In Strangers We Trust: The Power of Online Customer Reviews

It’s funny. As kids we were taught “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t take advice from someone you don’t know.” Yet, somehow these wise words have slipped through the cracks as online shopping has taken the world by storm. Gone are the days of taking time out of our busy days to venture to different […]

It’s funny. As kids we were taught “don’t talk to strangers” and “don’t take advice from someone you don’t know.” Yet, somehow these wise words have slipped through the cracks as online shopping has taken the world by storm.

Gone are the days of taking time out of our busy days to venture to different stores to compare products within the same category. With online shopping, consumers can simply order anything they want with the click of a button; people no longer need to venture to different stores just to compare products to see which one best fits their needs.

However, when we shop online, we are missing that tangible element of touching and seeing a product for ourselves. We’re allowing strangers who have already purchased the product to do this for us. We listen to their reviews and trust their advice. Indeed, we trust complete strangers.

Value of online reviews
Customer reviews and purchasing advice have become extremely valuable in the e-commerce world. People want to buy goods or services that others have purchased, and have had an enjoyable experience with.

According to search agency BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations when it comes to online shopping. These consumers are not willing to invest their time and money on something with a negative review.

By reading these customer reviews, we are essentially gaining back that “tangible” sensation of seeing and touching the product ourselves, albeit through somebody else’s eyes.

How reviews impact a business
In the world of e-commerce, it is important to note at which point in the purchasing cycle customer reviews come into play. By the time a consumer has started reading reviews of a product online, they have identified an issue or need they have and would like to be fulfilled. They then have figured out what good or service would satisfy this need, and are at the point of selecting a business to use.

BrightLocal suggests that companies make note of this cycle, for the path from reading online reviews to purchasing from a business is indeed a short one. It is of the utmost importance for businesses to have and maintain a positive online reputation in order to convert those just searching for a product into actual online customers.

Of course, customer reviews and the strength of a business can have a mutually beneficial relationship. BrightLocal’s research found that 73 percent of consumers say that positive customer reviews make them trust a business more than one without reviews. This has a direct impact on the business itself.

Customer reviews can influence purchasing decisions so much that a consumer will choose one brand over another solely based on them. Businesses need customer reviews in order to outshine their competition.

Great expectations
Customers want and need to see these reviews. In fact, according to the marketing gurus at Yodle Insights, 40 percent of consumers just plain expect to see reviews when looking for products and businesses.

So, yes, maybe all of our lives we were told not to talk to strangers. Yet, when shopping online, it is okay to disobey these societal norms. Customer needs and demands are constantly changing over time, and because of this, online reviews help consumers make decisions. In the end, these reviews have become so essential to the online shopping experience, we would be foolish not to take advice from strangers.