that more than twice as many people are inclined to use the services of a company that pays attention to responding to customer reviews.

Negative Reviews from Customers

Many business owners believe that negative comments have a detrimental effect on their business. However, a negative review can be just as influential as a very positive one. According to the earlier mentioned PowerReviews study, as many as 85% of users look for negative reviews, and two-thirds of customers filter results by one-star ratings. In cases where products don’t have a single critical review, people may have concerns about the credibility of the opinions. Additionally, many are aware that most products have flaws, significant or minor, and they want to check if they can accept these flaws. Moreover, they understand that opinions are inherently subjective, meaning what is a drawback for one person might be an advantage for another. A good example would be shoes, where a very hard sole might be a significant asset for one person and cause considerable discomfort for another.

Furthermore, receiving a negative rating or review is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that your customer service is of a high standard. Your responses and actions taken to resolve the issue will show potential buyers that you care about your current customers. When you receive negative reviews, don’t let customers think you are trivializing their problems. Express your regret and willingness to rectify the situation or, if you believe the objections or criticism in the review are unfounded or out of context, respectfully present your different stance, showing openness to discussion. Additionally, negative feedback can be a solid foundation for improving your company’s operations, positively affecting your business in the long term.

Encouraging Sharing of Reviews

The earlier-mentioned BrightLocal study also proves that in 2022, as many as 80% of consumers were encouraged by local businesses to leave reviews. Impressively, 65% of them positively responded to these requests and actually left reviews. There are various ways to ask a customer to share their experience, but the most effective according to the survey are:

  • Asking through a staff member: This usually occurs at the time of purchase or service. Direct contact with the customer positively affects their relationship with the company, and the right attitude of the team member can favorably influence the customer’s shopping experience, ultimately leading to a better review.
  • Requesting via email: This method can be used for both in-store and online purchases. However, to send a request for feedback or a review after an in-store purchase, it is necessary to have a loyalty program that allows customer identification.
  • Information on the receipt or invoice: This involves placing a short message or request to leave a review on the sales document. Customers see this request during or right after the transaction, making it hard to miss and effective.
  • Asking through social media: This can occur, for example, through posting reviews on Facebook or Instagram. This also allows sharing them publicly, which can attract the attention of other potential customers. Social media enable interaction with customers in a friendly way that aligns with current communication trends.

Additionally, the Emplifi study mentioned earlier indicates that not all reviews are equally valuable in the eyes of the customer. A staggering 87% of consumers stated that reviews and ratings from ordinary customers have a greater impact on their purchasing decisions than opinions from influencers or celebrities, which influence the decisions of only 50% of respondents. The BrightLocal study also showed that 46% of consumers consider online reviews as trustworthy as personal recommendations from friends or family. This emphasizes the importance of authentic experiences of other people and how much importance buyers attach to this type of opinion compared to those from influencers or experts. Moreover, 58% of surveyed consumers attach great importance to photos or videos of products posted by actual customers while browsing products online.

While the credibility of famous personalities can be a topic for separate discussion, it’s evident that when looking for information about companies and services, customers greatly value the real experiences of ordinary users. This is a clear signal for companies to motivate their customers to share their opinions about both the purchased products and the shopping experience itself. Businesses should also pay attention to actively responding to customer reviews and opinions, both positive and less favorable. Interacting with consumers, expressing gratitude for their feedback, and a professional approach to solving potential problems can not only minimize the negative effects of individual unfavorable reviews but also build a positive brand image. By maintaining a high level of communication and showing that customer opinions are important and considered, companies can gain customer loyalty and positive recommendations, which are invaluable in building trust in the digital world.