New Consumer Survey of More than 6,500 Consumers Reveals Increasing Importance of Product Reviews to Establish Trust and Drive Purchase Behavior

Ratings and reviews have become the most important factor impacting online purchase decisions, ranking above price, free shipping, brand and recommendations from family and friends – according to a new survey of more than 6,500 consumers conducted by PowerReviews.

This marks a shift in consumer behavior. Similar surveys fielded by PowerReviews in 2014 and 2018 revealed price to be the most important influence on online purchase decisions.

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When asked which factors impact online purchase decisions, 94% of consumers now say customer ratings and reviews top the list of considerations, followed by price of product (91%), free shipping (78%), brand preference (65%) and friend/family recommendations (60%).

In fact, customer ratings and reviews have become so important on the path to purchase that almost four in five consumers say they won’t shop on websites without user-generated Voice of the Customer testimonials about their product experiences.

These are just a few of the key insights from the PowerReviews Ever-Growing Power of Reviews study, based on survey responses from 6,538 consumers nationwide, surveyed in April 2021. Other key findings include:

Reviews are now a quintessential element to drive purchases.

  • Today, more than 99.9% of consumers say they read reviews when shopping online at least sometimes. In 2018, this number was 97%.
  • 98% of consumers feel that reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions, up from 89% in 2018.
  • 79% of consumers specifically seek out websites with product reviews, up from 63% in 2018. Millennials are the generation most likely to seek out websites with product reviews — 85% say this is a must.

Review quality, quantity, and recency all matter to shoppers.

  • 77% of consumers say the average star rating is an element they consider when reading reviews. But 52% don’t trust star ratings without accompanying review content.
  • The greatest portion of consumers (53%) read between one and 10 reviews. Yet 68% say that ideally, a product would have 26 or more reviews.
  • 71% consider recency when reading reviews. The biggest portion of shoppers (34%) look for reviews for a product that are between a week and one month old. A quarter look for reviews that are between one to three months old.

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Negative reviews are an important tool for modern shoppers.

  • 96% of consumers specifically look for negative reviews at least sometimes. In 2018, that number was 85%.
  • Over half (52%) of shoppers specifically seek out one-star reviews. This number is even higher — 60% — among Millennial shoppers.
  • 46% of shoppers are suspicious of products with an average star rating of five out of five. This suspicion is even higher — 53% — among Gen Z shoppers.

Andrew Smith – VP, Marketing at PowerReviews, says:

“Ratings and reviews and ‘social proof’ have become such a significant factor in buyer decision making that shoppers actually choose the websites they buy from based on their availability. And this trend is only likely to intensify given that our survey finds younger generations are most reliant on this content.

“At a time when faith in institutions is low, genuine and authentic customer feedback is vital to earn consumer trust and demonstrate transparency for today’s shopper. Ratings and reviews is a uniquely strategic tactic to help build this brand trust and authenticity for consumers. Shoppers need to be able to trust the brands and retailers they shop from, and want to understand what other consumers think and feel about the products they are looking to purchase.

“Our survey results indicate both the volume and recency of customer reviews is critical to influence the path to purchase, and that even negative reviews can be beneficial in achieving the overarching objective of establishing trust and transparency with consumers.”