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08/18/2021

Online Reviews are Critical for E-Commerce

More than half of consumers read online reviews before making a purchase.
Online reviews

In fact, 54% of consumers read reviews for everything they buy online, according to a recent survey from Digital.com, an independent review website for small business online tools, products and services. Another 19% of respondents said they read reviews for purchases more than $100, and only 5% of consumers don’t read reviews, regardless of the cost of the item they are buying.

The findings underscore the importance and value of good reviews for brands, as consumers can be heavily influenced by them. For instance, 26% of respondents noted good reviews have the most influence on their decision to purchase. Good reviews tend to have more of an impact on men compared to women, the study found.

“Review sentiment is important, because consumers trust experiences of real users shared through images, video and detailed explanations over what a brand might promote on their own,” said Huy Nguyen, marketing executive at Digital.

However, free shipping was also an important factor, with 22% of respondents reporting it as the most influential factor. Mass retailers have taken notice of free shipping as an important e-commerce differentiator. Many of the biggest players, including Walmart and Albertsons, have implemented their own membership programs that include free shipping when members pay an annual fee, like Amazon’s Prime program. For women, free shipping was more important than reviews, with 26% saying it was the most important factor when making an online purchase.

Not only are good reviews critical for consumers when making online purchase decisions, most (88%) are reading at least three reviews. A significant portion of consumers–40%–read four to nine reviews, while 27% read 10 or more and 21% read three. And most consumers read whichever reviews pop up first, whether positive or negative.

“Most review platforms and third-party marketplaces allow visitors to rate other customer reviews by their helpfulness or relevance,” Nguyen said. “These reviews are often displayed first by default. Companies need to focus on maintaining a highly-positive overall review rating for their products, as customers won’t read all product reviews before making a decision. With this in mind, it’s even more important to respond to and resolve negative reviews and turn them into positive experiences for future visitors to see.”

Positive and negative reviews both have an effect on purchase decisions, the survey found. More than half (55%) said a glowing review will help them decide to buy, and 57% said a negative review will convince them to pass on an item. For 21% of shoppers, it doesn’t take much to sway them, with just one negative review being enough to convince them to spend their money elsewhere.

Online reviews clearly play a critical role in purchase decision making, but they also provide brands and retailers with legitimacy. More reviews can also lend more credibility to brands, and 39% of respondents said 100 to 999 reviews are needed for a company to be considered trustworthy. Another quarter of consumers believe 1-99 reviews is enough, while 19% say they want to see more than 1,000.

The survey, which queried 1,250 online shoppers in the U.S., underscores how companies can build trust through online reviews and the importance of responding to negative reviews.