<< by on February 25th, 2008
In a recent study performed by PowerReviews and the etailing group, roughly 68% of online shoppers read at least 4 product reviews before purchasing. Furthermore, almost 25% of respondents reported reading eight or more reviews before purchasing.
That’s more than I would have thought. Of course, since there has been relatively little research in the area of user reviews, my assumptions about them have been based on how I personally use them.
In my own experience as an online shopper, if reviews are available I frequently scan them before making my decision. However, there are a few limitations:
- How well-researched am I about the product already? If I am already certain I want to buy the product and have done my research elsewhere, I don’t need to consider reviews.
- How easy-to-read is the format of the review page? If I have to click through to see more reviews, it might not be worth it to me. On the other hand, if a number of reviews are already neatly laid out below the product, my curiosity is piqued. And if the first couple reviews are particularly intense, sometimes I get sucked in (I am ashamed to say) in the same way I sometimes cannot look away from a particularly heated scene on Judge Judy. Jordan McCollum from Marketing Pilgrim points out that although the product pages for Amazon.com can be long, they are great examples of easy-to-read user reviews. This is something more retailers should probably consider developing.
- Speaking of reviewer legitimacy… If a nasty reviewer seems a little too nasty, I am liable to discount his or her advice. Especially if the product features a number of other positive reviews, a raving negative one seems suspect. Then again, two or more nasty reviews might make me start to wonder about the product.
These insights are only from my own personal experience as a consumer, but when considered alongside the data from this new study, they show that incorporating reviews into buying decisions is a complicated consumer process. It involves a complex analysis of how invested a consumer is in the product, how satisfied she expects to be, how much effort she has to go to in order to read others’ reviews, and how likely it is that a given reviewer is legitimate…or mentally or emotionally unstable.
And according to the PowerReviews and etailing group study, user reviews factor quite a lot into the decisions of a majority of online shoppers. Not only is this a reason for e-merchants to most definitely opt into survey and review programs, but it is also a great reason to conduct more marketing research on the subject to better understand how reviews are utilized.