Consumers Don’t Trust Reviews But They’re Swayed by Them Anyway

shandwick - consumer review 2Like most people who shop online, I pay attention to the reviews posted about an item before I make the decision to buy. It seems like the prudent thing to do except for one thing – reviews are notoriously inaccurate. I was looking at laptops last week and my first choice had reviews that ranged from “Excellent computer for the price” to “Piece of garbage” with little in between.

In the past week, I’ve seen a review on a book the reviewer didn’t read and I saw a DVD review where a woman gave it 1 star because she bought the wrong item. Add in all the phony, paid for positive reviews and you definitely can’t believe what you read. Still, a recent study by Weber Shandwick shows that 65% of potential consumer electronics buyers were inspired to consider a different brand after reading a review.

What’s crazy is that 80% of those surveyed said they were concerned about the authenticity of consumer reviews and yet 77% preferred consumer reviews over editorial reviews.

Let’s think about that. You have to option of accepting the word of an unknown “everyman” versus the word of a trained professional who probably had an opportunity to compare similar products and you go with the unknown. Why is that? Is it that we don’t trust professional writers to be unbiased in their opinions? Could it be that pros tend to be more diplomatic with their pros and cons, so the reviews don’t sound honest? There’s probably a logical, psychological reason why we’d trust a stranger over an expert, but it’s still weird.

There is one spot of good news, the study shows that the average consumer reads 11 reviews before making a decision. That means you have a chance of drowning out the passionate voice of that angry, 1-star reviewer. Even better news, consumers understand that not all reviews are created equal. 32% look for reviews that are “fair and reasonable.” 27% are influenced by a well-written review and 25% look for technical data.

Whether there was a name on the review or it was posted anonymously didn’t make much of a difference. Wow. Just wow.

The best news is that consumers trust reviews on retail sites. Amazon got the highest vote of confidence with 84%, BestBuy came in at 75%.

When it comes to making the final purchase decision, only two factors were more important than a good review (71%) – product features (77%) and price (78%).

In the end, there’s nothing much you can do about reviews other than allow people to post them and hope for the best. What you shouldn’t do is remove bad reviews or publicly argue with reviewers because the only thing worse than a bad review is the impression that you’re trying to hide them.

You can download the full “Buy it, Try it, Rate it” report for free when you click this link.

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