When reviews first started showing up in the local segment there was a debate about whether they would alienate advertisers and whether they were optional or mandatory from a consumer standpoint. Over the course of the past three years that question has been answered many times: yes they’re mandatory and yes they’re challenging from an advertiser POV (though most SMBs have a positive view of reviews).
Here’s relevant online consumer data that Nielsen put out in December (n=1,000):
- 81% of online shoppers have read product or retailer reviews by other customers when doing their holiday shopping this year
- 71% agree that consumer reviews make them more comfortable that they are buying the right product
- 63% of online shoppers indicated that it was important to have multiple reviews for each product
- 14 % looked for reviews from an established source
- 3% sought out reviews by people they knew personally
Here are some of the charts (all Nielsen created):
Note in Table 3 that people are doing price comparisons and inventory checks to the extent they can before visiting the store. And 12% said they ordered online and picked up in store (see Krillion, NearbyNow).
Also, in Table 4 note the role of trust/brand in the decision of which sites to visit (direct navigation). Search followed probably after a generic product search (e.g., “All Clad 14 inch pan”).
Will Scott pointed out that these are datapoints related to product shopping. Here’s a post that contains a range of data on consumers’ use of reviews in a service business context.