Online Reviews Influence 84% of Americans

There have been lots of studies documenting that consumers look at and care about online reviews in making buying decisions. The latest (released last week) comes from Opinion Research Corporation:

The survey revealed 84 percent of Americans say online customer evaluations have an influence on their decision to purchase a product or service, but only 28 percent of respondents say they have posted their own feedback on the web. These facts are nearly identical to those published in 2008 . . .

Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents, virtually identical to the proportion in 2008, checked some type of online review forum when looking to purchase a particular brand of product or service. Interestingly, a sizable number of respondents (50 percent) relied on online reviews in the first stage of their buying cycle.

As the quote in the press release asserts, a minority of review writers are having a significant potential influence on buyers (whether online or offline). The Internet is being used even more intensively by cost conscious consumers to find the best products and services at the best prices:


Source: Opinion Research Corp.

Increased online activity in the food category probably relates the various e coli and other food safety scares in the past several months.

What’s the takeaway here? Businesses of any size must work with this population of influencers to manage their reputations online. If they can do that successfully (on social media and review sites) those efforts will likely pay off with the larger population. What I’m describing is challenging and may be more so for time-starved SMBs. But SMBs might also be in a better position in some respects to “work” social media sites to their advantage than large, slow-moving companies that resist engaging with customers.


Thanks to Seb and Christer for pointing out this data via Twitter.

8 Responses to “Online Reviews Influence 84% of Americans”

  1. Ron Butman Says:

    At least in the restaurant category, our own polling found that only 12% of consumers often/very often read online reviews but of course this is growing significantly. And with 36% of consumers likely to try a restaurant based on its reviews, it’s clear that reviews are definitely having an impact.

  2. Greg Sterling Says:

    Thanks for that data. Every survey has to be taken with a grain of salt but directionally most of this stuff is consistent.

  3. Paul Pedersen Says:

    If I could create a review with a universal ID, like OpenID, I’d be much more likely to do so. It’s the registration and giving my email to one more party that usually stops me.

  4. Review Removal Process- How Yahoo Succeeds and Google Doesn’t » Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search Says:

    […] sword of on-line marketing for many small business. Greg Sterling repored on recent research that Online Reviews Influence 84% of Americans. They are a reality that impacts sales whether they are truthful or not, current or not, spammy or […]

  5. Mark Johnson Says:

    So clearly folks are using online recommendation services, but are all businesses listening? Many to be complaining without really understanding the value of that advice to their business. Really a shame, since it’s free user research!

  6. Greg Sterling Says:


    Larger small businesses are more inclined to monitor reviews. They either use “business name” alerts or visit particular sites to see what’s said. Increasingly there will be automated tracking offered as part of ad packages and related services.

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