This is the PowerReviews monthly snapshot trends report for April 2021, an analysis of consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

We started measuring at the start of Covid. To recap, a huge initial surge led to an overall 3x increase in online purchase volumes between February (pre-pandemic) to May 2020. However, the subsequent four months through to October led to a steady decline and then stabilization, with purchase volumes consistently between 40% and 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic (we actually re-aligned our reports to three month periods due to this stabilization).

We then saw a slight uptick in preparation for the Holidays (remember: shopping was expected to start early this year).

Then onto the Holidays, when the typical marked seasonal increase materialized, before a return to Covid-era normality despite the continuing vaccine rollout.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

More of the same as online purchase volumes and site traffic continue at Covid norm levels

02

Review Submission Volumes Consistently Up on Pre-Holiday Levels

03

Reviews driving purchases more than they were pre-Covid

More of the same as online purchase volumes and site traffic continue at “Covid-norm” levels

Prior to the Holidays, consumer behavior had clearly become more predictable, with purchase volumes consistently around 1.4x to 1.7x where they were before the pandemic (this was after a giant surge in April, May and June). So remember that is the baseline we’re dealing with in the chart below.

After the Holiday surge, ecommerce purchase volumes settled to similar levels to where they were pre-Holiday in January, February and this continued into March (i.e. in the range of 1.4x to 1.7x where they were pre-Covid).

Review Submission Volumes Consistently Up on Pre-Holiday Levels

In our Post-Holiday snapshot, we highlighted a giant surge in review volumes – largely to be expected given the seasonal purchase increases that occur at this time of year.

However, overall review volumes are up slightly on where they were before the Holidays – and this has consistently been the case over the past three months (i.e. after the end of the Holiday period).

Review length and sentiment continues to be stable

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, review length and sentiment (in the form of average rating) remains flat. This has been the case since we started our analysis a year ago.

So although Covid’s impact on ecommerce generally has been transformational, it has not affected the content of reviews submitted by consumers.

Reviews driving purchases more than they were pre-Covid

Over the last few monthly snapshots, we have included a deep dive into the impact of review content on the buyer journey – paying particularly close attention to year-on-year comparisons during the Holidays.

To recap, the charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)

We found that review interactors consistently converted at around a 25% higher rate than they were a year previously (the conversion figure is typically around 5.25% in the three months prior to Black Friday 2020 compared to around 4.25% in the same period in 2019).

For context, this figure had come down from its Covid peak (as also demonstrated below) of 6.85% in April 2020. This is in line with when we saw the highest ecommerce purchase volumes (when they hit a peak of 210% above where they were pre-COVID at this time).

Through March, the influence of reviews on the buyer journey climbed steadily, peaking at 4.86% of review interactors going on to make a purchase. As a reminder, the figure for March 2020 – highlighted for year-on-year comparisons – was the start of Covid when we saw unprecedented growth across all our ecommerce metrics.

For context, this is between the pre and mid-Covid norms (4.25% and 5.32% respectively, as illustrated above).

Summary

In summary, we noted the following clear trends:

  • Purchase volumes and product page traffic stabilized at similar levels to pre-Holidays (at around between 1.4x and 1.7x where they were pre-Covid)
  • Review impact on purchase behavior crept back up after a temporary post-Holiday lull.
  • Steady overall increase in review submission levels since early November

As we mentioned in last month’s report, 2020 is likely to have accelerated the transition online like no other event in the Internet age. More sustainable growth is likely post-Covid – as the below projected chart from eMarketer outlines.

In fact, eMarketer predicts that ecommerce growth in 2021 will be significantly less than half of where it was in 2019. However, coming off the back of the biggest year of ecommerce growth in history (32.4% year-on-year according to eMarketer), the overall trend of an increasing share of dollars being spent online (compared to instore) is a continuing and unpreventable process.

MARCH 31, 2021—CHICAGO—US grocery consumers have flocked online at a rate never seen previously due to the Covid pandemic — with time savings being the primary motivating factor rather than Covid-related safety concerns.

However, the store is far from dead. Consumers are increasingly favoring a blended store-online grocery shopping approach.

These are just a few of the key insights from a new consumer survey from PowerReviews, a leading provider of ratings and reviews and User-Generated Content solutions. 

The PowerReviews Evolution of the Modern Grocery Shopper study draws on survey responses from 7,916 grocery shoppers across the country, surveyed in February 2021. Key findings include:

More grocery shopping is happening online than ever before

  • 73% of consumers had purchased grocery items online within the most recent three months of being surveyed, compared to 17% when we asked the same question in 2017. This represents growth of 4.3x.
  • 61% of consumers shop for groceries online more now than they did pre-COVID. 
  • Top reasons for online shopping include time savings (59%), personal safety (49%) and avoiding impulse purchases (31%).
  • Ordering directly from a local grocery store (as opposed to online-only ordering services such as Instacart or Amazon Fresh) is the most popular way to shop for groceries online; 65% of consumers say they’ve done this. 

Brick-and-mortar grocery is alive and well

  • 93% of consumers had made an in-store grocery purchase within the most recent  three months of being surveyed. 
  • 95% of consumers who shopped for groceries online have also made an in-store grocery purchase within the same time period.

Ratings and reviews positively impact the behavior of both online and in-store grocery shoppers.

  • 82% of online grocery shoppers say they read reviews at least occasionally.
  • 83% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in accessing product ratings and reviews when they’re considering a new product while shopping in a brick-and-mortar grocery store.
  • 78% of online grocery shoppers are more likely to purchase a new grocery item if customer reviews exist for that product. The figure is 64% among in-store shoppers.

Andrew Smith – VP, Marketing at PowerReviews, says:

“Although consumer shopping behaviors have shifted online over the past year at an unprecedented rate, grocery was one vertical where consumers always seemed to place more value on the store over online.

“Our results show this is still the case to a certain extent, but shoppers are clearly more comfortable doing their grocery shopping online today than pre-Covid. The fact that consumer convenience is the biggest reason for this is indicative that this trend will continue long after the pandemic is behind us.

“Trends evident in other shopping verticals are mirrored in the grocery sector. Shoppers are relying more on validation from existing shoppers when making buying decisions in the form of user-generated content. Ratings and reviews are key to providing the buyer confidence necessary for grocery consumers to convert — according to our survey, whether shopping online or instore.”

Read the full survey results on the PowerReviews website.

Research Methodology

The PowerReviews Evolution of the Modern Grocery Shopper consumer survey draws on responses from 7,916 active grocery shoppers across the United States who have opted in to offers and discounts from retailers. The survey took place in February and March 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

How the Covid era has shaped consumers’ grocery shopping habits, according to research of 8,000 U.S. shoppers.

Survey at a Glance:

The PowerReviews Evolution of the Modern Grocery Shopper report is based on survey responses from 7,916 grocery shoppers across the United States. Key findings include:

More grocery shopping is happening online than ever before
  • 73% of consumers have purchased grocery items online within the most recent three months of being surveyed, compared to 17% when we asked the same question in 2017.

  • 61% of consumers shop for groceries online more now than they did pre-COVID.

  • Top reasons include time savings (59%), personal safety (49%) and avoiding impulse purchases (31%).

  • Ordering directly from a local grocery store (as opposed to — for example — online only ordering services like Instacart or Amazon Fresh) is the most popular way to shop for groceries online; 65% of consumers say they’ve done this.
Brick-and-mortar grocery is alive and well
  • 93% of consumers have made an in-store grocery purchase within the most recent three months of being surveyed.

  • 95% of consumers who have shopped for groceries online have also made an in-store grocery purchase within the same time period.

Ratings and reviews positively impact the behavior of both online and in-store grocery shoppers.
  • 82% of online grocery shoppers say they read reviews at least occasionally.

  • 83% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in accessing product ratings and reviews when they’re considering a new product while shopping in a brick-and-mortar grocery store.

  • 78% of online grocery shoppers are more likely to purchase an unknown grocery item if there are customer reviews for that product. The figure is 64% among in-store shoppers.

Introduction

Traditionally, Grocery Ecommerce Growth Has Lagged Behind Other Categories

Over the past decade, ecommerce has experienced steady growth. In 2010, ecommerce made up a mere 6.4% of overall retail sales. But by 2020, that number had grown to 21.3%. Other product categories, including electronics and footwear, have experienced even more significant growth.

But there’s one category that’s traditionally lagged behind when it comes to ecommerce growth: groceries.

In 2019, eCommerce accounted for only 3% of grocery shopping in the U.S.

According to Bain & Company Research, a mere 3% of grocery shopping in the U.S. happened online in 2019. And our own research from 2017 found that just 17% of consumers had purchased groceries online.

While consumers clearly enjoyed the convenience of shopping online for other product categories, many remained reluctant to purchase groceries online.

COVID Has Caused a Sea Change in Grocery Shopping Habits

Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, causing lasting impact to just about every aspect of daily life — including grocery shopping habits. 

With safety top of mind, many shoppers cut down on trips to the grocery store — or eliminated them altogether. And a record number of consumers opted to shop for groceries online — many for the first time ever.

Newly Adopted Grocery Shopping Habits May be Long-Lasting

Of course, some shoppers may abandon online grocery shopping post-pandemic. But many predict the grocery shopping habits adopted during COVID will stick, even when the pandemic is behind us. Case in point? A survey from Acosta found that 75% of shoppers plan to stick to at least some of their new shopping habits post-COVID.

75% of shoppers plan to stick to at least some of their new shopping habits post-COVID.

There’s Plenty of Opportunity for Grocery Brands and Retailers

Grocery shopping behavior continues to evolve. Brands and retailers must continuously adapt to meet (and exceed) the changing expectations of shoppers. 

And there’s plenty of opportunity for those that do. Incisiv predicts that by 2025, online grocery will account for 21% of total grocery sales, or $250 billion. That’s an 8% increase over pre-pandemic estimates.

By 2025, online grocery will account for 21% of total grocery sales.

Grocery Brands and Retailers Must Adapt to Thrive

But in order to grow market share, brands and retailers must first understand how grocery shopping habits are changing and evolving. After all, strategies and tactics that worked just a year ago may no longer be effective.

PowerReviews surveyed nearly 8,000 U.S. consumers to better understand where they’re now shopping for groceries, why they choose the channels they do and what information they depend on to make informed purchase decisions. We also sought to understand how these behaviors have changed in the four short years since we fielded a similar survey — and include these comparisons throughout.

This report explores the key findings of this research and provides impactful, data-driven actions grocery brands and retailers can take to better attract and convert grocery shoppers — both online and in-store.

For the purposes of this report, “grocery” is defined as any product typically found in a grocery store, including (but not limited to) produce, fresh/dry/frozen foods, cleaning products, health and beauty items, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages.
Who We Surveyed

Generations

Gen Z
(1997-present)
1%
Millennials
(1981-1996)
39%
Gen X
(1965-1980)
40%
Baby Boomers
(1946-1964)
20%

Geography

Household Income

Where Today’s Consumers Shop for Groceries

In the past, when it was time to stock up on food, drinks and other household essentials, a consumer had little choice but to head to the grocery store. But today, grocery shoppers have myriad digital options to choose from. And as it turns out, the pandemic has made them more likely to give these online grocery shopping options a try.

Online Grocery Shopping is Experiencing Explosive Growth

The pandemic ushered in unprecedented eCommerce growth. According to Digital Commerce 360, eCommerce sales were up 44% in 2020 year-over-year.

So it’s probably not surprising that grocery eCommerce also experienced a significant boost.

Our research found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers have purchased grocery items online in the past three months. In comparison, a mere 17% of consumers answered yes to this question in 2017.

Growth of Online Shopping
Have you or anyone in your household made an online grocery purchase in the last 3 months?

Many shoppers have increased their use of online grocery shopping services during the pandemic, too. In fact, 61% of consumers say they shop online for groceries more now than they did before COVID. 

How COVID has Impacted Online Grocery Shopping
Do you buy groceries online more or less often now than pre-COVID?

Age, Geography, and Income Level Impact Likelihood of Online Grocery Shopping

It’s interesting to note that younger generations are more likely to shop for groceries online. 80% of Millennials and 74% of Gen Z shoppers had purchased groceries online in the most recent three months of being surveyed, compared to 60% of Baby Boomers and 72% of Gen X. 

Online Grocery Shopping by Generation
Have you or anyone in your household made an online grocery purchase in the last 3 months?

In addition, geographical location impacts a consumer’s likelihood of purchasing groceries online. 80% of city dwellers purchase groceries online, compared to 65% of consumers living in a town with a population less than 50,000 — which makes sense given there are more options for those living in larger cities. 

Online Grocery Shopping by Geographic Location
Have you or anyone in your household made an online grocery purchase in the last 3 months?

Finally, the higher the income, the more likely a consumer is to shop for groceries online. 80% of those who make over $100,000 have shopped online for groceries, compared to 64% of those who make $0-$25,000. This makes sense, as many grocery services charge a premium for online shopping. 

Online Grocery Shopping by Income Level
Have you or anyone in your household made an online grocery purchase in the last 3 months?

Consumers Buy Groceries Online to Save Time and Ensure Personal Safety, Among Other Reasons

More consumers are opting to purchase groceries online. But what are the reasons behind this dramatic shift in shopping behavior? 

Time savings is the most popular reason. 59% of consumers indicate it’s a key reason they choose to purchase groceries online, which indicates that the trend is likely to stick post Covid. And 49% say they purchase groceries online for personal safety reasons, which makes sense in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.

Top Reasons Consumers Choose to Shop for Groceries Online

Brick-and-Mortar Grocery Shopping is Still Alive and Well

Online grocery shopping is experiencing a surge in popularity. But that’s not to say grocery stores will soon be a thing of the past. Quite the opposite: brick-and-mortar grocery continues to thrive. Nearly all (93%) of consumers said they had made a grocery purchase in a physical store location within the most recent three months of being surveyed. 

93% of consumers have made an in-store grocery purchase within the most recent three months of being surveyed.

And as it turns out, most consumers are doing a blend of online and in-store grocery shopping. 95% of consumers who have shopped for groceries online have also made an in-store grocery purchase within the same time period.

95% of consumers who have shopped for groceries online have also made an in-store grocery purchase within the most recent three months of being surveyed.
How Consumers Shop for Groceries Online

It’s clear that online grocery shopping is quickly growing in popularity. But where exactly are these online shoppers purchasing their groceries? And what items are they buying when they do? 

Consumers Use a Variety of Online Grocery Services

Today, there are a growing number of online grocery shopping options. Which are winning among consumers?

When asked where they’d purchased grocery items online from, more than half (65%) said they’d ordered pickup or delivery from a traditional grocery or big-box store. In comparison, only 38% chose this option when we surveyed consumers in 2017. 

Nearly a quarter (22%) use an online-only service, such as Amazon Fresh or Boxed.com. Other popular options are a third party delivery service, such as Instacart (20%) and meal boxes (15%), such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. 

It’s also worth noting that a third (34%) of online grocery shoppers use more than one online grocery service.

Top Online Grocery Services
2017 vs. 2021

Online Grocery Shoppers Fill Their Shopping Baskets with a Variety of Items

Four years ago when we asked grocery shoppers what types of products they’d purchased online, items that didn’t require refrigeration topped the list. 

And that’s still the case. 70% of online shoppers indicate they’ve purchased non-perishable packaged foods online. Other popular product categories for online grocery shopping are personal care items (64%), home care items (61%) and soft drinks (58%). 

But online shoppers aren’t completely steering clear of perishable items. 56% have purchased fresh food, such as meat, product and dairy online, and 54% have purchased frozen foods. 

It’s also interesting to note that the percentage of shoppers purchasing every single category has increased since 2017.

Online Grocery Shoppers Purchase a Variety of Items
2017 vs. 2021

Online Grocery Shoppers are Willing to Try New Products

There’s no doubt online grocery shoppers stock up on the same tried-and-true items staples time and time again. For example, most families probably add the same brands of milk, bread and eggs each time they place an order. 

But the majority (83%) of online grocery shoppers are also open to purchasing products they’ve never tried before. Millennials (89%) are the generation most likely to try new products when shopping online for groceries, and Baby Boomers (72%) are the least likely.

Openness to New Products
Are you open to buying products online that you haven't bought in-person?
Openness to New Products By Generation
Are you open to buying products online that you haven't bought in-person?

In addition, as household income increases, so too does likelihood that a shopper will try a new product. 77% of those who make $0-$25,000 are open to buying new grocery products online, compared to 85% of consumers with incomes higher than $100,000.

Openness to New Products By Income Level
Are you open to buying products online that you haven't bought in-person?

In addition, nearly a quarter (21%) of shoppers say they’re more open to buying a new (to them) product when shopping online than they would if they were shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. And over half (58%) say they’re as likely to try a new product online as they are in a store. This is interesting, as it proves that online grocery shoppers don’t necessarily need to see and touch a new product in person before committing to a purchase. We’ll dig into what gives them the confidence to try a new product later in this report. 

Are you more or less open to buying a new grocery product online than you are in-store?
The Impact of Reviews on Online Grocery Shopper Behavior

By now, the importance of reviews is well understood. But just how impactful is this content for online grocery shoppers? Let’s take a closer look.

Most Online Grocery Shoppers Depend on Reviews

Shoppers turn to reviews when shopping for just about all types of products. And groceries are no exception. 82% of online grocery shoppers say they read reviews at least occasionally. Of online grocery shoppers that read reviews, 17% always read reviews and 25% do so regularly. 

Frequency of Review Consumption Among Online Grocery Shoppers

As expected, review consumption is more frequent among younger grocery shoppers. 

Review Consumption by Generation
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

Reviews Entice Online Grocery Shoppers to Learn More About a Product

When grocery shoppers browse online, reviews often spark interest — and increase the likelihood of clicking through to a product page to learn more. 

Nearly half (47%) say they’re more likely to click through to a product page from search results or a grocery store’s homepage if there are ratings and reviews highlighted in these locations. 

Reviews Positively Impact Click Through Rate
Are you more or less likely to click through to a product page (from search results, homepage, etc.) if there are ratings and reviews highlighted?

Millennials and Gen Z shoppers are even more likely to be influenced by the presence of reviews. Over half (53%) of each of these age groups indicate they’re more likely to click through to a product page if there are ratings and reviews highlighted on the homepage or in search results. 

Impact of Reviews on Click Through Rate, By Generation
Are you more or less likely to click through to a product page (from search results, homepage, etc.) if there are ratings and reviews highlighted?
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

Reviews Give Online Shoppers Confidence to Try New Grocery Products

As mentioned earlier in this report, the majority of online grocery shoppers are open to purchasing products they’ve never tried before. But there’s a level of risk involved with purchasing a new or unknown product — especially when a shopper can’t first see it in person. What helps online grocery shoppers overcome that risk and convert? Oftentimes, reviews.

Over three-quarters (78%) of online grocery shoppers say they’re more likely to purchase a grocery item they’ve never bought before if there are customer reviews for that product, up from 72% in 2017. This number is even higher among Millennial (83%) and Gen Z (89%) shoppers.

How Reviews Impact Likelihood of Trying New Products By Generation
Are you more likely to purchase a new grocery product if there are customer reviews for it?

What elements of reviews and other types of user-generated content do grocery shoppers find most useful when making purchase decisions? 67% of shoppers say it’s useful to read other customers’ opinions on specific details relevant to a product. A product’s average star rating is valuable information to 65% of shoppers, and the volume of reviews matters for 53%. 

Many grocery shoppers also value other types of UGC, including Q&A (50%) and visual content such as photos (36%) and videos (16%).

UGC Elements that Online Grocery Shoppers Find Most Useful

These findings point to the importance of generating a steady stream of reviews, Q&A and visual content for all of your grocery products. 

Meeting the Expectations of Online Grocery Shoppers

In order to attract and retain the growing number of online grocery shoppers, businesses must consistently meet (and exceed) customer expectations. One key way of doing that? Providing online shoppers with all of the content they need to make confident shopping decisions — including reviews — in the places they want to find this content.

Shoppers Seek Reviews for a Variety of Grocery Products

We know that the majority of online shoppers read reviews at least occasionally. But do reviews matter more for certain types of grocery products? 

Some categories do rise above the others. Three-quarters (76%) of online grocery shoppers want to access reviews for personal care items, and 70% desire this content for home care products. But the reality is, modern consumers want to access ratings and reviews for a wide array of grocery products, from non-perishable items and frozen foods to soft drinks and baby care items. And their appetite for this content has only grown since we last surveyed grocery shoppers in 2017.

Online Shoppers Want Reviews for a Variety of Grocery Products
2017 vs. 2021

Where Online Grocery Shoppers Want to Access Reviews

Online shoppers want to access reviews for a wide variety of grocery products. But where do they ideally want to find this content? 

80% want to find reviews directly on the website or app they’re purchasing from. And 40% seek reviews for grocery products on Amazon. Other preferred spots for finding reviews are search engines (27%) and third party reviewers or review sites (22%).

Where Online Grocery Shoppers Want to Find Product Reviews

This points to the importance of collecting reviews for plenty of your grocery products — then displaying this content so it’s easy to find on your website and mobile app. If you don’t, you risk losing shoppers to Amazon or another service that displays this content. 

How Today’s Shoppers Navigate Brick-and-Mortar Grocery Stores

While online grocery shopping has hit record levels, it’s important to remember that physical store locations aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. As we revealed earlier, nearly all (93%) of those we surveyed said that someone in their household made an in-store grocery purchase within the last three months. And 95% of online grocery shoppers also make in-store grocery purchases. 

But while brick-and-mortar grocery is certainly alive and well, the way shoppers navigate the aisles and the information they use to make purchase decisions is changing.

Most Shoppers Use Their Mobile Phones In-Store

The majority of shoppers (87%) use their mobile phone as a tool while shopping in a physical grocery store. In comparison, 59% said they used their phone to aid in in-store grocery shopping when we asked this question in 2017.

The most popular activities in-store grocery shoppers are using their phones for are finding or redeeming coupons (67%), reviewing shopping lists (47%) and reading product ratings and reviews (42%). It’s worth noting that in-store shoppers are doing all of these activities much more frequently than they were in 2017.

How In-Store Grocery Shoppers Use Their Phones
2017 vs. 2021
How Reviews Can Impact In-Store Grocery Shopping Behavior

Online grocery shoppers depend on reviews to make informed purchase decisions. And as the findings of this survey indicate, this content has the power to impact in-store grocery shopping, too. 

In-Store Shoppers Want Reviews for New or Unknown Products

An in-store shopper is unlikely to consult reviews for their tried-and-true grocery products. But when they’re considering a product they’ve never purchased before, this content can be extremely valuable.

The majority (83%) of consumers are at least somewhat interested in accessing product ratings and reviews when they’re considering a new product while shopping in a brick-and-mortar grocery store. This is up significantly from 2017, when 68% of consumers indicated they wanted access to this content. Of note, Millennials are the generation most likely to be interested in reviews when considering a new product in-store.

Consumer Interest in Reviews When Considering a New Product In-Store
When considering a new grocery product, how interested are you in accessing product ratings and reviews while shopping in a grocery store?

Reviews Boost In-Store Shoppers’ Confidence

We already know that 78% of online grocery shoppers are more likely to purchase an unknown grocery item if there are customer reviews for that product. And as it turns out, this content can boost confidence for in-store shoppers, too. 

When shopping in a grocery store, 64% of shoppers say they’re more likely to purchase a grocery item that they’ve never purchased before if they are able to read customer reviews for the product. In 2017, 52% of consumers indicated this was the case. In line with other survey findings, younger grocery shoppers are even more likely to be persuaded to buy unknown products after reading reviews.

Impact of Reviews on the Likelihood to Purchase a New Grocery Product In-Store
While shopping in a grocery store, are you more likely to purchase a grocery item you’ve never bought before if you’re able to read customer reviews?
Impact of Reviews on the Likelihood to Purchase a New Grocery Product In-Store By Generation
While shopping in a grocery store, are you more likely to purchase a grocery item you’ve never bought before if you’re able to read customer reviews?
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

How Grocery Shoppers Want to Access Reviews While Shopping In-Store

In-store grocery shoppers want to read customer reviews — especially for products they’ve never purchased before. But how do they want to access this content when receiving communications from a grocery provider or shopping in a grocery store?

The most popular answer is through the store or grocery provider’s app, with 49% of in-store grocery shoppers indicating this is where they want to find ratings and reviews. But plenty of shoppers want to see reviews on in-store signage, as well as through other print and digital marketing channels.

Where In-Store Grocery Shoppers Want to See Ratings and Reviews
When receiving communications from a grocery provider or shopping in a grocery store, where do you want to see ratings and reviews?

Make sure you have easily accessible reviews on your mobile app. And look for opportunities to enhance your in-store signage and marketing campaigns with this powerful social proof. 

5 Ratings & Reviews Recommendations for Grocery Businesses

The way consumers are shopping for groceries has changed — perhaps for good. Grocery brands and retailers must adapt quickly in order to attract, convert and retain shoppers — whether they shop online, in-store or a combination of the two. 

Read on for five impactful actions to take to better meet (and exceed) the expectations of modern grocery shoppers, based on the key findings of this report.

1
Collect reviews.

Online and in-store shoppers alike have a growing appetite for reviews across a number of grocery categories. And the presence of this content increases the likelihood that a shopper will try a product they haven’t purchased before. If you’re not already, start collecting reviews across your product catalog.

Display reviews on your website and mobile apps.

Once you’ve started collecting reviews, be sure to prominently display this content on your website and mobile apps. Both online and in-store grocery shoppers are seeking out reviews on these channels.

2
3
Display review content in-store.

Nearly half (49%) of in-store grocery shoppers want to access ratings and reviews via your website or mobile app. But there’s also a good number of shoppers who want to find this content within the store itself. So look for opportunities to enhance your shelf tags, price labels, store signage and even the packaging of your products with star ratings and review information.

Consider product sampling.

Reviews are especially important when shoppers are considering grocery items they’ve never purchased before. So if you’re launching new grocery items in the coming year (or if you have products with a high volume of traffic and a low volume of reviews), consider sending out free samples in exchange for honest reviews. After all, three-quarters (78%) of online grocery shoppers and 64% of those who shop in-store are more likely to purchase a grocery item if they’re able to read reviews for the product first.

4
5
Regularly analyze review content to identify areas to improve.

Reviews are a gold-mine of insights that can help you understand what your shoppers love about your products — and what they don’t. By regularly analyzing your review content, you can uncover opportunities to improve your products and your customer experience. And by making data-based, impactful changes, you’ll boost customer loyalty — and your bottom line. 

At PowerReviews, our engineering team works on a diverse range of projects. It’s a great place to learn a ton, build skills and grow your career. Read on to learn about just one of these projects – which we were recently working on.

We are always looking for ways to evolve our technology stack with an eye towards scalability.  A recent challenge we faced was the stability of our data ETL processes, which are critical to supporting our analytics platform. 

For context, our ETL processes handle up to a million updates every day and account for 250gb of daily data transfer.  So to say they are a big deal is an understatement.

We recently adopted AWS’s Data Migration Service to overhaul how we move data from our core transactional databases to our Analytics Warehouse in Snowflake. This adoption reduced a multi-day, high-maintenance, data load process to a mostly automated, hours long job.

We wanted to share how we accomplished this 1) to give a flavor of the sorts of challenges we face every day at PowerReviews and 2) in case you are facing a similar challenge.

We started by evaluating different approaches and technologies for streamlining our warehouse loading process. These included AWS Kinesis, RDS Postgres Snapshot Exports, and using the wal2json plugin offered by the Postgres community. 

Each of these solutions were evaluated against our previous ETL implementation in the following areas: operational cost, scope of architecture changes required to implement, and overall completeness of the data capture capability offered by the technology.

We landed on AWS’s Database Migration Service (DMS) because it offered us a managed solution towards leveraging Postgres Write-ahead Logging (WAL) replication to source data for our analytics platform.

AWS DMS – at its core – is an abstraction layer over Postgres’s WAL replication that allows us to concentrate on the data itself, leaving the low level details of the implementation to AWS to manage. In general we look toward managed solutions to keep our DevOps team lean and mean.

With our technology choice made, we went to work on an implementation. Our DMS solution connected DMS replication instances with each of our databases.

These instances included DMS task definitions which defined which tables to capture change data and deliver that change data as JSON files to S3 storage buckets. The file uploads to S3 trigger notifications that initiate loading of files into Snowflake, our data warehouse technology.  

The file loading process then orchestrates reconciliation of insert/update/delete actions to our analytics source of record.  

Another choice we made along the way was to use a tool called dbt. dbt lets our data analysts take ownership of the entire analytics engineering workflow.

With dbt in place, we are able to hand off further ingestion of our data to our analysts – who handle the incorporation of this data into aggregate views. These drive our public facing analytics reports in Tableau.

As a result of our migration to DMS, and the introduction of dbt, we’ve realized a ton of benefits to the business. 

These include moving our engineering focus from tuning of bulky ETL queries, managing database performance, and chasing down data discrepancies to instead expanding the reach of our analytics platform and exploring new and valuable insights in our data that we can provide to our customers.

If you’re facing similar ETL challenges, we would love to hear from you. And if you’re interested in tackling similar tasks, we are in growth mode so are currently hiring extensively in engineering.

This is the PowerReviews monthly snapshot trends report for March 2021, an analysis of consumer activity across more than 1.5MM online product pages from more than 1,200 retail/brand sites.

We started measuring at the start of Covid. To recap, a huge initial surge led to an overall 3x increase in online purchase volumes between February (pre-pandemic) to May 2020. However, the subsequent four months through to October led to a steady decline and then stabilization, with purchase volumes consistently between 40% and 70% higher than they were pre-pandemic (we actually re-aligned our reports to three month periods due to this stabilization).

We then saw a slight uptick in preparation for the Holidays (remember: shopping was expected to start early this year).

Then onto the Holidays, when the typical marked seasonal increase materialized.

Read on to find out the key trends post-Holidays as the Covid vaccine began to be rolled out across the country.

Key ecommerce market trends

01

Purchase volumes and site traffic return to pre-Holidays “norms”

02

Review submission volumes increase

03

Reviews still driving purchases more than they were a year ago

Purchase volumes and site traffic return to pre-Holidays “norms”

Prior to the Holidays, consumer behavior had clearly become more predictable, with purchase volumes consistently around 1.4x to 1.7x where they were before the pandemic (this was after a giant surge in April, May and June). So remember that is the baseline we’re dealing with in the chart below.

After the Holiday surge, ecommerce purchase volumes settled to similar levels to where they were pre-Holiday (i.e. in the range of 1.4x to 1.7x where they were pre-Covid).

Review Submission Volumes Increase

In the last snapshot, we noted a surge in review submission volumes – when we saw the biggest increase in review collection of the year, with a giant surge evident at the end of November.

This trend – broadly speaking – held throughout the entire month of December – and on December 28 actually peaked at a level 90% higher than where it was at the start of October.

Interestingly, this broad trend continued throughout January and February – this is potentially a hangover from the significant increase in sales volumes over the Holidays. But – as our recent survey proved – most consumers leave reviews within a week of receiving a product having used it once or twice.

Despite the increase in volumes, trends evident in review length and sentiment were broadly consistent with everything we saw throughout 2020. However, there was a very slight dip in length – fluctuating at a maximum of -10% and +15% of where they were at the start of November – during this period.

Review length and sentiment continues to be stable

Reviews still driving purchases more than they were a year ago

Over the last few monthly snapshots, we have included a deep dive into the impact of review content on the buyer journey – paying particularly close attention to year-on-year comparisons during the Holidays.

To recap, the charts in this section highlight the percentage of online shoppers who go onto purchase after they’ve interacted with review content (i.e. searched, filtered, clicked to extend the review from preview to view entire content etc.)

We found that review interactors were consistently converting at around a 25% higher rate than they were a year previously (the conversion figure is typically around 5.25% in the three months prior to Black Friday, compared to around 4.25% in the same period for in 2019).

For context, this figure had come down from its Covid peak (as also demonstrated below) of 6.85% in April. This is in line with when we saw the highest ecommerce purchase volumes (when they hit a peak of 210% above where they were pre-COVID at this time).

However, the influence of reviews surged to their highest rate of the year during the 2020 Cyber 5, with 7.41% of review interactors going on to purchase (an increase of 30%). As you can see from the charts, this is entirely in line with typical trends. Reviews always become more impactful on the buyer journey during the Holidays.

During January and February 2021, reviews continued to be more influential on the buyer journey than they were a year prior. But the difference was much less marked. We’ll wait before calling this a trend in light of what we saw pre-Holidays.

Summary

In summary, we noted the following clear trends:

  • Purchase volumes and product page traffic stabilized at similar levels to pre-Holidays (at around between 1.4x and 1.7x where they were pre-Covid)
  • Reviews are still having more of an impact on purchase behavior than this time last year but the extent to which this is the case has fallen compared to what we saw pre-Holidays
  • Review submission levels have increased steadily over the past three months

Realistically,  as we look ahead to the rest of 2021, it’s likely that 2020 accelerated the transition online like no other event in the Internet age. More sustainable growth is likely in a post-Covid world – as the below projected chart from eMarketer outlines.

In fact, eMarketer predicts that ecommerce growth in 2021 will be significantly less than half of where it was in 2019. However, coming off the back of the biggest year of ecommerce growth in history (32.4% year-on-year according to eMarketer), the overall trend of an increasing share of dollars being spent online (compared to instore) is a continuing and unpreventable process.

Almost 9 in 10 shoppers say they spend more or the same on beauty products online than before pandemic; 2 in 5 more likely to buy beauty products for the first time than pre-Covid; ratings and reviews critical to buying decisions

FEBRUARY 17, 2021—CHICAGO—An overwhelming majority of US beauty consumers say they are now spending more online than before the pandemic. And they are also far more open to buying products they have not used before than pre-Covid.

This is just two of the key insights from the latest consumer survey from PowerReviews, a leading provider of ratings and reviews and User-Generated Content solutions. 

User-generated content has inevitably therefore become more critical to buying decisions: 99% say they always or sometimes read ratings and reviews when shopping online.

But social and political concerns are also having significant influence, with 76% focusing on buying products that are sustainably made and 50% actively seeking out products made by Black-owned beauty brands.

The PowerReviews Changing Face of the Beauty Shopper Study draws on survey responses from more than 10,000 active beauty consumers across the country, surveyed in January 2021. Key findings include:

  • Covid has significantly impacted shopping habits
    • 41% say they spend less overall on beauty products than before Covid; 21% say they spend more and 38% say they spend the same
    • Likelihood to spend more on beauty products increases in line with household income (24% of those with a household income of more than $100k claim they spend more than pre-Covid)
    • 54% say they wear less makeup than before Covid; 56% say they focus more on skincare
    • 40% say they are more likely to buy products they haven’t tried before than pre-pandemic
  • Beauty spending has shifted online
    • 87% say they spend more or the same online than before Covid; again highest income bracket more likely to spend online
    • 49% say they now spend more than $50 online on beauty products; compared to 16% than when we asked this same question in 2019
    • 57% of shoppers say that they had never tried more of a quarter of the beauty products they bought online in 2020 (i.e. they were first time purchases)
    • However, in-store beauty spending at this level has also increased: 41% say they now spend more than $50 in-store, compared to 21% in 2019; 55% also say they use curbside pick-up more than before the pandemic
  • User-Generated Content (i.e. Ratings & Reviews) is CRITICAL regardless of the shopping channel and has increased in importance
    • 99% always or sometimes read ratings and reviews when shopping for beauty products online, the same figure for in-store shoppers is 85%
    • 79% focus on average star rating, 58% care about the overall volume of reviews, and 49% say they look for recent review content.
    • 41% say they rely on reviews more than they did pre-Covid. This is most prominently the case among younger generations, with 58% of Gen Zers claiming this to be the case.
    • User-generated imagery and video is also key, with 38% saying it’s more important than before the pandemic (again this figure is highest among Gen Zers at 53%)
  • Social and political issues are also now significantly impacting shopping behaviors:
    • 76% are focusing on buying products that are sustainably made
    • 50% actively seek out products made by Black-owned beauty brands.

Andrew Smith – VP, Marketing at PowerReviews, says:

“We all know how much consumer shopping behaviors have shifted online as a result of Covid but these results really bear it out. The fact that the proportion of consumers who spend more than $50 on beauty products online is now 3x what it was in 2019 shows the acceleration in this transition.

“It’s no surprise that shoppers are relying more on validation from existing shoppers when making buying decisions now they are shopping more online. User-generated content in the form of ratings and reviews, customer imagery/video and questions and answers is key to providing the buyer confidence necessary for consumers to hit the purchase button.

Social and political issues have been at the forefront of our collective consciousness in recent times. Brands need to be aware that consumers are increasingly influenced by their opinions in this respect so need to adjust accordingly.”

Read the full survey results on the PowerReviews website. 

Research Methodology

The PowerReviews Holiday Consumer Survey draws on responses from 10,646 active shoppers across the United States who have opted in to offers and discounts from retailers. The survey took place in January 2021.

ABOUT POWERREVIEWS

PowerReviews (PowerReviews.com) helps leading retailers and brands generate customer product ratings and reviews in larger volumes to significantly increase sales and then analyze and benchmark all this data to improve product quality and customer experience.

PowerReviews is headquartered in Chicago, IL, USA.

Media Contact
Andrew Smith 
VP, Marketing – PowerReviews
marketing@powerreviews.com

How today’s consumers are shopping for beauty products in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to responses of 10,000+ shoppers.

Survey at a Glance:

The PowerReviews Changing Face of the Beauty Shopper Study draws on survey responses from 10,646 active beauty consumers across the country. Key findings include:

Beauty spending has shifted online
  • 87% say they spend more or the same online than before Covid

  • 49% say they now spend more than $50 online on beauty products; compared to 16% than when we asked this same question in 2019

  • 57% of shoppers say that they had never tried more of a quarter of the beauty products they bought online in 2020 (i.e. they were first time purchases)

  • However, in-store beauty spending at this level has also increased: 41% say they now spend more than $50 in store, compared to 21% in 2019; 55% also say they use curbside pick-up more than before the pandemic

User Generated Content (i.e. Ratings & Reviews) is CRITICAL regardless of shopping channel and has increased in importance
  • 99% always or sometimes read ratings and reviews when shopping for beauty products online, same figure for in-store shoppers is 85%

  • 79% focus on average star rating, 58% care about overall volume of reviews and 49% say they look for recent review content.

  • 41% say they rely on reviews more than they did pre-Covid. This is most prominently the case among younger generations, with 58% of Gen Zers claiming this to be the case.

  • User-generated imagery and video is also key, with 38% saying it’s more important than before the pandemic (again this figure is highest among Gen Zers at 53%)

Social and political issues are also now significantly impacting shopping behaviors:
  • 76% focusing on buying products that are sustainably made

  • 50% actively seek out products made by Black-owned beauty brands.

Introduction

Beauty Shopping is at an Inflection Point

In the past, when a shopper was in the market for a beauty product such as lipstick, mascara or moisturizer, they’d drive to their neighborhood drug store or pay a visit to a beauty counter at a local department store. And when they did, they’d find shelves dominated by products manufactured by a relatively small number of legacy brands.  

But that’s no longer the case. The way consumers shop for beauty products is constantly evolving — a process supercharged by the Covid pandemic.

A growing number of consumers now purchase beauty products online. This has inevitably led to an increased dependence on user-generated content as shoppers seek validation for their purchases.

What’s more, new beauty brands and products seem to emerge daily. And the criteria shoppers use to make purchase decisions is evolving; increasingly, shoppers seek out brands and products that align with their values. 

The Covid Pandemic Has Impacted Beauty Shopping Habits -- Perhaps for Good

Just when it seemed businesses finally had a handle on the shopping habits and preferences of beauty shoppers, Covid hit. The global health crisis has had a huge (and lasting) impact on just about every facet of life — including the way we shop.

There’s Plenty of Opportunity for Customer-Centric Beauty Businesses

Beauty brands and retailers must adapt their plans and strategies to effectively reach and convert today’s shoppers. And there’s plenty of opportunity for those that do. According to a report from Fior Markets, the global beauty and personal care products market was $493 billion in 2018. By 2026, it’s expected to reach $756 billion.

By 2026, the global beauty and personal care products market is expected to reach $756 billion.

In order to develop effective strategies, though, brands and retailers must first understand how consumers are shopping for beauty products — and how the global health crisis has shaped these habits.

Adjust Your Strategy to Attract and Convert More Beauty Shoppers

Recently, PowerReviews surveyed 10,646 consumers to shed light on the shopping habits and preferences of those purchasing beauty products — specifically makeup and skincare items. We also aimed to understand how beauty shopping habits have changed since 2019, when we fielded a similar survey

This report will share the key findings of our research — as well as practical, impactful actions beauty brands and retailers can take to meet (and exceed) the expectations of today’s beauty shoppers…and boost their bottom line. 

For the purposes of this report, “beauty” is defined as products in the makeup and skincare categories.
Who We Surveyed

Generations

Gen Z
(1997-present)
3%
Millennials
(1981-1996)
49%
Gen X
(1965-1980)
36%
Baby Boomers
(1946-1964)
12%

Type of Beauty Shopper

Beauty Novice
Just getting into the beauty space and curious what’s out there.
15%
Brand Loyalist
Mostly sticks to the products and brands that are tried and true.
19%
Beauty Enthusiast
Always searching for the next best beauty products and brands.
66%

Shopper Type by Generation

Gen Z
Millennials
Gen X
Boomers
Gen Z is the generation most likely to identify as beauty enthusiasts.

Household Income

Impact of Covid on Consumers’ Beauty Habits

The pandemic has turned peoples’ lives upside down. Many people are working from home — while simultaneously supervising their childrens’ eLearning. And the vast majority of vacations and events have been cancelled — at least for the time being.

Beauty Habits Have Evolved

These lifestyle changes have led to changes in beauty habits, too. For example, many consumers are cutting back on makeup use, likely because they’re not leaving the house as much.

In fact, our survey found that more than half (54%) of consumers indicate they wear less makeup now than pre-COVID.

On the other hand, it seems many consumers are making skincare a priority. More than half (56%) indicate they’re more focused on skincare now than they were before the pandemic. 

People are spending more time at home, which means they may have more time to devote to more thoroughly caring for their skin.

Consumers are Focusing Less on Makeup, and More on Skincare

Beauty Spending Has Changed

The pandemic has had a negative financial impact for many consumers. According to the Department of Labor, the U.S. unemployment rate was 6.7% in December 2020.

With so many unemployed (and underemployed) people, it’s not surprising that 41% of consumers say they spend less money on beauty products now than before COVID. Over a third (38%) indicate their beauty spending hasn’t been impacted by COVID, and the remaining 21% say their beauty spending has actually increased.

The Effect of COVID on Beauty Spending

Beauty enthusiasts are the least likely to have decreased their beauty in the midst of COVID (and most likely to have increased spending), when compared to beauty brand loyalists and beauty novices.

The Impact on Spending Habits for Different Types of Beauty Shoppers
Beauty Novice
Beauty Brand Loyalist
Beauty Enthusiast

Income also seems to impact whether shoppers have decreased their beauty spending — but perhaps not as much as expected. Those making higher incomes are just slightly less likely to have cut beauty spending post-COVID than those with smaller incomes.

The Impact of Income on Post-COVID Beauty Spending
  I spend less money on beauty products now than before COVID I spend more money on beauty products now than before COVID The amount of money I spend on beauty products has not changed
$0 – $25,000 44% 18% 38%
$26,000 – $50,000 42% 20% 38%
$51,000 – $75,000 39% 21% 40%
$76,000 – $100,000 38% 23% 39%

$100,000+

38% 24% 38%
Prefer not to say 43% 16% 41%
Where Consumers Shop for Beauty Products

Online Beauty Shopping is Growing

There’s been a well-reported uptick in eCommerce shopping since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. So it’s probably no surprise that a growing number of shoppers are purchasing beauty products online, too.

More than half of shoppers (53%) buy more beauty products online now, compared to pre-COVID. This number is even higher among younger consumers. 66% of Gen Z shoppers and 58% of Millennials say they spend more online on beauty products now than they did before the pandemic.

Also of note, 60% beauty enthusiasts are spending more online now, compared to 39% of beauty brand loyalists. What’s more, those with incomes of $100,000 or higher are more likely to have increased online beauty spending than their lower-income counterparts.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Online Beauty Spending
Change in Online Spending by Beauty Shopper Type
Beauty Novice
Beauty Brand Loyalist
Beauty Enthusiast
Change in Online Beauty Spending by Income
  I buy less beauty products online now compared to before COVID I buy more beauty products online now compared to before COVID My beauty purchasing habits have not changed
$0 – $25,000 18% 43% 39%
$26,000 – $50,000 13% 50% 37%
$51,000 – $75,000 11% 56% 33%
$76,000 – $100,000 11% 49% 40%

$100,000+

11% 62% 27%
Prefer not to say 14% 47% 39%

We also asked consumers to indicate how much they spend each month on online beauty purchases. And as it turns out, they’re spending significantly more each month compared to just a few years ago when we asked consumers the same question. For example, in 2019, just 2% of respondents indicated they spent more than $101 per month on online beauty purchases. In 2021, that number has grown to 23%!

Monthly Spending on Beauty Products Purchased Online
Roughly how much money did you spend per month on online beauty purchases?
2019
2021

Amazon is Actually Declining in Importance

When it comes to online shopping, there are nearly endless options. So where do online shoppers most often start the purchase journey for beauty products?

The starting point of nearly half (44%) of shoppers is a beauty retailer’s website — think Ulta.com or Sephora.com. Amazon is a distant second, with 22% of shoppers indicating its where they start the online purchase journey for beauty products.

It’s worth noting that when we asked this same question just two years ago, 47% of shoppers indicated they typically start shopping on Amazon. This suggests that Amazon has become less of a threat to beauty retailers.

And by providing great online shopping experiences, it’s very much possible for beauty businesses to compete (and win) against the eCommerce giant.

Beauty Retailer Websites Reign
Where beauty shoppers most often start shopping online

In-Store Beauty Shopping Continues to Thrive

Make no mistake: the rise in beauty eCommerce doesn’t mean stores are dead.

In fact, our data tells us that the amount consumers spend on beauty products in stores each month has actually increased from 2019.

For example, in 2019, during any given month, just 3% of consumers spent more than $101 in a store on beauty products. In 2021, that number grew to 18%.

Monthly Spending on Beauty Products Purchased in a Brick-and-Mortar Store

A key finding of this research is that stores remain a popular place to buy tried-and-true products — and discover new ones. We’ll explore this in more detail later in this report.

Stores Serve as Fulfillment Centers

Curbside pickup — also known as Buy Online Pick up in Store (BOPIS) offers shoppers the best of both worlds. They can browse online and minimize in-person contact — but still enjoy the (nearly) instant gratification of in-store shopping.

The popularity of BOPIS has grown significantly among beauty shoppers. In fact, 55% say they use curbside pickup for beauty products more now than they did pre-pandemic.

Younger generations are taking advantage of curbside pickup even more. 60% of Millennials and 58% of Gen Z shoppers say they’ve ramped up their use of BOPIS services for beauty products.

BOPIS is Growing for Beauty Shoppers
Do you use curbside pickup more now than pre-pandemic?
The Role of UGC in Beauty Shopping

User-generated content — including reviews, Q&A, photos, and videos — has a big impact on purchase decisions. That’s not exactly news.

But thanks to this survey, we can now clearly see that for beauty shoppers, this content has never been more important.

Reviews Fuel Smart Beauty Purchase Decisions Online and In Store

Our research found that all shoppers (99%) read reviews at least sometimes when shopping online for beauty products, with 54% saying they always do so.

Reviews matter for in store shoppers, too. 85% say they read reviews at least sometimes when shopping for beauty products within the four walls of a brick and mortar store.

How do they want to access reviews when shopping in a store? Nearly half (45%) prefer to find reviews by visiting the brand or retailer’s website on their phones.

The message here? Ensure your reviews are easy for shoppers to find and consume — regardless of device.

Online and In Store Shoppers Read Reviews
Where In-Store Shoppers Want to Find Reviews

What elements of reviews do beauty shoppers value when making purchase decisions?

79% say the average star rating is important. More than half (58%) care about the overall number of reviews for a product. And 49% say the number of recent reviews is important. Note: respondents could select all that applied.

Review Elements that Matter to Beauty Shoppers

This highlights the importance of consistently generating a steady stream of great reviews.

Helpful Hint: Recency, quantity and quality of reviews all matter to beauty shoppers! So make it a priority to collect plenty of great reviews on an ongoing basis.

During the Pandemic, Dependence on Reviews Has Increased

It seems shopper dependence on reviews has only grown in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. 41% of beauty shoppers indicate they’re more reliant on ratings and reviews now than they were before the start of the global health crisis. This number is even higher — 58% — among Gen Z shoppers.

41% of beauty shoppers are more reliant on ratings and reviews now than pre-pandemic. This number increases to 58% for Gen Z shoppers.
Increased Dependence on Reviews by Generation
Are you more reliant on reviews now than before COVID?

Beauty Shoppers Rely on User-Generated Visual Content

Beauty products are highly personal purchases. While a children’s toy will look the same regardless of who buys it, a makeup item will look different on every person.

Customer-submitted photos and videos help shoppers understand what a beauty product will look like on someone like them. During Covid, user-submitted visual content has become even more important.

Just over a third (38%) of those we surveyed say they are more reliant on user-submitted visual content now, compared to pre-Covid. This number soars to 53% among Gen Z shoppers. Clearly, these younger consumers have an appetite for user-submitted photos and videos.

38% of beauty shoppers are now more reliant on user-submitted visual content than they were pre-COVID. This number increases to 53% among Gen Z shoppers.
Increased Dependence on User-Submitted Visual Content by Generation
Are you more reliant on user-submitted photos and videos now than before COVID?
Helpful Hint: User-generated photos and videos help beauty shoppers get realistic expectations of products -- especially when they can’t try them out in person first! Be sure to collect plenty of photos and videos from your shoppers.

For Online Beauty Shoppers, Q&A Replaces the In-Store Associate

When a consumer is shopping in a brick-and-mortar store and has a question about a beauty product, they can ask an in-store associate. But when they’re shopping online, they often turn to the product’s Q&A (and as we mentioned earlier, consumers are shopping online a whole lot more these days).

So it’s probably not surprising that over a third (36%) of beauty shoppers say they’re more reliant on Q&A now than pre-COVID. Gen Z is the generation with the largest increase in dependence on Q&A. Nearly half (46%) say they depend on this content more now than they did before COVID.

36% of beauty shoppers are now more reliant on Q&A than they were pre-COVID. At 46%, this number is significantly higher for Gen Z shoppers.
Increased Dependence on Q&A by Generation
Are you more reliant on Q&A now than before COVID?
How Shoppers Restock on Tried-and-True Beauty Products

There are beauty products that a given consumer will turn to time and time again. Perhaps it’s a foundation that perfectly matches a shopper’s skin tone — or maybe it’s an eye cream that instantly makes them look like they got a solid eight hours of sleep.

Let’s take a closer look at how consumers shop for these tried-and-true beauty products.

Beauty Brands and Retailers are Gaining Traction

Consumers have countless shopping options. But when it comes to shopping for beauty products they’ve tried before, a few of those options rise to the top.

Nearly a quarter (22%) will buy on a specialty beauty retailer’s website, and 21% will opt for a mass retailer’s store — such as Walmart or Target. Another 18% will purchase at a specialty beauty retailer’s store and 17% will buy on Amazon.

Other less popular spots for stocking up on tried-and-true beauty products include mass retailers’ websites (12%) and brands’ websites (10%).

Interestingly, the popularity of speciality beauty retailer stores and websites — as well as brand websites — has soared since the last time we surveyed beauty shoppers.

On the other hand, the popularity of Amazon and mass retailers seems to have waned — at least when it comes to beauty products. Cleary, it’s very much possible for beauty brands and retailers to compete and win.

Where Consumers Shop for Tried-and-True Beauty Products

When stocking up on tried-and-true products, what makes a shopper choose one store or website over another? Some of the top reasons include convenience, low prices, free shipping, fast delivery and loyalty points.

A Variety of Factors Attract Beauty Shoppers Stocking up on Habitual Products
Why do you choose one store or website over another?

Consumers Purchase Habitual and New Beauty Products at the Same Time

When consumers are stocking up on their go-to beauty products, they don’t just grab what they need and head for the checkout.

Instead, 94% of consumers say that when they’re purchasing a habitual product, they’re at least somewhat likely to also buy a new product during the same transaction. This is up from 82% when we asked the same question just a couple years ago.

It seems today’s beauty shoppers are more willing to try something new than they were just a few years ago — which we’ll explore more in the next section.

Shoppers More Likely to Try Something New
When purchasing a habitual product, how likely are you to also buy a new product during the same transaction?
How Consumers Discover New Beauty Products

Today, consumers are spending more time at home. Many are using this as an opportunity to do things they didn’t have the time for before — like trying out new beauty products.

In fact, two in five (40%) of those we surveyed said they’re more likely to try new-to-them beauty products now than pre-Covid. This number is even higher for Millennials (46%) and Gen Z (53%). What’s more, beauty enthusiasts are more likely to try new beauty products (45%) than those who identify as beauty brand loyalists (26%) and beauty novices (36%).

Beauty Enthusiasts are Trying New Products Post-COVID
Are you more likely to try new-to-you beauty products now than pre-Covid?

Where are they shopping for these products? And what information do they depend on to make confident purchase decisions? Let’s take a closer look.

Shoppers Purchase New Beauty Products From a Variety of Sources

Whether they’re shopping online or in-store, beauty shoppers are spending a good chunk of their budget on products they’ve never tried before.

Of note, online shoppers are slightly more likely to spend 51-100% of their budget on new products than those shopping in-store.

What Percentage of Your 2020 Beauty Purchases Were For Products You’d Never Tried Before?
Online vs In Store

Where are consumers shopping for these new-to-them beauty products? The top five destinations for purchasing new beauty products are a specialty beauty retailer’s website (24%), Amazon (18%), a speciality beauty retailer’s store (17%), a mass retailer’s store (15%) and a brand website (11%).

Consistent with other findings in this survey, brand and specialty beauty retailer stores and websites are gaining traction when compared to our results from 2019 — with Amazon losing favor.

Where Do Consumers Shop for New-to-Them Beauty Products?
2019 vs 2021

Reviews Motivate Beauty Shoppers to Try New Products

There’s a certain level of risk associated with purchasing a product you’ve never bought before. So how do shoppers gain the confidence they need to purchase new-to-them beauty products?

Three-quarters (74%) say ratings and reviews motivate them to try new beauty products. This number jumps to 79% for both Millennial and Gen Z beauty shoppers.

In fact, for all age groups, it seems this content is significantly more impactful than recommendations from family and friends (47%) and price (37%)!

Top 5 Motivators for Trying New Beauty Products
The Impact of Influencers on Shopping Behavior

Our survey found that nearly half (45%) of shoppers are motivated by social media to try new beauty products. This number is even higher for Millennials (52%) and Gen Z (63%).

So it makes sense that a growing number of brands are investing in influencer marketing. MediaKix predicts that brands will spend up to $15 billion on influencer marketing by 2022.

But how exactly are beauty shoppers swayed by influencers? Let’s explore.

Shoppers of all Ages are Swayed by Beauty Influencers

Over half (56%) of consumers say they are swayed by the influencers they follow to purchase beauty products. And younger shoppers are even more likely to be influenced.

Three-quarters (74%) of Gen Z shoppers and 66% of Millennials say they are swayed to purchase beauty products by influencers they follow.

Influencers Sway Beauty Shoppers of All Generations
Are you swayed by influencers to buy beauty products?

What’s more, beauty enthusiasts are much more likely to be swayed by influencers than other types of beauty shoppers. This makes sense, as those who identify as beauty enthusiasts are always on the lookout for the next big thing.

Power of Influencers by Shopper Type
Are you swayed by influencers to buy beauty products?

Beauty Shoppers are Loyal to Their Trusted Influencers

Does the number of followers an influencer has impact how much beauty shoppers trust them? For many, it doesn’t.

Over half (52%) of consumers say they trust the influencers they’re loyal to no matter their follow count.

A third (32%) say they’re more willing to trust beauty suggestions from influencers they personally know, and 11% indicate they’re more likely to trust micro-influencers with less than 100,000 followers.

Just 5% of beauty shoppers say they most trust macro-influencers with more than 100,000 followers.

Beauty Shoppers Trust Influencers of all Kinds
Which type of influencer are you most willing to trust when they recommend products?
The Changing Priorities of Today’s Beauty Shoppers

In the past, shoppers weighed factors like price, brand and quality when choosing beauty products. Of course, these factors still matter. But increasingly, beauty shoppers also seek out products and brands that align with their values.

The Majority of Shoppers Plan to Purchase Eco-Friendly Products

For many, the state of the environment is a growing concern. As such, an increasing number of shoppers are seeking out eco-friendly products and brands.

Beauty shoppers are no exception. More than three-quarters (76%) of shoppers plan to buy beauty products in the future that are made sustainably.

Gen Z shoppers (86%) and Millennials (80%) are even more likely to purchase sustainable beauty products.

Beauty Shoppers Across All Generations will Seek Out Sustainable Products

Half of Shoppers Plan to Support Black-Owned Beauty Brands

In 2020, a growing number of consumers took action in the fight for racial justice. One way consumers chose to support this cause was by seeking out and buying from Black-owned businesses.

According to Yelp, from May 25 to July 10, 2020 there were more than 2,500,000 searches for Black-owned businesses — up 7,043% from the same period in 2019.

So it may come as no surprise that half (50%) of consumers say they plan to actively seek out beauty products made by Black-owned beauty brands. This number is even higher among Gen Z (75%) and Millennials (58%).

Younger Consumers Plan to Seek Out Black-Owned Beauty Brands

In addition, beauty enthusiasts are much more likely to seek out Black-owned beauty brands (55%) than beauty brand loyalists (38%) and novices (45%). That makes sense, as these shoppers are typically more open to trying out new products.

Beauty Enthusiasts Most Likely to Seek Out Black-Owned Beauty Brands
6 Recommendations for Beauty Brands and Retailers

The way consumers shop for beauty products is evolving. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only sped up this evolution. Brands and retailers must adapt to meet and exceed the expectations of beauty shoppers — or risk losing them for good.

Read on for six practical, impactful actions to take, based on the key findings of this report.

1
Provide great shopping experiences across channels.

A growing number of consumers are shopping for beauty products online, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. But at the same time, brick-and-mortar retail is still very much alive and well. Be sure you’re providing great, seamless shopping experiences across channels. Remember: your shoppers should be able to find all of the information they need to make smart purchase decisions — regardless of whether they’re shopping online or in-store.

Collect and display ratings and reviews.

Shoppers depend on reviews to make informed purchase decisions both online and in-store. And 41% of beauty shoppers rely on this content even more now than pre-COVID. This number is even higher among younger shoppers. Recency, quantity and star rating all matter — so be sure to collect a steady stream of reviews on an ongoing basis. Finally, remember that reviews motivate three-quarters of shoppers to try new beauty products. So if you’re launching new products in the coming year, consider sending out free samples in exchange for honest reviews.

2
3
Showcase visual content from your shoppers.

Beauty products are highly personal. As such, shoppers want to see how a product works (or doesn’t) for someone with similar characteristics. User-submitted photos and videos allow them to do that. And over a third of beauty shoppers are more reliant on user-submitted visual content now than they were pre-COVID. This number is even higher for younger shoppers. So be sure to collect and display photos and videos of your shoppers using your products “in real life.” Collect this content both natively and where it already lives: on social media.

Empower online shoppers to ask questions.

A third of shoppers (and an even greater number of younger shoppers) rely on Q&A more now than they did pre-COVID. If you don’t have Q&A software on your product pages, now’s the time to add it. It’ll help shoppers make smarter purchase decisions — which will lead to happier customers and fewer returns. Also, consider allowing previous customers to answer shopper questions. After all, consumers trust the opinions of others like them!

4
5
Leverage everyday influencers.

Influencers have the power to sway beauty shoppers. But over half of beauty shoppers consider the number of followers an influencer has to be irrelevant. So think about ways to leverage the micro-influencers who love your brand and products. For example, send samples to these everyday influencers, and in exchange, ask them to write an honest review. Or, ask them to post a photo of your product in action on their Instagram account — and then repurpose that content on your website.

Showcase your key differentiators.

Factors like price and packaging are still important. But today, a growing number of beauty shoppers also want to purchase products that align with their values. Specifically, we found that many shoppers are actively seeking out products that are sustainably made and created by Black-owned businesses.

If there’s something unique about your brand or products, be sure to showcase it. Or if you’re a beauty retailer, make it easy for shoppers to find products that align to the things that matter most to them. For example, Ulta features sections on their website that make it easy for shoppers to find products from Black-owned brands — and those that are eco-friendly.

6

 Differing motivations and generational trends revealed; insights can guide brands on how to best cultivate user generated content to aid conversions and sales.

CHICAGO—JANUARY 27, 2020—User-generated content – ratings and reviews, and consumer submitted video, imagery, and Q&A content – have been shown to be highly effective in maximizing conversions and sales, but how do brands go about cultivating consumer advocacy for competitive advantage? 

To find out, PowerReviews conducted a survey of over 10,000 consumers to uncover the psychology and motivations behind product reviewers across four generations – Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers. The survey insights provide crucial insights into what motivates consumers to provide ratings and reviews and who are the most inclined to do so. 

Key findings include: 

The highs and lows. A positive experience earns a product rating and review from more than 9/10 consumers surveyed, and a negative experience will motivate more than three quarters of consumers to share their experience. 

First impressions must delight from Day One. Reviewers say overall product experience must be great right from the very first use. An overwhelming majority of consumers (76%) – and 83% of Gen Zers – leave a review within the first week of receiving an item. One-third of consumers say they’d post a review after only using a product one time. 

Younger reviewers are more prolific. Some 56% of Gen Zers submit reviews more than once per month, compared to 47% of Boomers. 

Free samples and fraternity. Free samples are a critical motivating factor for 86% of respondents, while incentives (reward points, discounts, etc.) are important for 76%. However, reviewers also have a benevolent side; 67% said “helping and guiding others” was a key motivation, and “helping a brand improve a product” was cited by 65%. Younger respondents – 77% of Gen Zers polled – were significantly more motivated to provide reviews for the purpose of helping others than older respondents. 

The lure of exclusivity and the sense of duty. Some 85% of respondents said receiving a product before it’s available to the general public incentivized them to post a product rating and review. Coincidentally, 86% said they would be more likely to submit a rating and review for a product with low review volumes. This may indicate reviewers feel a sense of duty to provide feedback for the betterment of the consumer collective. 

Motivations to respond to queries. Of those surveyed, 77% said a “desire to help and guide others” was the biggest motivator to provide answers to questions posed by other customers online. While “having a positive product experience,” and “having a disappointing product experience,” were the motivations behind 73% and 60% of those polled, respectively. 

Rich media value propositions. Free samples and incentives had the greatest influence on the posting of images and videos as part of reviews. Younger consumers are more titillated by this prospect — perhaps unsurprising, given the popularity of visually-oriented social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok among this demographic. Some 80% of thrifty Millennials cited free samples as a winning incentive to drive them to post a video with their review. While 40% of Gen Zers said they were motivated by the chance their image might be subsequently shared on a brand’s website. 

Consumer Advocacy Strategies and Best Practices 

“With an understanding of reviewer motivations, brands can devise winning strategies to win over their advocacy and generate more user engagement and ratings and reviews,” said Andrew Smith, vice president of Marketing for PowerReviews. 

Smith recommends the following best practices: 

Adapt user-generated content collection strategies according to age demographics. Different generations have slightly different preferences and motivations to provide user-generated content. Consider tailoring outreach strategies and approaches for greater alignment and improved results. 

Send out free samples as a review generation mechanism. This is clearly the most effective method to generate ratings and reviews for a particular product quickly. Encourage consumers to provide imagery and video in their reviews. 

Incorporate user generated content throughout marketing initiatives. This creates more buyer confidence, generating more conversions and sales, and influencing customers to submit more ratings and reviews. Target younger demographics to provide video and imagery with contest-style invitations focused on including their content in corporate brand marketing. 

Leverage user generated content as a valuable customer feedback source to improve your business. 

Above and beyond its obvious conversion power, brands should also leverage the analytics value of this content. It’s a highly valuable form of customer feedback that can drive improvements in products, customer experience, and overall marketing and messaging efforts. 

View the full survey results on the PowerReviews website

Research Methodology 

The PowerReviews survey draws on responses from 10,486 active shoppers across the United States who have opted in to offers and discounts from retailers. The online survey took place in October 2020. 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) helps leading retailers and brands generate customer product ratings and reviews in larger volumes to significantly increase sales and then analyze and benchmark all this data to improve product quality and customer experience, while also delivering store experience feedback to help them optimize their retail network. PowerReviews is headquartered in Chicago, IL, USA. 

Media Contact 

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

A survey of more than 10,000 consumers to help you understand what motivates shoppers to submit Ratings and Reviews and other types of User-Generated Content.

User-Generated Content (UGC) – ratings and reviews, and consumer submitted video, imagery and Q&A content – is typically a core pillar of any successful ecommerce strategy. And with good reason: it’s proven that the more UGC you have on your website, the more sales you generate.

In fact, PowerReviews data from across more than 1,000 brand and retailer websites highlights how consumers who interact with reviews convert at 115% the rate of those who don’t. The same figures for Q&A content and imagery are 153% and 81% respectively.

However, one question we get asked a lot by brands and retailers is: how can we generate more of this content?

There are a wide range of theories behind why consumers opt to provide UGC.

But there isn’t a huge volume of concrete data-driven information examining specific reasons. This survey was conceived to change that. It provides a deep dive into exactly what motivates shoppers to submit all types of User-Generated Content (ratings and reviews, and consumer submitted video, imagery and Q&A content) by exploring the opinions of a total of 10,486 active consumers.

We also dig into whether generational differences affect review submission preferences and behaviors. Does age impact whether consumers are more likely to provide review content? And do different factors motivate different age groups?

Throughout, we offer some tips to optimize UGC collection based on the survey results.

Ratings & Reviews

Typical Review Submission Behaviors

To level set, our 10,486 respondents are active shoppers across the United States who have opted in to offers and discounts from retailers. We ran the survey in October 2020.

To get an idea of how these consumers approach UGC, we first wanted to understand how frequently our participants typically provide ratings and reviews.

Review submission frequency
Number of times consumers need to be asked for a rating/review
times-asked-review

More than half of our respondents claim they provide a product rating or review more than once a month. And almost nine in ten (89%) say they do so at least once every six months.

More than two-thirds say they only need to be asked to leave a review once to submit one, while 96% claim they will do so by the second request.

These results show that our survey panel is highly engaged with User-Generated Content (UGC). They submit ratings and reviews in significant volumes.

This means the subsequent findings we highlight are critical for brands and retailers trying to understand how to generate more UGC. Our survey provides crucial insights into how to motivate consumers to provide reviews who are among the most inclined to do so.

Review submission frequency
(Generation Comparison)

Baby Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z
Number of times consumers typically need to be asked before leaving a product rating and review
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z

When comparing review submission behaviors according to age, younger generations are more prolific review writers and contributors. 47% of Baby Boomers submit reviews more than once per month, compared to 54% of Gen Xers, 53% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Zers.

However, younger generations also need to be asked to provide this content on more occasions before they do so. 61% of Gen Zers say they will submit a review on the first request, compared to 62% of Millennials, 70% of Gen Xers and 74% of Baby Boomers.

Based on our results, younger generations are overall more committed to providing reviews but less immediately responsive to initial requests.

Primary motivators for providing review content

As a starting point, we wanted to understand the main motivating factors for consumers to provide product ratings and reviews.

We based the response options on our experience of working on UGC programs for a number of years at more than 1,200 brands and retailers. In other words: this is what we and our own customers believe to be the main reasons that their customers offer up this content.

Factors that motivate consumers to leave a rating/review

Our responses provide an easy-to-rank list of the most important motivating factors for consumers. Our top ranking result shows there is simply no substitute for a good experience. More than nine in ten say this is the primary reason they choose to provide this content.

By the same token, a negative experience also leads more than three quarters to leave a product rating and review.

With that being said, incentives clearly – if employed correctly – can stimulate review content. A free sample of the product is a critical motivating factor for a massive 86% of respondents. Incentives are also important for 76% of the consumers surveyed.

Factors that motivate consumers to leave a rating/review
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z

In terms of reasons consumers provide review content, there are not too many cross-generational differences.

Regardless of age, a similar volume of respondents feel compelled to submit ratings and reviews if they:

  • have a positive experience
  • receive free samples (or are incentivized in some other way)
  • are looking to help the brand improve the product
  • want to be part of a review community.

The one factor where we identified a clear trend was a desire to help and guide others – younger generations are significantly more motivated to provide reviews for this reason (77% of Gen Zers, compared to 68% of millennials, 68% of Gen Xers and 58% of Baby Boomers).

What incentives are reviewers looking for?

With consumers seeking incentives in exchange for submitting ratings and reviews, it begs the question: what incentives particularly motivate them to do so?

Incentives leading to review submission

Unsurprisingly perhaps, any incentive can be used to generate more review content. But two particularly stand out: receiving the product to be reviewed free or before it officially hits the shelves (digital or physical).

Incentives leading to review submission
(Generation Comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z

Influence of existing review content

Although near the bottom of the rankings in the list of motivating factors (only 42% claimed this would lead them to submit a review), reading existing ratings and reviews content does still have an impact.

More or less likely to submit a product rating and review if it has low review volumes
More or less likely to provide a product rating and review after reading ratings and reviews from others

In fact, these results show that 1) reading reviews from others and 2) low review volumes is still a significant motivator.

Timing of review submission

One question we get asked a lot: how long after asking for a review is it likely to be generated? We explored this topic with our respondents, also questioning them about typical product usage before submitting this content.

Average length of time taken after first using/receiving product to submit review
Number of times product used before review submission
Likelihood to provide a rating or review after using product more than once

The vast majority of respondents submit review content within a week of receiving the product (76%) or within the third usage (86%) of the product. Few do so immediately but a surprisingly high third of all consumers surveyed will provide a review after only using the product once.

Average length of time taken after first using/receiving product to submit review
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z
Number of times product used before review submission
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z
More likely to provide a product rating and review if used product more than once
(Generation comparison)

Likelihood to provide a rating and review after only one use increases with age: 40% of Baby Boomers submit reviews after one use, compared to 27% of Gen Zers. It appears that younger consumers like to more robustly road test products before delivering their verdict.

Impact of pricing

We wanted to explore whether product price point has an impact on the likelihood to submit review content. We know more expensive products typically require higher buyer consideration, so we wanted to see if this was reflected in motivation to submit reviews.

Percentage of respondents who have left reviews for products by price point
Whether a more expensive product makes a rating and review submission any more likely

Our results show that price does not have a notable impact on review submission likelihood. In fact, around eight in ten respondents explicitly stated this to be the case.

However, the sweet spot for actual review generation by price point is – according to our results – between $6 and $50. Fewer consumers have left product reviews at the higher ranges ($101+) but this can be explained simply by fewer purchases at this level.

Whether a more expensive product makes a rating and review submission any more likely
(Generation comparison)

Younger generations are clearly more compelled to provide a rating and review as the price of the product increases. In fact, 32% of Gen Zers say this has an impact (compared to 28% of Millennials, 19% of Gen Xers and 16% of Baby Boomers).

Visual Media

While ratings and reviews are the bread and butter when it comes to UGC, they are also just a piece in a bigger overall puzzle. A best practice UGC strategy will also include many other elements, such as imagery and video.

As we outline above, data from across more than 1,000 brand and retailer websites we work with highlights how website visitors who interact with imagery are 81% more likely to convert than those who don’t.

This is why many brands and retailers incorporate visual media – either collected within the review itself or on social media – throughout their digital experiences (i.e. on their product pages, category pages, homepages, in email marketing and within social media campaigns etc.). It’s proven to drive purchases.

With this being such an impactful and important element, we wanted to see what makes shoppers feel compelled to leave this specific type of content.

Visual media within reviews

Factors motivating consumers to post an image with a product review
Factors motivating consumers to post a video with a product review

Incentivizing consumers to submit images and videos within their reviews is clearly – according to our survey results – the single most likely factor to drive this outcome.

Again, however, it’s impossible to ignore product quality and demonstration of real-life use cases as a motivator (the main reasons visual media has such an impact on conversions).

There is simply no hiding place for a product perceived to be poor quality when it comes to UGC.

With respect specifically to product quality, this can be managed by appropriately setting expectations up front – primarily through messaging/positioning and pricing. Outlining any features that have potential to be perceived as weaknesses and then adjusting price as necessary goes a long way.

Factors motivating consumers to post an image with a product review
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z
Factors motivating consumers to post a video with a product review
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z

Baby boomers are the least compelled to share user generated imagery and video overall.

The percentage figures for the reasons more senior generations would share this type of content are consistently lower than younger respondents – which highlights a relatively less appetite to submit it.

As mentioned, incentives to submit imagery and video are big motivators regardless of age. But the biggest age-related difference in what compels consumers to provide this content is whether a brand subsequently shares it.

The trend is clear. The younger the consumer, the more this excites them. 32% of Gen Yers say they are motivated to provide product video content if it’s shared by the brand (40% of Gen Yers say the same for imagery), compared to 13% of Baby Boomers (15% say the same for imagery).

This is perhaps unsurprising given the popularity of visual social-media focused platforms like Instagram, TikTok and so on among this demographic.

Posting about products on social media

Consumers who have ever posted on social media about a product or brand
Factors that motivate consumers to post on social media about a product or brand

Nearly all the consumers we surveyed have posted about product experiences on social media. 

However, why they are motivated to do so is slightly different to the reasons they provide imagery and videos within review content – with product and brand experience typically being the primary factor. This is demonstrated with 80% saying they do so to express gratitude (for a good experience) and 70% to help and guide others.

Consumers who have ever posted on social media about a product or brand
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millennials
Gen Z
Factors that motivate consumers to post on social media about a product or brand
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z

Similar to the trends identified directly above, the engagement element of social media really inspires younger generations to share content there about your brand.

Questions & Answers

Customer questions and answers on product pages are a tactic used by many brands and retailers to address consumer concerns. Essentially, both the questions and answers can be customer or brand-submitted but their purpose is to get right to the heart of known barriers to purchase.

And this content is really effective: as we highlight above, consumers who interact with Q&A content are 153% more likely to convert than those who don’t. This makes it the single most impactful type of UGC.

Percentage of consumers surveyed who have:
Factors that would motivate/has motivated you to provide answers to questions asked by other customers on online product pages

Our survey results reiterate the importance of Q&A content. Almost nine in ten consumers have read Q&A on product pages as they consider a purchase decision. Fewer have posted this content, but a healthy volume of shoppers claim to have done so.

As with visual media, the main motivation for submitting either questions or answers is a desire to guide others in the event of either a positive or negative product experience. However, the fact that more than half do so to improve the product highlights strong personal brand attachment and investment.

Critically, consumers are very open to providing Q&A content. Only 6% are not (which – to state the obvious – means 94% are). So there is a definite opportunity to tap into this appetite for brands and retailers.

Interaction with Q&A
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z
Factors that would motivate/has motivated you to provide answers to questions asked by other customers on online product pages
(Generation comparison)
Boomers
Gen X
Millenials
Gen Z

Similar themes evident throughout the rest of the survey are clear in responses to the questions we asked around Q&A content. Again, younger generations are motivated mostly by a desire to help and guide others in their purchase decisions.

Key takeaways & recommendations
1
Incentives and freebies lead to more review content

There’s no getting away from it: consumers are most likely to provide review content if they are incentivized to do so. Offering a free sample of the product is the single most effective way to generate a ton of fresh UGC.

2
Deliver great experiences to generate great ratings and reviews

Ultimately, the UGC you generate is a reflection of the quality of your products. However, you should do everything you can to manage expectations up front by educating shoppers with accurate product descriptions and imagery.

3
That great experience needs to be delivered from the get go

Not only does the overall experience your product delivers need to be great, it needs to be great from the very first use. The overwhelming majority of consumers leave a review within the first week of receiving the item, often after a single use.

4
UGC is more than just ratings and reviews

Q&A and user-generated video and imagery is extremely impactful in providing buyer confidence and driving sales online. And your ability to generate this content is dictated more by a great experience than ratings and reviews (which, as we explain, relies more on incentives). A best-in-class UGC program will incorporate all these elements.

5
Consider your UGC a valuable source of customer feedback data to help improve your business

Sure, the primary reason you have a UGC program is to create buyer confidence at the moment of truth. But it also includes a goldmine of customer feedback that can significantly help improve your product experience, customer experience and overall marketing and messaging efforts. Make sure you make use of this insight to drive your business forward.

6
Consider adapting your UGC collection strategies according to age demographics

Different generations clearly have slightly different preferences and motivations to provide UGC. If you have products focused on different age groups or are able to segment your database by generation, consider adapting the nature of your collection outreach and requests.

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