MarketingCharts: Online Reviews Growing in Influence

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Jan 02, 2013
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from MarketingCharts, a Watershed Publishing publication providing up-to-to-minute data and research to marketers.

According a survey from Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange (OTX), 78 percent of Americans aged 18-64 agree that online reviews help them decide whether or not to purchase a product, including roughly one-third who "very much agree."

Compared to the global average of 69 percent, Americans are 13 percent more likely to agree that online product reviews influence their purchases.

In fact, the Ipsos results might even underestimate how influential product reviews are to Americans. An online survey of 407 U.S. adults by EXPO, also released in December, reveals that 98 percent of respondents found user-generated reviews helpful when researching holiday shopping.

In the Ipsos survey, certain segments of the population appear more reliant on reviews than others. Within the U.S., women are almost 50 percent more likely than men to say they very much agree that online product reviews help them make purchase decisions (38 percent vs. 26 percent). There is also a strong age dynamic at play. Specifically, the 18-34 group is far more likely than the 35-49 and 50-64 sets to very much agree that online product reviews influence them (44 percent, 32 percent, and 19 percent, respectively).

Interestingly, online product reviews appear to be more of an influence on wealthier Americans than their lower-income counterparts. Survey respondents from high-income households were 23 percent more likely than those from low-income households to agree (at least somewhat) that online reviews help them decide whether or not to buy a product (81 percent vs. 66 percent).

Similarly, respondents with a high degree of educational attainment were about 11 percent more likely than those with a low education level to rely on online product reviews (83 percent vs. 75 percent).

The Ipsos study examines the attitudes of consumers across 24 countries, and finds that those most open to being influenced by online reviews are almost all Asian countries. Turkey (a Eurasian country) sports the highest proportion of online consumers agreeing that they rely on product reviews, at 92 percent.

After Turkey, a high proportion of consumers in South Korea (89 percent), India (87 percent), Indonesia (86 percent), and China (82 percent) are influenced to some degree by online product reviews.

Those high figures contrast with countries at the other end of the spectrum, whose consumers appear to largely ignore online product reviews. Those countries — exclusively European — include France (38 percent at least somewhat agreeing), Belgium (39 percent), Sweden (43 percent), and Germany (47 percent).

Are online reviews becoming a significant differentiator for the e-commerce shopping experience versus brick & mortar? Are there ways brick & mortar stores can better capitalize on the popularity of customer reviews?

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22 Comments on "MarketingCharts: Online Reviews Growing in Influence"


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Verlin Youd
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Yes! Online reviews are becoming a significant differentiator for both e-commerce and brick & mortar. Brick & Mortar retailers should think about how to ensure a positive experience and then encourage their customers to post on-line reviews through various means.

Some possibilities could be:

  • Print online review link and/or QR code and incentive on customer receipt. I would much rather post a review than go through a poorly designed customer satisfaction survey.
  • Have signage with QR codes displayed at entrance/exit.
  • If sending follow-up emails, including email receipts, include link for on-line review site and incentives.
  • Leverage social media to incent posting of online reviews.
Max Goldberg
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Online reviews are a primary source for online and offline shopping. As such, it is important for retailers to stay on top of what customers are saying. Reviews not only provide valuable sources of information, they open the door to dialogue with customers. Not every review requires a response, but responding demonstrates the value that a retailer places on its customers and shows a willingness to listen and then act to make the shopping experience better.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
6 years 10 months ago

If you are not a self-determinate person, you will willing rely on others’ reported shopping experiences whether you are prone toward e-commerce or brick& mortar shopping. And since there are more “uncertain” folks than the other kind, online reviews are significant.

B&M stores have a broader horizon to exploit via online reviews and should promote the human values in their processes and programs.

Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
6 years 10 months ago

In today’s omni-channel world, online reviews can be a differentiator and a curse for all types of retailers. There really is almost no such thing as a pure bricks & mortar player anymore. And with the mobile shopping explosion shoppers are reading reviews on their smartphones and tablets in stores all the time.

The reality is all forms of retailers need to understand and tap into the online review world. It is totally impossible to hide from them now so we all need to embrace the medium and develop a strategy to learn and leverage consumer-generated content.

Dave Wendland
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Influencers of purchase decisions now come in all shapes and sizes—and from complete strangers via product reviews. I personally believe that these are extremely powerful and should not be taken for granted, but rather used as informative insight when making brand marketing decisions.

Can brick & mortar stores capitalize on this wave of popularity? Absolutely. For those brick-and-mortar stores that have websites, I would recommend implementing QR codes at shelf that take shoppers directly to product reviews and having in-store kiosks that allow consumers to quickly hear what others are saying. This can be a strong element of “interactive” shopping.

For those that don’t have websites, what about incorporating their own in-store review system? Sure the results may vary and not always come up as roses … but isn’t that what reality ought to serve up?

Joel Rubinson
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Online reviews are critical for non-recurring items such as durables, electronics, app downloads, and restaurants. However, these reviews are equally important for e-commerce and brick and mortar as checking the reviews online is part of a pre-shopping process that might culminate in-store as well as online.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Yes, online reviews are significant but may not be a long term differentiator for ecommerce. Bricks and mortar can quickly capitalize by providing access to the reviews either through kiosks in the store or by allowing the customer to access thru the retailer app using a bar code reader or QR code.

The thing that worries me is how long before these reviews become tainted with either paid reviewers or other incentivized reviews (e.g. get $10 off your next purchase for reviewing what you just bought).

Joan Treistman
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

I don’t believe that online reviews are skewed to online purchases. People shopping for home electronics and cameras, for example, will refer to reviews whether they purchase online or in a store. Consequently brick & mortar are part of the program. If they want to connect with product reviews more closely, they might want to allow access to those reviews at the point of sale with an iPad available for shoppers of each category. Now that would be something.

David Zahn
Guest
6 years 10 months ago
I read this and have a contrarian point of view to those expressed/the analysis presented. To be sure, the importance of “peer review” cannot be understated. It is critical to the buying decision-making process and always has been. The difference is that the brick and mortar stores have taken steps to MINIMIZE it from occurring (perhaps unintentionally) over the last few decades, while online has encouraged and facilitated it. The stores have looked to emphasize efficiencies. So, the model of the Mr. Whipple retailer who was on the selling floor engaged with shoppers and seeming to know everyone’s business (even if he was a “busybody” type) is rarely seen. The idea of the retailer as a networking place (social, interactive, chaotic to a degree, like the “bazaar” or “street fair” concepts that used to dominate people’s view of “going to the market”) has been usurped by self-service, isolated, non-engaging shopping. The stores have left a GAPING hole that the internet has had to fulfill (because there is reduced trust initially in purchasing online—who is the… Read more »
Kevin Price
Guest
Kevin Price
6 years 10 months ago

“What you do” has always been more important than “what you say.” If you’re clever in “what you say,” you can always get trial. But ‘repeat’ yields sustainability in the business. Online reviews essentially take the “what you say” out of the hands of the marketers and is rapidly transferring this communication opportunity to the customer.

In other words, nothing has really changed. At the end of the day, you still must deliver the goods in a way that satisfies your customers better than your competitors. If you do, you win in the marketplace. If you don’t, you lose. Online reviews simply accelerate customer communication and knowledge of whether or not a business is doing its job.

Whether a store is brick & mortar or not has little to do with anything important.

Shep Hyken
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

It’s simple. Reviews from peers, colleagues, family members and even other customers are trusted more than the company promoting its own products. The numbers in this article prove that these reviews influence the customer. What should concern a company is a Nielsen survey that found the traditional paid media has a trust level that is declining. Last year just under half of the consumers surveyed trusted paid advertising; television (47%), magazine (47%) and newspaper ads (46%). These numbers have been declining, and most likely will continue to do so.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
6 years 10 months ago

Yes, online reviews are increasing in their significance as a differentiator for e-commerce.
I believe that online reviews, at least in the short term, are of more significance to e-commerce. Once smart phone applications functional capability meets a consumers needs test (fast and easy) AND the demand for such applications reaches a measurable level, online reviews will better serve e-commerce.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

I must confess I read reviews. Unless they are strongly negative, the influence is minimal on the decision to purchase.

James Tenser
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Speaking from recent personal experience, online reviews have become a significant part of my product research routine—but only for higher-consideration purchases, like computer gear, electronics and the like.

I generally follow the statistician’s rule of throwing out the outliers. That is, I dismiss the glowing positives and the blanket negatives and try to look at the more thoughtful comments in between.

I also look at editorial reviews—like “best of” product ratings from online magazines—to help narrow down choices.

All these sources are subject to bias, ignorance and inaccuracy, of course. But then, in-store sales people tend to be poorly informed and/or push the brands they get “spiffed” on.

Retailers could employ a “top rated” signage program to take advantage of credible online ratings. (Think of the “90 PTS” rating tags you may see on wine bottles in some chain stores.) Add a QR code and shoppers can confirm the good news for themselves, without leaving the shelf.

Dan Frechtling
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Online reviews are less of a differentiator and more of a leveler.

A differentiator creates competitive advantage because it is broadly desired, rarely imitated, and consistently delivered. Only a few elite online companies such as Amazon and Yelp have turned reviews into online advantage.

A leveler allows second- and third-tier online players to reduce fear, uncertainty and doubt and narrow the trust gap with first-tier players. Ratings and reviews has reached this point for at least a few reasons:

  • Paid search ads allow smaller online sellers to appear next to large players on search engines.
  • Ratings and review content with proper microdata has SEO power favored by search engines. This enables smaller players to draw more traffic from searches.
  • Intermediaries now syndicate reviews. BazaarVoice offers product reviews and Yelp and OpenTable offer service reviews.

Ratings and reviews work best for commodity products. Unique products and services take longer to build critical mass of responses and fall prey to manipulation.

Lee Kent
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Online reviews are significant period. Maybe not so much a differentiation. You can find reviews on just about anything you want, but where you buy is still up to you. Brick & mortar stores are by and large already getting advantage from these reviews since most people, especially those prone to using reviews, check it out online ahead of time.

Can they do more? Sure, they can make the review info available in store and/or give shoppers a quick way to post a review in one step.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

There is no reason why physical stores cannot leverage customer reviews as widely as online stores. Physical stores, as shown by the true innovators in retail, currently have massive online presences, even though the vast majority of their shoppers visit the physical stores. Those stores also leverage the reach of social media channels, print surveys, etc. on the paper receipts and also get closer to their customers with mobile checkout and emailing receipts. There are no excuses for physical stores to be behind the curve on surveys.

Doug Fleener
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

I don’t think review benefit e-commerce more than brick and mortar. Most consumers are either doing their research before they come to the store, or checking it with smartphones while in the store. I know I do both all of the time.

Let me add another point. Some companies are adding reviews for the sake of adding reviews. I have a bank that lets customers post reviews of the branches right on the website. Most of the reviews are horrible. Even worse, there isn’t a single comment from the home office or the branch manager. After reading them I thought of changing banks! Something I hadn’t even considered.

Chandan Agarwala
Guest
Chandan Agarwala
6 years 10 months ago

Brick & mortar stores are using social media monitoring and analytics tools for tracking customer reviews in public social networking tools. The scope needs to broaden to track customer reviews in lesser known web portals. Currently there is more focus on controlling negative publicity, without capitalizing on positive feedback to help build the brand.

Peter Muratore
Guest
Peter Muratore
6 years 10 months ago

It is a bit of the wild west out there now. We have retailer sites, manufacturer sites and 3rd-party sites all looking to provide information in order to influence whether a product should be purchased or not. Shoppers are getting inundated and their trust factors of all sources are deteriorating. Where is the objectivity?

The key to getting this online thing to work well is to continually evolve to “personalization” of message to a specific target group. Boomers and Millennials want different info and want different media; websites vs. social medial. That is how trust is developed

Forget the old notion of ‘Path to Purchase’, it doesn’t exist in the world of combo BMS and online, Both overlaid with tons of purchase influencers.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

Online reviews are SOP for digital natives. It’s human nature to trust peers—even when you don’t know who they are.

The essence of online success is moving from a monologue to a dialogue with your clients. Sites with product reviews allow this behavior, and companies have to manage reviews as a benefit to their brand.

Christopher Krywulak
Guest
Christopher Krywulak
6 years 10 months ago

Absolutely. Back in November, Target announced it would be displaying CNET reviews (of gadgets available in-store) on TVs and tablets within its electronics departments. Because CNET is already a trusted online resource for gadget reviews, it’s an excellent partnership for Target in terms of reinforcing consumers’ purchase decisions and in-store impulse buys.

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