Online Reviews: How Important?

In an online poll I conducted within the past month (500 respondents), not representative of the US population as a whole, I asked the question:

“How important are user reviews in your thinking about restaurants, hotels and local businesses?

The choices were:

  • Critical, they often determine where I go
  • Very important, I usually read them
  • Somewhat important, I pay attention sometimes
  • Not important, I don’t read them

The answers were:

  • Critical, they often determine where I go — 7%
  • Very important, I usually read them — 17%
  • Somewhat important, I pay attention sometimes — 43%
  • Not important, I don’t read them — 33%

As with any poll you’re capturing attitudes rather than behavior. But what it reflects is that 67% of the time people are paying attention to what others have said about a business. In roughly one quarter (24%) of those cases they’re factoring that information into their decision in a serious way. Most of the time, however, people use it as one of several considerations, hence the 43% “somewhat” response.

And in this poll, just over a third said they didn’t care at all. That’s a high number and I doubt they don’t care what others think. One might find skepticism about the veracity of reviews in this group if one were to “drill down” further.

Some could walk away from this and other data and draw the conclusion that a large number of people pay no attention or only passing attention to ratings and reviews. But that would be the wrong conclusion. The conclusion to draw is that a majority of people do read them and consider what they say in making purchase decisions and that roughly one quarter of the online population takes them very seriously.

2 Responses to “Online Reviews: How Important?”

  1. Bill W Says:

    Greg – Great study thanks for doing it and posting the results.

    I couldn’t agree with you more that the online population takes reviews into consideration when making decisions. Reviews and opinions have become such an integral part of our culture, I believe we often make decisions based on what we’ve read, viewed and heard and don’t even realize we’re doing it.

    Granted, I have a somewhat biased opinion.

  2. Online Liability Blog Says:

    Greg,

    Great poll/post.

    While your poll was conducted online (inevitably slanting the results somewhat), I was most impressed by the fact “that roughly one quarter of the online population takes [user reviews] very seriously.” I think that’s a huge number, given the relative infancy of elaborate rating/review websites, the public’s knowledge thereof, and the subset of folks that actually use the Internet to choose and purchase services online.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your results. It would be interesting to know whether they would have been substantially different if one were to ask about “online user reviews” and/or their importance “in your online comparison and/or selection of restaurants, hotels and local businesses.”

    -Michael

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