Power Points

  • The Google product reviews update does not impact the kind of reviews you have on your website, i.e. individual product reviews written by verified customers.

  • The update targets affiliate-style blogs that review products, or lists of products, in a long-form article format. For example, articles with titles like “Best Drip Coffee Makers of 2021” or “2021’s Best Top Load Washing Machines, Reviewed.”

  • At PowerReviews, we are focused on ensuring that the user-generated content we help you collect is authentic and helpful. 

  • Learn how our review displays are already engineered to satisfy Google’s requirements for useful, thoughtful, and detailed review content.

We know you’ve probably heard about a recent Google update concerning product reviews. It’s totally normal to get nervous whenever Google makes a big announcement. 

But, if you’re a PowerReviews customer, there is no need to panic with this update.

Google’s product reviews update is targeting the kind of generic, unhelpful information you find in affiliate blogs and listicles, so that true product reviews — like what you have on your website — can come to the spotlight.

Read on as we break down what you need to know about Google’s product reviews update, how it impacts search and page rank, and how PowerReviews products are already set up to help you take advantage of this change. 

What Is the Google Product Reviews Update?

The Google product reviews update targets affiliate-style blogs that review products, or lists of products, in a long-form article format. It is not targeting individual product reviews written by verified customers, like the kind you have on your website. That’s the key takeaway you need to know. 

What is an affiliate blog, you may be wondering? Let us explain. 

Affiliate blogs include links to all the products they review, with unique identifiers that help the retailer identify which clicks and purchases came from that blog. If a reader clicks on a link and buys the product, the company rewards the affiliate with cash. That’s why these blogs almost always have something vaguely positive to say about all of the products featured; it’s the best way for them to make money!

Think back to the last time you researched online to buy an important purchase, like a new TV or coffee maker. You may have been looking for an expert’s opinion on the top options out there. You may have found yourself reading an affiliate blog. The blog may have talked vaguely about what to look for when you compared products, and all the products kind of sounded the same. 

We’ve all found ourselves reading one of these affiliate review blogs. They’re typically only somewhat helpful. In fact, many of them share the same information you’d find on a retailer’s website, which you could have found yourself!

This is exactly the kind of the content Google’s looking to catch with this product reviews update. Instead of promoting “thin content that simply summarizes a bunch of products,” Google is changing up their ranking algorithms to ensure that the affiliate blogs they feature were written by people who have actually used the products and can speak to them knowledgeably.

Google always aims to share the most up-to-date, helpful information with its users, which is why it rewards sites that have richer, more freshly updated content with higher rankings in the search results. (This is why reviews are so good for SEO!)

INCREASE RANKINGS
0 %
More than 35% of customers begin the purchase journey on a search engine.
BOOST ORGANIC TRAFFIC
0 %
Organic product page traffic increases on average by 108% when going from zero to at least one review.
GENERATE MORE CONTENT
0 %
Product pages going from zero to at least one answer see an average traffic increase by 88%.

The bottom line: Google’s goal with this update is to ensure that when people look up blogs and review articles online, the content they find is written by experts who have deep knowledge of the industry, and have actually held the products they’re reviewing in their hands and used them. Google is not targeting user reviews of individual products like those found on your product landing pages.

How We Ensure Authenticity and Helpfulness at PowerReviews

Even though Google’s product reviews update has no impact on the types of review content we support here at PowerReviews, we’re vigilant about ensuring that the user-generated content we help you collect is authentic and helpful. We’re always brainstorming new ways to ensure your reviews convey a level of thoughtfulness and detail that give people actionable information. In other words — the kind of content that Google’s working to protect and promote.

It all starts with our Review Displays. We’ve designed them to be flexible, so we can easily adapt them to precisely fit the needs of your customer base. You can add different filters and review fields, from the pros and cons for a product to identifying information about the reviewer.  This level of detail allows your brand to provide what we call contextual reviews.

What Are Contextual Reviews?

Contextual reviews enable shoppers to hone in on the reviews from people just like them. They can find a review and say to themselves, “Hey, this person sounds just like me! That gives me more confidence that the product will work for me!”

Here’s what that looks like in action, using Estee Lauder’s Repair Serum as an example. This product has over 15,000 reviews. That’s certainly impressive, but it’s also way too many for shoppers to read. Fortunately, with just a few clicks, they can use the filters to narrow down to just a handful of reviews that are hyper-relevant to them: 

Google’s Product Reviews Update vs. PowerReviews:
Do We Pass the Test?

Google’s product reviews update targets affiliate-style blogs that review products or lists of products, not the customer reviews found on a retailer’s website. But, just for the heck of it, let’s see how our PowerReviews review display stacks up against Google’s guidelines, shall we?

In their announcement, Google challenged affiliate blogs to question whether their reviews satisfied the following guidelines. Here’s what they asked, and how PowerReviews passed (spoiler alert: we passed with flying colors!) 

Do your reviews express expert knowledge about products where appropriate?

You know it! We ask reviewers to describe themselves (in terms of their preferences, demographics and so on), so customers can determine how much weight they should put behind a person’s reviews. For example, Sonos reviewers can identify as audiophiles (someone who’s clearly an expert in sound) or simply a casual listener.

Do your reviews show what the product is like physically, or how it is used, with unique content beyond what’s provided by the manufacturer?

Check! Our Review Displays allow customers to upload multiple images and add captions. In the example below from REI, shoppers can clearly see the reviewer is an avid hiker, thanks to the caption she added about the mountain she hiked.

Do your reviews provide quantitative measurements about how a product measures up in various categories of performance?

Yes again! You can invite customers to list the best use cases for a product. Then, at a glance, customers can view tallies of how many reviewers ranked a product for a particular use case. Sonos shoppers can see that this speaker shines at multi-room audio:

Do your reviews explain what sets a product apart from its competitors?

You betcha. Customers can use the open-ended review field to rave about what makes your product stand out. Canyon Bakehouse has won over gluten-free fans for making their bread taste like bread. Unlike other GF breads, it can be prepared various ways and always tastes great:

Do your reviews cover comparable products to consider, or explain which products might be best for certain uses or circumstances?

Check! Reviewers can discuss their favorite product, and compare and contrast it with your other products to help others find the best one for their needs. For a health shake like Vega, shoppers can also identify whether they prefer having theirs as a daily smoothie, on the go, or pre- or post-workout:

Do your reviews discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a particular product, based on research into it?

Yes, yet again. Reviewers can select from a list of pros and cons, so shoppers can see at a glance how well a product stacks up on everything that matters to them:

Do your reviews describe how a product has evolved from previous models or releases to provide improvements, address issues, or otherwise help users in making a purchase decision?

Absolutely. This is what Q&A was made for! Use your Q&A to respond to people’s questions and help them understand the best product for their needs, like Duraflame does:

Do your reviews identify key decision-making factors for the product's category and how the product performs in those areas?

100%. Not all review displays need to show the same information. For example, the review display for an apparel brand will look quite different than that for a food & beverage brand. We will work with you to create a review display that fits your needs.

Bonobos apparel shoppers can not only filter the reviews by the exact variation they’re considering, but they can also filter them by their size, height, and weight — allowing them to narrow in on reviews from people who look just like them.

Do your reviews describe key choices in how a product has been designed and their effect on the users beyond what the manufacturer says?

Yes! This is the power of contextual reviews. Reviewers can quickly provide information that allows other shoppers to determine how much weight they should give their review: Are the pros listed the same features that are most important to me? Do the use cases line up with how I intend to use the product? Does this person sound like me?

Then, shoppers can read the review to glean even more information, like how this Sonos reviewer describes exactly where he uses his Sonos speaker:

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

If we haven’t drummed it into you yet, there’s no need to worry about the Google product reviews update. And even if you were worried (which you don’t need to be), our review displays are already engineered to satisfy Google’s requirements for useful, thoughtful, and detailed review content.

We’re always on top of Google updates here at PowerReviews. You can rely on us to be working behind the scenes to make sure we’re always setting you up for success in the search results.

Riley Smith

Riley Smith is a Senior Solutions Consultant at PowerReviews where he works with existing and prospective clients to translate their eCommerce goals into innovative and powerful solutions. When Riley isn't chatting with clients or fielding technical questions from other PowerPeople, he's usually running on the lakefront or scrolling endlessly through Netflix.

MAY 20, 2021—CHICAGO—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.

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. 

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.” 

Research Methodology

The PowerReviews Ever-Growing Power of Reviews consumer survey draws on responses from 6,538 active grocery shoppers across the United States who have opted in to offers and discounts from retailers. The survey took place in April 2021. Throughout the survey, we defined Boomers as born in the years 1946 to 1964 (aged 56-74 on Dec 31, 2020), Gen X as born in the years 1965 to 1980 (aged 40-55 on Dec 31, 2020), Millennials as born between 1981-1996 (aged 23-38 on Dec 31, 2020) and Gen Zers born in or after 1997 (ages 22 and younger on Dec 31, 2020). 

ABOUT POWERREVIEWS

PowerReviews (PowerReviews.com) is a conversion-first UGC vendor obsessed with helping brands and retailers grow their businesses. PowerReviews enables these organizations to generate better quality customer product ratings and reviews in larger volumes and then analyze and benchmark all this data to optimize their UGC programs for conversion, while improving product quality and customer experience.

PowerReviews is headquartered in Chicago, IL, USA.

Media Contact

Erin Lutz 
Lutz Public Relations (for PowerReviews) 
erin@lutzpr.com 
949-293-1055

The evolving role of ratings and reviews on the path to purchase, according to research of more than 6,500 U.S. shoppers.

Survey at a Glance:

The PowerReviews Ever-Growing Power of Reviews report is based on survey responses from 6,538 consumers across the United States. Key findings include:

Reviews have always been important to consumers. They’ve become even more important.
  • Today, more than 99.9% of consumers say they read reviews when shopping online at least sometimes. In 2018, this number was 97%. 

  • Over half (57%) of shoppers read reviews while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to assess potential purchases.

  • 98% of consumers feel that reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions, up from 89% in 2018.

  • Ratings and reviews have become the most important factor impacting purchase decisions, ranking above price, free shipping, brand and recommendations from family and friends. In similar surveys we fielded in 2014 and 2018, price was the most important factor. 
Shoppers choose websites based on the availability of reviews.
  • 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% do so.

  • The most popular places for shoppers to read reviews include Amazon (95%) retailer websites (93%), brand websites (68%) and search engines (65%).  
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 in an ideal world, 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 a month old. A quarter look for reviews that are between one to three months old.
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 number is even higher — 53% — among Gen Z shoppers. 
Introduction

Reviews are Ubiquitous

In the long history of commerce, reviews are a fairly new concept. But it’s one that’s certainly caught on quickly.

Today, it’s common for consumers to consult reviews when they’re shopping for products, looking for restaurants, weighing their options for their next vacation, or even selecting a care provider for their child. And that’s just a few of the many scenarios in which people seek out reviews to guide decisions.

Consumer dependence on reviews continues to grow. When we surveyed consumers in 2018, we found that 97% consulted reviews — and 89% considered this content to be an essential component of the purchase journey.

Today, nearly all consumers — 99.9% — read reviews, and 98% consider them to be essential. That’s because reviews are an authentic, unbiased source of information that empowers shoppers to make informed purchase decisions.

For Businesses, Reviews are no Longer Optional

A growing number of consumers value reviews. As such, brands and retailers must make it a priority to provide easy access to this content. In fact, according to Forrester, reviews have become table stakes.

There’s a big upside for businesses that collect and display reviews. Our recent analysis of 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites found that there’s a 120.3% lift in conversion when a shopper interacts with ratings and reviews on a product page. 

There’s a 120.3% lift in conversion when a shopper interacts with ratings and reviews on a product page

If you don’t provide your shoppers with the content they seek, you risk losing customers — possibly for good. As you’ll see as you read through this report, a staggering 86% of online shoppers (and 51% of those who shop in-store) say they simply won’t buy products without reading reviews first. 

It’s Time to Make Reviews an Integral Part of Your Business Strategy

Brands and retailers must effectively leverage reviews in order to attract and convert shoppers. But first, it’s important to take a step back and understand the role of reviews in the path to purchase — and how that role has evolved over time. 

PowerReviews surveyed more than 6,500 U.S. consumers with the goal of understanding the value they place on reviews — and how the presence (or lack of) this content impacts shopping behavior online and in-store. We also wanted to understand how the role of ratings and reviews has evolved in the three years since we fielded a similar survey, and you’ll find comparisons noted throughout this report. 

This report shares the findings from this survey and offers data-based recommendations for brands and retailers looking to more effectively leverage reviews to meet customer expectations and – in doing so – boost their bottom lines.

Who We Surveyed

Generations

Gen Z
(1997-present)
1%
Millennials
(1981-1996)
44%
Gen X
(1965-1980)
40%
Baby Boomers
(1946-1964)
15%

Household Income

Growing Dependence on Reviews

Traditionally, if a consumer wanted to hear about the experiences of other shoppers, they’d ask their family and friends. But today, a growing number of consumers seek out the opinions of fellow shoppers by reading reviews.

Nearly all Online Shoppers Use Reviews

Over the last decade, ecommerce has experienced significant growth in line with the increasing  influence of technology and the internet on everyday lives.

At the same time, shopper dependence on reviews has also grown. And this is no coincidence. When consumers are shopping online, they don’t have the opportunity to see and touch a product in person before making a purchase. So reading about the experiences of others like them becomes more important.

In 2018, 97% of consumers consulted product reviews when making purchase decisions, up two percentage points from 2014. Today, 99.9% of consumers say they read reviews when shopping online at least sometimes. Of those shoppers, 61% say they always read reviews and a third indicate they do so regularly.

Dependence on Reviews is Growing
Percentage of consumers that consult reviews when shopping online
2014
95%
2018
97%
2021
99.9%
How Often Online Shoppers Read Reviews

In-Store Shoppers Use Reviews, Too

Clearly, reviews are important for online shoppers. But consumers also turn to reviews when they’re shopping in physical store locations. In fact, over half (57%) of shoppers indicate they read reviews while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores to assess potential purchases. 

Of note, Millennials are the generation most likely to check reviews while shopping in-store. 63% do so. In comparison, just over a third of Boomers read reviews in-store.

In-Store Dependence on Reviews
Do you read reviews while shopping in stores to assess potential purchases?
In-Store Dependence on Reviews By Generation
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

Reviews have become an important tool for online and in-store shoppers alike. Customer-centric brands and retailers must ensure shoppers can easily access review content — regardless of the device they use to shop.

Reviews Have Become Essential

There was a time when reviews were considered a “nice to have.” But they’ve quickly become a key component of the shopping journey.

Today, nearly all (98%) of consumers indicate that reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions. In comparison, 89% of consumers felt this way in 2018.

Percentage of consumers who say reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions
2014
86%
2018
89%
2021
98%
How Reviews Impact Purchase Decisions

We know that nearly all online shoppers read reviews — and half of in-store shoppers do so. This content also has a strong influence on purchase behavior.

Reviews are the Top Purchase Consideration

There are myriad factors shoppers must weigh when making purchase decisions, including price, brand and return policy — just to name a few. But which factors carry the most weight when it comes time to make a purchase decision? 

In year’s past, consumers indicated that reviews were the second most important factor — with price being the top consideration. But this year, we found that ratings and reviews have actually surpassed price as a top purchase consideration! 

The presence of reviews also has a bigger impact on purchase behavior than other important factors including free shipping, brand and even recommendations from family and friends.

Top Factors Impacting Purchase Decisions
Ratings & Reviews
94%
Price of the product
91%
Free shipping
78%
Brand of the product
65%
Recommendation from friends/family
60%
Imagery provided by people who have previously purchased the product
52%
Imagery provided by the brand or retailer
46%

Shoppers are Reluctant to Make Purchases without Reading Reviews

Reviews are so influential that many shoppers simply won’t make purchases without reading this content first. In fact, 86% of consumers don’t purchase products online without reading reviews, up from 70% in 2018. 

And today, 51% don’t buy products in brick-and-mortar stores without first reading reviews. In comparison, just over a third (39%) of shoppers indicated this was the case in 2018.

A Growing Number of Shoppers Won’t Buy Products Without First Reading Reviews
I don’t buy products online without reading reviews.
2018
70%
2021
86%
I don’t buy products in-store without reading reviews.
2018
39%
2021
51%

The Absence of Reviews Deters Shoppers

What’s more, nearly half (44%) of consumers won’t purchase a product if there are no ratings or reviews available for it. Younger generations — Gen Z and Millennials — are even more likely to abandon a purchase if there are no reviews available for a product they’re considering.

Many Shoppers will Abandon a Purchase if There are No Reviews Available
If there are no ratings and reviews for a product, would you still buy it?
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

However, it’s worth noting that 59% of shoppers indicate they’re more likely to buy a product without reviews if other products from the same brand have high overall ratings. Of course, it’s important to generate reviews across your entire product catalog. However, it’s clear that a strong online reputation can help you earn the trust of shoppers — even when you haven’t yet generated reviews for a given product. 

When Reviews Matter Most

Reviews empower consumers to make informed purchase decisions, whether they’re shopping online or in-store. But are there certain circumstances when reviews are especially important?  

Reviews Matter for High Priced Products

There’s a certain amount of risk involved with buying a new product. No matter how much research a shopper has done, there’s no sure way of knowing that a product will fit their needs. The risk is even higher if the product is expensive. 

So it’s probably not surprising that 80% of consumers indicate that the more expensive a product is, the more they read reviews. This aligns with research we did with Northwestern University, which found that reviews are especially impactful for high consideration items, which are defined as those that pose a risk due to a number of factors, including expense.

Interestingly, the higher a consumer’s income, the more likely they are to agree that the more expensive the product, the more they read reviews.

Reviews Matter for Expensive Products: A Breakdown by Income Level
Percentage of consumers who read more reviews, the more expensive the product
$0-$25,000
73%
$26,000-$50,000
79%
$51,000-$75,000
81%
$76,000-$100,000
82%
$100,001 and up
84%
Income not stated
77%

In addition, the younger the consumer, the more likely they are to indicate that they read more reviews for expensive products.

Reviews Matter for Expensive Products: A Breakdown by Generation
Do you read more reviews for expensive products?
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

Reviews are Essential for Myriad Product Categories

Consumers turn to reviews when shopping for a variety of different types of products. But do reviews matter more for specific product categories?

The top product category for review consumption is electronics; 95% of consumers indicate that reviews are helpful when shopping for these products. Electronics are typically high priced products, so this aligns with our previous finding about reviews being more important for expensive items.

Consumers also value reviews for categories including appliances (87%), health and beauty (83%), computers (81%), clothing (75%), shoes (68%), home and garden (67%), toys (54%), groceries (42%) and baby (40%).

Consumers Consider Reviews to Be Helpful for Many Product Types
Electronics
95%
Appliances
87%
Health & Beauty
83%
Computers
81%
Clothing
75%
Shoes
68%
Home & Garden
67%
Toys
54%
Groceries
42%
Baby
40%

Clearly, reviews matter across a wide array of product categories. So it’s essential to collect and display plenty of this content, regardless of the types of products you sell.

Where Shoppers Consume Reviews

The presence of reviews impacts where consumers choose to shop. And when they shop on websites and apps with reviews, they’re more likely to convert.  

Consumers Seek out Websites with Reviews

When shopping online, 79% of consumers specifically seek out websites with product reviews. This is up from 63% in 2018 and 57% in 2014.

Percentage of Consumers Who Specifically Seek Out Websites With Reviews
2014
57%
2018
63%
2021
79%

Notably, 85% of Millennials seek out websites with reviews, compared to 70% of Boomers.

Online Shoppers Seek Out Websites with Reviews by Generation
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

And when mobile shoppers find reviews, they’re more likely to convert. 88% of consumers indicate they’re more likely to purchase an item when shopping from a mobile device if a website or mobile app incorporates product reviews. In 2018, just over three quarters (77%) of mobile shoppers indicated this was the case. And in 2014, the number was 70%.

Percentage of Consumers Who Say they are More Likely to Convert on Mobile Websites and Apps that Include Product Reviews
2014
70%
2018
77%
2021
88%

Consumers Read Reviews on Various Websites

Shoppers seek out websites with reviews. But what are the most popular sites for consuming reviews? 

It’s probably not surprising that Amazon tops the list, with 95% of consumers indicating they read product reviews there. However, retail websites (for example, Target.com and Walmart.com) are a close second; 93% of respondents say they read reviews on these sites. And brand websites — such as Gap.com and Nike.com — aren’t far behind.

Where Consumers Read Reviews
Amazon.com
95%
Retail websites (Target.com, Walmart.com etc)
93%
Brand websites (the exact brand that manufactures the product - Nike, Levi, etc)
68%
Search engines
65%
Independent review sites
42%
How Shoppers Engage with Reviews

We know that the majority of shoppers are reading reviews on Amazon, retailer and brand sites. Now, let’s take a closer look at how shoppers are engaging with this content once they’ve found it. 

Most Consumers Read 1-10 Reviews

The majority of online shoppers (and half of in-store shoppers) read reviews. But how many reviews do they typically read before making a purchase?

The greatest portion of consumers (53%) read between one and 10 reviews, and an additional 29% read between 11 and 25 reviews. The remaining 18% of consumers read 26 or more reviews.

Of course, the quantity of reviews a shopper reads varies depending on the product they’re purchasing. For example, a shopper probably reads more reviews when purchasing a computer than they do when purchasing a new toothbrush. So it’s important for brands to focus both on review coverage (the number of products that have reviews) and review quantity.

Quantity of Reviews Consumers Read Before Making a Purchase

Shoppers Value Review Search Functionality

Some review displays offer a search feature that allows shoppers to find existing content that’s relevant to them. For example, let’s say a consumer is shopping for a pair of athletic pants. 

She’s tall, and she wants to know how a particular pair of pants have worked for others of similar height. So she types “tall” into the search box and finds reviews that specifically address this.

When there’s a search option available, 93% of consumers indicate they’ll use it at least sometimes. And 64% say they use this feature regularly or always. 

Many Consumers Use Review Search Functionality, When it’s Available

What’s more 84% of shoppers find the search feature at least somewhat helpful when assessing potential purchases. And 42% consider the ability to search through existing reviews to be very helpful.

How Helpful is Review Search Functionality?

It’s great news that so many shoppers use and value review search. After all, our previous analysis of 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites found that shoppers who use the search feature on a product page convert at a rate that’s 202.9% higher than average. 

If you don’t already have search functionality on your review display, consider adding it. Doing so can have a significant impact on sales!

Consumers who use the search feature on a product page convert at a rate that’s 202.9% higher than average.
The Components of Reviews Shoppers Value Most

Not all reviews are created equal. For example, a recent, detailed review is typically more valuable to a shopper than an old, vague review that’s only a few words long.

Let’s explore the different elements of reviews that matter to shoppers — and how these elements impact shopping behavior.

Shoppers Consider Many Review Elements

As it turns out, consumers consider many elements when reading reviews. The top choice is the average star rating; 77% of shoppers say this is a factor they consider when reading reviews. 

Three quarters (75%) consider the quantity of reviews and 71% factor in the recency of reviews. Other top factors include the length, depth and detail of the review content (56%) and the grammar and spelling within the review content (32%).

What Shoppers Consider When Reading Reviews
The average rating of the review content
77%
The number of reviews
75%
Recency of review content
71%
The length, depth and detail of the review content
56%
The grammar and spelling within the review content
32%

Star Ratings Matter -- But Consumers Trust Them More When Accompanied by Written Reviews

As you might predict, shoppers value a high volume of great reviews that yield a high average star rating.

Over three-quarters (77%) of consumers indicate that the average star rating is an element they consider when reading reviews.

But star ratings alone often aren’t enough to earn the trust of shoppers. Some ecommerce sites — including Amazon — offer shoppers the option to leave a star rating, without an accompanying review.

There’s no doubt this approach ensures a higher volume of ratings. However, over half (52%) of consumers indicate they don’t trust this content as much as they do ratings accompanied by reviews.

Do you trust star ratings alone as much as you do star ratings accompanied by reviews?

Review Quantity Counts

Three-quarters of consumers say that quantity is something they consider when reading reviews. And as mentioned earlier in this report, the largest portion of consumers (53%) typically read between one and 10 reviews before making a purchase.

So it’s interesting that in an ideal world, 68% of consumers believe a given review should have 26 or more reviews. 18% feel a product should ideally have between one and 10 reviews, and the remaining 14% think between 11-25 reviews is ideal. 

Though most consumers read between one and 10 reviews, they want plenty more content to be available. This is likely because they want to be able to seek out (and find) reviews that are most relevant to them.

The Ideal Number of Reviews a Product Should Have, According to Shoppers

Consumers expect to find plenty of reviews about products they’re considering. But what’s the minimum number of reviews a product needs to have for them to feel confident making a purchase?

The largest portion of consumers — 41% — indicate that 1-10 reviews is the minimum needed for them to feel comfortable purchasing a product. 40% say a product must have at least 26, while 17% indicate 11-25 is the minimum. The remaining 2% say that 0 is the minimum.

The Minimum Number of Reviews a Product Must Have for a Shopper to Feel Comfortable Purchasing it

Stale Reviews Hold Less Weight

Nearly three-quarters (71%) of consumers indicate that the recency of review content is something they consider when reading reviews. Furthermore, 51% admit they’d be less likely to purchase a product if all the reviews for it were over a year old.

Older Reviews Hold Less Weight for Half of Consumers
If all reviews for a product were over a year old, would you be less likely to purchase it?

For many consumers, older reviews carry less weight. But how recent must reviews be in order for shoppers to consider them relevant?

The biggest portion of shoppers (34%) ideally want to be able to read review content for a product that is between a week and a month old. And a quarter (25%) want to find reviews that are one to three months old. A good number of shoppers have extremely high expectations for fresh review content; 21% ideally want to find reviews posted within the most recent seven days!

Consumers Expect Fresh Review Content
Ideally, how recently would you like to see that review content was left on a product you’re considering?

Clearly, recency matters. So be sure you have a collection strategy in place to ensure shoppers can always find fresh, recent review content. 

The Positive Side of Negative Reviews

As a customer centric business, you work hard to develop great products and experiences. So in an ideal world, all reviews your customers submit would be glowing. But the world isn’t ideal and even the best products attract negative reviews. And as it turns out, that’s OK. Shoppers seek out negative reviews to make informed purchase decisions. And displaying this content helps you build trust with shoppers.

Consumers Seek Out Negative Reviews

Today, a staggering 96% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews at least sometimes, compared to 85% in 2018 and 82% in 2014. 

Percentage of Consumers Who Seek Out Negative Reviews
2014
82%
2018
85%
2021
96%

And 69% always or regularly seek out this negative content. Interestingly, Millennial (38%) and Gen Z shoppers (38%) are more likely to indicate they always seek out negative reviews, when compared to Gen X (33%) and Boomer (28%) shoppers. 

Frequency at Which Consumers Seek Out Negative Reviews by Generation
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

Nearly all shoppers seek out negative reviews to get a balanced look at what they can expect from a product. What’s more, over half (52%) of consumers explicitly look for one-star reviews. 

Half of Consumers Seek Out One-Star Reviews
Do you look for negative reviews about products before making a purchase decision?

It’s worth noting that Millennials are the generation most likely to look for one-star reviews. 60% do so, compared to 40% of Boomers.

Seeking Out One-Star Reviews by Generation
Do you look for negative reviews about products before making a purchase decision?
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

Remember: reading one-star reviews for a product won’t necessarily deter a shopper from making a purchase. In fact, if a customer determines the worst case scenario isn’t a concern, they may purchase the product anyway.

Case in point? Our recent analysis of the impact of various UGC features found that 62.4% of shoppers that interact with the star filter feature on a review display specifically filter to read only one-star content. And shoppers who do so still convert at a rate that’s 108.8% higher than the average page visitor!

Negative Reviews Boost Trust

Our research with Northwestern University found that shoppers are most likely to purchase products with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5. That’s because a perfect star rating is perceived as too good to be true. 

In line with this research, our most recent survey found that nearly half (46%) of consumers are suspicious of products with a perfect average star rating (five out of five). This number is even higher — 53% — among Gen Z shoppers.

Are you suspicious of products with a perfect 5 star rating?
Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers

Resist the temptation to delete negative reviews. Consumers know that a product — no matter how good — can’t be all things to all people. By displaying negative reviews, you’re letting shoppers know you have nothing to hide. And that shows them you’re a brand they can trust.

Six Tips for Leveraging Reviews to Drive Sales

Reviews were once a novel concept. But today, they’re an expected part of the purchase journey, whether a consumer is shopping online or within the four walls of a brick-and-mortar store. Brands and retailers must make it a priority to collect and display reviews. If they don’t, they’ll lose customers to businesses that do.

Here are our top six recommendations based on the key findings of this report.

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Solicit Reviews from Your Customers

Today, nearly all shoppers consult reviews when shopping online, and over half (57%) do so when they’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. Make collecting reviews from your customers a priority. The most effective way to do this is to send emails to your customers post-purchase, asking them to write reviews for the products they bought.

Remember: review quantity and recency are both important to shoppers. So be sure to collect a steady stream of reviews so your customers can always find a high volume of fresh content. If you have products in need of reviews, product sampling is an effective way to generate this content. 

Finally, ensure you have plenty of reviews for high priced items in your product catalog. After all, 80% of consumers say they read more reviews when they’re shopping for an expensive product.

If you’re looking for more guidance, our Guide is packed full of tips on how to generate more reviews.

Prominently Showcase Reviews

79% of shoppers specifically seek out websites with product reviews. So make it easy for your shoppers to find and interact with review content on your website — regardless of the device they’re using to shop. A best practice is to include a review “snippet” at the top of each product page that offers an overview of available review content — including the average star rating and review quantity. Shoppers can then click on this snippet to read, sort and filter review content.

Here are some ideas on how to leverage your review content in your own marketing.

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Optimize Your Review Display

Shoppers particularly value certain review display features — including the ability to search existing content and filter on one-star reviews. And a previous analysis also tells us that those who interact with these features convert at a higher than average level.

So consider adding these features to your review display. Then, measure the impact and optimize accordingly.

The key is absorbing and acting on what your data tells you. Our analysis on the conversion impact of different review display features is a good place to start though.

Share Review Content Across Channels

Amazon, retailer and brand sites are top places shoppers seek out review content. And shoppers expect to find reviews — regardless of where they shop for your products. If you’re a brand, ask your ratings and reviews provider if it’s possible for the reviews that you collect on your own dot com to be shared to your key retail partners and Amazon. If you want to learn more about syndication, our Complete Guide to Ratings & Reviews has an entire chapter on this topic

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5
Embrace Negative Reviews

Today, 96% of consumers seek out negative reviews. This content allows them to understand the worst case scenario — and determine whether it’s something they can live with. So resist the urge to hide negative reviews. Displaying this content can help you build trust with your shoppers — and drive sales. Check out this blog for ideas on how to best leverage negative reviews.

Analyze Reviews to Uncover Actionable Insights

Reviews are a rich (yet often untapped) source of insights that can help you identify ways to better serve your customers. Analyze your review content regularly to find ways to improve your products and experiences.

Your ratings and reviews provider should provide an analytics platform that makes it easy to uncover insights — and take action on them in ways that’ll positively impact your business. Here’s more on why and how analysis should be an integral part of your Ratings & Reviews program.

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