COVID-19 changed the way consumers shop and research online businesses forever. The research and reviews team at Sitejabber took a deep dive into everything businesses learned during a year full of uncertainty, as well as surveyed 5,000 online shoppers on the impact of online reviews. Businesses can use these consumer patterns found from the latest review statistics to help inform their online reviews strategy for years to come.
There’s no denying how essential reviews are to all businesses. Consumer reliance on reviews to make purchasing decisions increases with each passing year. On top of that, the pandemic caused consumers to shop online more than ever, forcing all businesses to rethink their digital strategy. Now, almost all consumers read reviews when they shop, trusting shopper advice more than advertisements businesses pay to run.
We measured how big of an impact reviews have on different generations of shoppers. We found that the younger the generation, the more likely they are to be influenced by reviews. Moving forward, as generations are introduced to digital technology at young ages, reading reviews perhaps becomes second nature and a necessary benchmark when shopping.
Mobile use continues to grow steadily, with more and more people comfortable using their phones for many important actions. However, another factor to consider is the many office-based employees who had to make the sudden move to working from home, which may have impacted the way they use their phones during non-work hours.
There’s a big opportunity for businesses to receive feedback – up to 87% of consumers are open to writing them a review! And with 14% more consumers writing reviews because of positive experiences as opposed to negative, shoppers want to commend businesses.
Helping the community is a major motivation for those who write reviews. The number one reason consumers share their experiences is just to help fellow shoppers. With the second motivating factor to writing a review is to get a business’s attention, managing your reviews becomes vital. Make sure you have a system in place to address your negative reviews and thank customers for the positive feedback. 34% of people who write reviews want to help businesses – a good sign, as this means they are open to sharing positive insight too.
With consumers affected by shut-downs, leaner budgets, and uncertainty, digital sales and online reviews became of alarming importance, expediting the need for businesses to ramp up their online strategies.
84% of people maintained their online shopping habits during the pandemic. And with a whopping 40% of them shopping even more than before, businesses need to expand their online presence.
Millennials lead the pack when it comes to shopping during the pandemic. While an average of 35% of all other generations are shopping online more too, millennials top the list. More than half of millennial respondents shopped more during COVID-19.
The majority of all income groups shopped just as much during the pandemic. However, higher-income groups were more able to maintain shopping habits if not spend more during COVID-19 times.
With the high amount of consumers searching for businesses online during the pandemic, shoppers also made it a priority to research companies by reading reviews. Only 12% read fewer reviews, which may reflect those who also shopped less during the pandemic.
As the highest pandemic shopping group, millennials also read the most reviews during this time. 50% of millennials read more reviews during the pandemic compared with the average of 32% of other generations who also read more.
Whether shopping for a new need or looking to switch from an old vendor, when consumers are researching new businesses, reviews play a major role in their decision-making. Reviews alone are powerful enough to make a shopper decide on your store.
While positive reviews impact all consumers across various household incomes, we see a general pattern of positive reviews influencing the purchasing decisions of higher-income groups the most.
Receiving negative reviews may be at times, inevitable. While reasons to garner positive reviews may be obvious, businesses don’t need to shy from constructive criticism. According to Power Reviews, most consumers actively look for negative reviews and Invespcro shares that the lack of them actually hurts your credibility. Responding to negative reviews may be the key to addressing the criticism, which we’ll cover later.
Reviews are essential to winning customers over in every industry, but may vary in the use case and how frequently consumers look for them. Reviews in the electronics and technology industry are both the most read and considered the most important by consumers. Purchasing electronics may occur pretty regularly (such as phones, computers, house appliances, etc.) and is not always a cheap transaction, making reviews all the more vital in the consumer decision making process.
The younger Gen Z takes the most time to read beauty and skincare reviews, while older generations, millennials, Gen X, and boomers, read electronics and tech reviews the most. Perhaps with the prominence of social media and influencer marketing, beauty and skincare brands are building a strong online presence, which as shown here, leaves more of an impact on the younger generations. It’s also interesting to note the difference between the younger and older generations – fashion and beauty reviews top the list for Gen Z and millennials, while Gen X and Boomers care more about travel, food, or health.
And when it comes to how each generation thinks about reviews in different industries, Gen Z again singles themselves out, considering beauty and skincare reviews among the most important, while all other groups rank electronics and technology reviews as most important.
The types of local businesses consumers most often search reviews for and consider most important are pretty consistent. But while consumers may look up clothing store reviews more often, reviews in industries like dental care or insurance are considered more important.
So what makes reviews so important? When consumers are searching for businesses to shop from, the majority of shoppers will trust reviews from a complete stranger just as much as a personal recommendation. Online reviews have become the new word of mouth, now accessible at a click of a button. Here are some important stats on how much consumers trust reviews.
As seen in previous stats, the generations exposed to digital technology at younger ages are especially influenced by online reviews and advice.
This was an interesting finding – not only are higher-income groups more influenced by positive reviews as we’ve previously noted, they are also more likely to trust reviews more than direct recommendations from people in their circle.
Consumers report star ratings and whether the review looks real as the top most important aspects of a review. Star ratings are an immediate eye-catching indicator of the quality of a business, and is a feature implemented on Google seller ratings as well. Having a sufficient amount of reviews comes as a close third, followed by review recency, and one less commonly discussed – if a business responds to reviews. Making sure that reviews from real customers are consistently flowing in and showcasing your care for your customers are important elements to implement in your strategy.
Interestingly, while the average consumer cares most about star ratings, the number one review factor Gen Z shoppers look for are photos. The younger Gen Z shopper is more drawn to visual reviews compared to other age groups.
We’ve established that star ratings are an important factor of reviews. So what star ratings do businesses need for consumers to consider them?
Getting reviews is not a one-and-done campaign. While a company’s previous reviews are helpful for ratings and showing off a track record, businesses should have a consistent flow of new, relevant reviews. Collecting and displaying updated reviews year-round will help consumers continue to trust the reviews – especially when half of your customers only want to read experiences from the past two weeks!
The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business. 22% of consumers need to read more than 10 reviews. Make sure you have enough reviews optimized not only on the first pages of your website but also on Google and any relevant reviews platforms in your industry.
While the average shopper reads 10 reviews, keep in mind that the volume of reviews matters too. A whopping 78% of people need to see that a business has accumulated at least 100 reviews to perceive a business as trustworthy. And although 31% just need to see that a business has at least 10, 50% will only trust a business displaying at least 500 real reviews. Consumers may also expect a similar volume of reviews across any reviews platform they research on. If this seems daunting, remember that there are tools to get reviews at scale across all platforms.
Google leads as the number one reviews site used by consumers to search for online businesses. Just a quick company search in Google’s search engine will immediately display a business’ Google My Business listing and ratings, aggregated from its partners like Sitejabber. Trailing behind are Facebook and The Better Business Bureau (BBB) as the second and third most used reviews platforms, respectively.
Respondents also report Google as the reviews site they trust the most. And interestingly, despite recent media buzz around fake reviews on Amazon, many reviewers still trust the platform, even more than the BBB.
These results emphasize the importance of getting reviews on a variety of platforms to target where your consumers are. Hosting reviews only on your website will hurt your sales potential. Additionally, BrightLocal reports that 72% of consumers say it is important for a business to be on multiple review sites.
While the BBB is among the least used reviews sites when it comes to local businesses, it lands at the top of the list of consumer trust. And although the consumers most frequently use Google, Facebook, and Yelp to check local business reviews, they still trust the BBB and Tripadvisor more.
Many businesses resort to purchasing or creating fake reviews, thinking it can be a quick fix. However, fake reviews lead to strong consumer distrust, not to mention reviews platforms potentially flagging your business, which will hurt your reputation and profitability. If you’re buying fake reviews to counteract negative reviews, remember that critical reviews also play a role in a reviewer’s research process. Take care to respond and fix the negative feedback you get – it’ll be much more effective than using fake reviews.
While online reviews are increasingly important, consumers are also more skeptical than ever. Fake reviews will only hurt your reputation and turn potential shoppers away.
When analyzing whether consumers question the authenticity of reviews with annual household income groups, an interesting pattern arises – the higher the income, the more skeptical the consumer is likely to be.
Previously, we discussed how “real” a review seems is among the top review factors consumers care about. The number one way consumers determine the legitimacy of a review is the way it is written. Consumers say they can tell the difference between a review written by a bot or if it came from a real shopper experience.
Respondents also say photo reviews and review verification indicators are other top important cues that make a review seem real. Use review platforms that can help you with all these factors to ensure that consumers are trusting all your reviews.
Almost all consumers are now reading businesses’ responses to their customers. And if a business isn’t responding, that’s also sending a message of indifference or lack of customer support. Responding to reviews should now be a priority in businesses’ reviews strategies.
We found that there isn’t a strong distinction between consumers looking for responses to either positive or negative reviews. Consumers want to see that a business cares to respond to their customers. And with 84% of consumers more keen on shopping at businesses who respond to reviews, doing so will increase your chance of converting new customers.
When it comes to engaging with and responding to customers, local businesses are a few steps ahead of e-commerce businesses. 44% of e-commerce shoppers have not been notified of any responses to their reviews. While e-commerce businesses are improving over time, businesses can accelerate their reviews strategies now by actively responding and connecting with customers through reviews.
We’ve established that responding to reviews is essential to businesses’ online reputations. Now, 80% of consumers say they expect review responses within 2 weeks – and 72% of them expect it within days, at most a week. Businesses need to have a system in place to respond to reviews at scale and efficiently.
A personalized response can bring back 51% of your customers with negative experiences, so take care to give real, authentic responses as opposed to obviously cold, automated replies. But 19% of consumers are also open to receiving any response!
The number one motivator for a Gen Z shopper to give a business a second chance is a discount code, followed closely by a personalized response. The majority of millennials, Gen X, and boomers say that a personalized response is sufficient.
Local businesses are more proactive in asking customers for reviews. E-commerce stores and services have not jumped on the opportunity as much yet, even though most people would be willing to write a review.
Email continues to be the standout channel businesses use to request reviews. However, there’s a new contender – social media, with consumers reporting being asked to write reviews on social media more than other traditional channels.
83% of people were offered an incentive in exchange for writing reviews. Businesses should avoid providing bribes in exchange for positive reviews. Potential customers may see right through this tactic, and write your business off as untrustworthy. Different reviews platforms each have their own guidelines around offering incentives for reviews.
The pandemic sped up the move to all things digital, forcing consumers to shop at home and challenging businesses to adapt. The way brands need to think of their online presence has changed for the long run – your consumers are looking for you online, and you have a chance to control your online reputation and grow your business exponentially.
And as more businesses go digital, consumers are handed thousands of new options every day to choose from. Online reviews play a huge role in their final purchasing decisions, so use the consumer data in this study and necessary tools to help grow your reviews strategy.
These statistics are compiled from various reviews sources, including Sitejabber survey data, to present the most complete study of the current state of online reviews. The Sitejabber consumer data is based on e-commerce and online services reports. Sitejabber surveyed a representative sample of 5,000 consumers in the United States.