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Thursday, May 30, 2024

99% of Consumers Rely on Online Reviews Before Making Purchases

Consumers Rely On Online Reviews Study
Jon McDonald

Written by: Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald
Jon McDonald

Jon McDonald brings more than 15 years of journalism expertise to CardRates.com. Informing financial consumers about emerging trends and companies making an impact in the industry, Jon is most knowledgeable in the areas of budgeting, credit card rewards, and responsible credit use; he strives to bring that experience to readers worldwide. Jon has a passion for writing and editing, and his articles have appeared in publications produced by The New York Times.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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Reviewed by: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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As an online consumer, purchasing a product with so many similar options available in the market can be difficult. What makes one item better than another? One way to discern between good and bad products is through online reviews. 

Reviews offer insight that an online description can’t and provide feedback from customers who have used or previously purchased the product of interest. Good reviews can increase sales, while negative reviews may dissuade a customer.

We surveyed American consumers who shop online to understand just how influential reviews can be. Nearly all (99%) of the survey respondents said they look at reviews before making an online purchase, and 1 in 3 claim they always read online reviews before buying anything.

How Online Reviews Impact Consumer Behavior

The influence of online reviews cannot be understated, as the vast majority (97%) of Americans surveyed say these reviews influence their purchasing decisions. There are varying degrees of influence, but for almost two-thirds of American consumers responding to the survey, reviews are either very or extremely influential.

More than half (68%) of survey participants agree that online reviews have become even more influential in recent years. This may be in part due to a company’s focus on branding, strong social media presence, or an influx of influencers. 

how influential online reviews can be to Americans shopping online graphic

Online reviews can be so influential that 86% of American consumers surveyed said they are willing to buy a more expensive product with better reviews over a cheaper product with mixed feedback. The most helpful types of reviews include those that mention specific pros and cons or reviews with detailed descriptions of the product. Consumers surveyed said they find online reviews with a simple star rating and no additional feedback to be the least helpful.

Americans don’t just want to read the positive reviews, negative reviews influence a purchase decision just as much as positive ones. Nearly all (97%) of American consumers surveyed agree that negative reviews impact their decision to buy something, and 96% say they have changed their minds after reading negative reviews.

76% Prefer Products Rated 4 Out of 5 or Higher

American consumers surveyed said they are looking for products with more than one or two reviews. To be considered a well-reviewed product, they’d like there to be an average of 277 online reviews. This doesn’t mean they’re reading every single one, but they are spending about 18 minutes reading reviews before making a purchase. Before feeling good about buying a product, they’re generally reading at least six online reviews.

reading habits of Americans when looking at online reviews graphic

Most online reviews are on a 5-point scale, with 1 being a poor product and 5 being an excellent product that they’d recommend. When looking at reviews, Americans surveyed said they will consider buying something with a 3.9 review rating, but the majority (76%) of respondents say they would prefer products with a 4 or higher rating.

96% Believe Companies Can Manipulate Online Reviews

Online reviews are a proven way to grow trust in a company or brand, and 92% of Americans surveyed would agree. The opposite also holds, as 82% of respondents said they do not trust products without any reviews. 

Although consumers say they trust reviews and products that have them, they aren’t necessarily trusting of all reviews. Consumers like to do their research, and the majority (87%) of respondents said they will search for a specific product to read a variety of reviews across different commerce sites. This may be because most (96%) American consumers surveyed believe companies can manipulate online reviews to make their product appear better.

Which types of online reviews American consumers trust graphic

The most trusted types of reviews include those from verified purchasers, friends or family, or professional critics. The least trusted reviews include those by celebrities or influencers and promotional reviews.

According to nearly 1 in 4 Americans, the age of a review also matters. Consumers want to read recent reviews, and 3 in 5 will only consider online reviews written within the last year.

4 Out of 5 Respondents Have Written a Review Online

Americans don’t just read reviews, they’re also writing them. More than 4 in 5 Americans surveyed have written a review, whether it be positive or negative. Of those who have written reviews, 47% generally leave positive reviews, 8% leave negative reviews, and 45% leave an equal number of positive and negative reviews. Over a third admit to writing reviews frequently.

how often Americans write reviews and why they write them graphic

Most survey respondents said they leave a review for a high-quality product (69%), a positive experience (62%), or exceptional customer service (50%). An equal number said they leave reviews for either a low-quality product (49%) or negative experience (49%), while others write reviews for poor customer service (34%) or misleading advertising (34%).

Methodology

In April 2024, we surveyed 1,016 self-reporting Americans who shop online once a month or more to get their feedback on reviews and reading reviews before making an online purchase. The age range of respondents was 19 to 80 with an average age of 42 years old. Respondents identified as 48% female, 49% male, and 3% non-binary. 

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