Reviews Driving, Swaying Shoppers to Physical Stores

BY Courtney Huckabay
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Americans are incorporating a wide range of digital tools and platforms into their purchasing decisions and buying habits, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults. But even as a sizeable majority of Americans have joined the world of e‑commerce, many still appreciate the benefits of brick-​and-​mortar stores. Overall, 64% of Americans indicate that, all things being equal, they prefer buying from physical stores to buying online.

"Fully 65% of Americans indicate that when they need to make purchases they typically compare the price they can get in stores with the price they can get online and choose whichever option is cheapest. Roughly one-​in-​five (21%) say they would buy from stores without checking prices online, while 14% would typically buy online without checking prices at physical locations first," Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson report. "More than seven-​in-​ten think it is important to be able to read reviews posted online by others who have purchased the item (74%)."

Shoppers are going local with their online searches too. The most recent AudienceSCAN survey found during the past 30 days, 26.4% of shoppers who are Swayed by Reviews have used the internet to visit a local store/​business website to research a product or service before buying.

"The survey also illustrates the extent to which Americans are turning toward the collective wisdom of online reviews and ratings when making purchasing decisions. Roughly eight-​in-​ten Americans (82%) say they consult online ratings and reviews when buying something for the first time. In fact, 40% of Americans (and roughly half of those under the age of 50) indicate that they nearly always turn to online reviews when buying something new. Moreover, nearly half of Americans feel that customer reviews help “a lot” to make consumers feel confident about their purchases (46%) and to make companies be accountable to their customers (45%)."

TV is going to be an effective way to reach customers who are Swayed by Reviews. The latest AudienceSCAN study found 65% of them took action after watching television (over-​the-​air, online, mobile or tablet) spots in the past year. Commercials can highlight a local shop's reviews and ratings.

"But even as the public relies heavily on online reviews when making purchases, many Americans express concerns over whether or not these reviews can be trusted. Roughly half of those who read online reviews (51%) say that they generally paint an accurate picture of the products or businesses in question, but a similar share (48%) say it’s often hard to tell if online reviews are truthful and unbiased."

It's important for small businesses to provide reviews and ratings too. According to AudienceSCAN research, 59% of those Swayed by Reviews prefer to buy from a small, family-​owned or independently owned business if price and product quality are similar.

"Reading online reviews is common across wide range of demographic groups, but those under 50 are especially likely to regularly incorporate them into their shopping experiences. A little more than half (53%) of 18- to 29-​year-​olds and 47% of 30- to 49-​year-​olds say they always or almost always read online reviews when buying something for the first time. Fewer adults ages 50–64 (34%) or 65 and older (23%) consistently engage in this type of online shopping behavior."

"The frequency with which people read online reviews is also correlated with how often they shop online. Roughly two-​thirds (67%) of weekly online shoppers say they nearly always read customer reviews before buying new items, compared with 54% of monthly online shoppers and 38% of those who say they shop online less often. Overall, online shoppers are eight times more likely than those who never shop online to say they typically check online reviews before buying something for the first time (49% vs. 6%)."

"In addition to reading online reviews, many Americans watch online videos to help them with purchasing decisions: 55% of U.S. adults say they have watched product review videos online. Product review videos are also more common among those under 50 than among those 50 and older (68% vs. 41%) and more common among men than among women (62% vs. 50%).

In the past 6 months, 29.4% of those who are Swayed by Reviews have used smartphones or tablets to watch a video about a product they're considering, AudienceSCAN data revealed.

And when it comes to the tone of online reviews, more Americans report being influenced by highly negative reviews than are influenced by highly positive ones. Some 54% of Americans who read online reviews indicate that they pay more attention to extremely negative reviews when trying to make decisions, while 43% pay more attention to extremely positive ones."

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.