The Evolving Role of Ratings and Reviews in the Path to Purchase
There was once a time (in the not so distant past) when the idea of asking for feedback from consumers, then displaying that feedback for the world to see, was a pretty radical concept. But that has all changed — and quickly. Today’s consumers have come to expect easily accessible product information — and this includes ratings and reviews written by others like them.
In 2014, PowerReviews conducted a survey to explore the role ratings and reviews play in the path to purchase and found that nearly all consumers (95%) read reviews and 86% considered them an essential resource when making purchase decisions0. But we understand that a lot can change in four years. That’s why we decided to survey more than 1,000 American consumers earlier this year to understand how shopper dependence on reviews has changed over the past few years. Spoiler alert: our latest round of research found that consumers are reading and writing product reviews more than ever before. And, as expected, this content continues to be a top consideration when making purchase decisions.
Read on for key findings from our latest research, as well as four tips for brands and retailers to leverage the growing power of ratings and reviews to satisfy their shoppers’ growing desire for information from others like them.
More Consumers Read Reviews
Previously, when a consumer was in the market for a new product, she’d ask for the opinions of her family and friends. And though traditional word of mouth is alive and well, increasingly, consumers are seeking out the opinions of other consumers — by reading product reviews.
Today, 97% of consumers consult product reviews when making purchase decisions, up from 95% in 2014. Of those shoppers, more than a quarter (26%) consult reviews for every purchase they make online. That number jumps to 30% for consumers age 18–44.
Reviews are an Essential Resource
Reviews have quickly evolved from a “nice to have” to an expected component of the shopping experience. In fact, 89% of consumers consider reviews to be an essential resource when making a purchase decision, up from 86% in 2014.
Reviews have become so essential that many shoppers simply won’t make a purchase without them. 70% of consumers indicate they won’t purchase products online without reading reviews. And over a third (39%) won’t purchase products in a brick-and-mortar store without first consulting reviews.
The message is clear: featuring review content on your website is no longer optional — it’s essential. Businesses that don’t provide this content to their shoppers risk losing them to businesses that do.
Reviews are a Top Purchase Consideration
Consumers weigh a number of different factors when making a purchase decision–from product pricing to the ease of returns. But which factors weigh more heavily when it comes time to commit?
Our latest research found that consumers rank the presence of ratings and reviews as the most important factor impacting purchase decisions, behind only the price of the product itself. Consumers have made it clear that the presence of authentic reviews have a larger impact on purchase decisions than other factors including recommendations from family and friends, the brand of the product and the availability of free shipping.
Reviews Impact Online Shopping Behavior
The availability of reviews impacts where consumers choose to shop online, and whether they make a purchase once they land on a given website. When shopping online, 63% of consumers specifically seek out websites that have product reviews, up from 57% in 2014. And 77% of mobile shoppers are more likely to purchase an item if the website or app offers product reviews, up from 70% in 2014.
Brands and retailers take note: collecting and displaying reviews is a key way to attract — and convert — information-hungry consumers. Those that don’t will lose shoppers — 70% of consumers simply won’t buy products online without reading reviews first.
Reviews Influence In-Store Behavior, Too
It’s clear that reviews play a large role in online shopping behavior. However, it’s important to note that a significant–and growing–number of consumers rely on review content when making in-store purchases, too. Our research found that a growing number of consumers (39%) don’t buy products in stores without first reading reviews, up 8% from consumer research in 2014. This trend will only continue to grow, with 31% of consumers indicating they use reviews to make in-store purchases more today than they did a year ago.
It’s key for brick-and-mortar retailers to ensure review content is easily accessible for in-store shoppers. In addition to ensuring reviews are easy to read via a mobile device, look for opportunities to display ratings and reviews in your physical stores.
Four Tips for Success
With nearly all consumers reading reviews, this content has become an expected part of the path to purchase. Read on for four tips for businesses looking to leverage reviews to attract and convert shoppers.
- Collect Reviews: If you’re not already, now’s the time to start requesting reviews from your customers. The most effective way to generate this content is to send a post purchase email, asking consumers to write reviews for recently purchased products. Make sure the entire process for submitting a review is quick, simple and can easily be completed from any device. Finally, ensure it’s easy for your consumers to review multiple products at once.
- Make Reviews Front and Center Online: Once you’ve started generating reviews, start prominently displaying this content on your product pages so shoppers can easily find it, regardless of the device they’re using to shop. Look for opportunities to include ratings and reviews on other parts of your website too, including category pages and even your homepage.
- Feature Reviews In-Store: A growing number of consumers are turning to reviews to inform in-store purchases. In addition to ensuring this content is easy to find and read on your website from any device, look for opportunities to display review content in your brick-and-mortar store locations. For example, include star ratings and excerpts from reviews on signage alongside key products.
- Syndicate Reviews: If you’re a brand that syndicates content to retail sites, you’ll benefit from getting this content in front of more shoppers in more places. And if you’re a retailer that accepts syndicated brand content, you’ll benefit from increased review coverage and depth, without having to generate that content yourselves. Today, retailers receive an average of 58% of their review content from syndication.
Curious what else we learned about consumers’ growing dependence on ratings and reviews? Download our latest research report.
Want to learn how PowerReviews can help you start collecting and syndicating more reviews to drive traffic, conversion and sales? Contact us to schedule a demo today.