Key Findings

  • 54% of online shoppers read reviews for everything they purchase
  • Good reviews play the biggest role in online purchasing decisions
  • 100+ reviews make a business trustworthy, say 39% of online shoppers
  • 88% of online shoppers read at least 3 reviews before purchase

Digital.com recently surveyed 1,250 online shoppers in the United States and found that the days of buying a product and hoping for the best are long gone. The majority of online shoppers read reviews for everything they buy—no matter the product or cost.

54% of Americans read online reviews for everything they buy

Overall, 54% of survey respondents say they read online reviews for all products they buy. An additional 19% read reviews for purchases over $100. Only 5% of respondents don’t read any reviews, regardless of the cost of the item they are buying.

Even when broken down by demographics, such as age, gender, and income level, these numbers remain relatively similar.

Good reviews have the most influence over online purchases

We found that the reading of online reviews isn’t just a leisurely pastime either. Twenty-six percent of our respondents selected “good reviews,” as having the most influence on their decision to click buy, the highest percentage of any factor.

According to Digital Marketing Executive, Huy Nguyen, online reviews are the new word of mouth for retail’s final frontier.

“Review sentiment is important because consumers trust experiences of real users shared through images, video, and detailed explanations over what a brand might promote on their own,” he explains.

Male shoppers are more likely than female shoppers to say good reviews have a significant impact, by a rate of 30% to 22%. For women, free shipping is more important, with 26% saying this plays the biggest factor in their purchasing decisions.

88% of online shoppers read at least 3 reviews before purchase

The overwhelming majority of online shoppers, 88%, are reading three or more reviews for products that they buy online. The plurality of respondents, 40%, read 4-9 reviews, while 27% read 10 or more, and 21% read three.

Online shoppers opt for convenience when reading reviews

Despite the important role online reviews play in their purchasing decisions, many consumers aren’t picky about which reviews they read. Roughly one-third of survey respondents read whichever reviews they see first, a key fact online businesses should note.

“Most review platforms and 3rd-party marketplaces allow visitors to rate other customer reviews by their helpfulness or relevance. These reviews are often displayed first by default,” says Nguyen. “Companies need to focus on maintaining a highly-positive overall review rating for their products, as customers won’t read all product reviews before making a decision. With this in mind, it’s even more important to respond to and resolve negative reviews and turn them into positive experiences for future visitors to see.”

Most shoppers describe the effect that reviews have on their purchasing decisions as “average.” Fifty-five percent say a glowing review will help them make the final decision to buy a product, while 57% say a negative review will help convince them not to buy a product. For 21% of shoppers, one negative review is all they need to see to convince them to spend their money elsewhere.

39% of online shoppers say businesses need over 100 reviews to be trustworthy

Besides giving customers valuable insight into products they are considering, online reviews help establish a company’s brand and legitimacy.

When asked how many reviews a company needs to be considered trustworthy, the plurality of respondents, 39%, chose 100-999, while 19% indicate 1,000-4,999 is their sweet spot. Twenty-five percent of respondents are content with 1-99 reviews.

According to Nguyen, the ever-increasing number of online retail options and products contributes to the need for this external consumer validation.

“There are many new brands and products coming to the market all the time,” says Nguyen. “Consumers rely on the shared experiences of others, who may be in a similar situation, to learn more about these products and how they may work for them.”

Furthermore, engaging through online review platforms gives business owners a way to build a relationship with customers they’ll likely never meet in person. “When you are able to make things right for a customer, they may change their negative review to a positive one,” Nguyen says. “Potential customers who read negative reviews can see publicly how you responded and provided an excellent customer experience.”

Consumers believe competitors, trolls contribute to negative reviews

Despite their reliance on reviews, not all customers are confident they are written by fellow consumers.

Eighty-six percent of respondents think positive reviews are written by satisfied customers, while 73% think negative reviews are written by unsatisfied customers.

Respondents, who could select multiple answers to this question, also believe that negative reviews are written by competitors (38%), online trolls (36%), and disgruntled former employees (32%).

To build trust through online reviews, companies need to have a strategy for generating positive reviews, and handling negative ones, says Nguyen. He offers the following list of do’s and don’ts.

Methodology

The data for this report comes from a survey designed and paid for by Digital.com. The survey was administered by online survey platform Pollfish on May 17, 2021. Digital.com surveyed 1,250 American adults 18 and older regarding their online shopping habits, including how many product reviews they read, and how product reviews influence their purchasing decisions.

Reviewed by: Huy Nguyen