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Do Consumers Trust Online Reviews?

by Ayaz Nanji  |  
September 5, 2013

A quarter of consumers think the information presented on online rating sites is unfair: 16% say it is overly negative and 9% say it is overly positive, according to (pdf) a recent report by Maritz Research.

The remaining 75% of survey respondents say the information presented is generally fair. However, even those respondents say readers need to separate trustworthy reviews from untrustworthy ones.

Below, additional key findings from the report (pdf), which was based on an online panel of 3,404 people who answered questions about their use of sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable.

Trends by Gender and Age

  • 60% of survey respondents say they pay more attention to customer comments than to numerical or star ratings.
  • 11% pay more attention to numerical ratings and 29% pay attention to both equally.
  • Men are more skeptical of rating site information, with 73% saying they think the information is generally a fair representation of customers' experiences, compared with 78% of women who say so.
  • Younger users of rating sites are also significantly more skeptical of the information presented on rating sites than older users.

Trustworthiness of Specific Sites

  • For specific review sites, the percentage of respondents who say they trust most or all the information ranged from 36% to 59%.
  • Larger and more established sites are perceived as more trustworthy than newer and smaller sites.

About the research: The report was based on data from an online panel of 3,404 people who answered questions about their use of popular review sites.

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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Scott Miller Thu Sep 5, 2013 via web

    At TrustRadius we are focused on creating a high-quality source for in-depth reviews of business technology products (including marketing automation and other digital marketing tools), and we are big believers that the types of reviews and transparency fostered by the sites mentioned above will inevitably make its way to enterprise technologies.

    It would be interesting to delineate consumers' trust factors in those reviews that are formally attributed (via facebook, LinkedIn, or other authentication mechanisms) versus more anonymous. But our findings corroborate that readers definitely place more trust in reviews with formal attribution and detailed comments versus a simpler "stars and slides" approach.

  • by Seshu Thu Sep 5, 2013 via web

    One of the important aspects that we tell our clients is the fact that when customers put in their reviews online they either do it because they love or hate the place. Both ways they spend a considerable amount of time and this has to be appreciated in terms of responding to them in timely fashion and that is what mKonnekt precisely follows as well.

    What we have seen is the impact of comments on new businesses - one of our clients who is in the restaurant business has emphasized on his Yelp ratings and has seen a tremendous gain in his business. We also keep a tight tab on other forums where customers post their reviews. Glad to see some numbers behind the online reviews.

  • by Bill F Thu Sep 5, 2013 via web

    Here's my personal opinion. Its not only about trust, its about utility.

    I've learned things even from reviews I don't trust. And if there are enough reviews for a product or service, the touts and detractors get pushed aside by the usable reviews. Sorry that I don't have data for this, but perhaps the good folks at Maritz Research can run that survey.

  • by MikeY Fri Sep 6, 2013 via web

    Online customer reviews are essentially a digitalization of one of Marketing's most powerful tools: word-of-mouth and friend recommendations. With any friend recommendation or word-of-mouth, there is always the aspect of skewed opinions, overly biased reviews, and the occasional hardcore brand ambassador.

    In my opinion, online reviews tend to become more accurate with a larger sample size and more detailed reviews.

    Another powerful aspect of customer reviews is a business's ability to get instant feedback on how to improve their product or service.

  • by Jason Mon Sep 9, 2013 via web

    The trouble is that most third party review sites make it too hard for people to write reviews.
    Only 6% of consumers write reviews. This causes a natural selection bias.
    The rest of us (94%) find the process tedious or we forget. (*Local Viewpoints 2013 study)
    In order for a business to get reviews from the 94% of people who don't write them is to make it quick, easy and mobile. Add local search and social to the mix and you have a tri-fecta.

    Jason Allington

  • by Dexter Mon Sep 9, 2013 via web

    Absolutely critical to companies of all types it is fascinating to look at this type of data. I would agree with Jason below that a small percentage of people leave reviews. Sadly it is often people who have had a very bad experience that may not be representative of the company/product/brand. Challenge for users is to figure out real/fake reviews and challenge of 3rd parties is to both GET reviews and get scale w/o fabricating them.

  • by Gracious Store Fri Sep 13, 2013 via web

    Online reviews are not hundred percent accurate but it is a good starting point for anyone to get information about any company. Using the reviews you can decide to verify the veracity of those review by contacting the company and asking them questions about the reviews you found about their company, Based on the company's response to your inquiry you can make better judgement about the company and then decide what you want to do

  • by Eugene Oelofse Wed Oct 9, 2013 via web

    Online Reviews are a great basis point to form an opinion, however are so extremely subjective to overall and extenuating circumstances and experience and are also exposed to a large amount of unethical practices, that consumers need to assess multiple reviews of a given topic before they develop an opinion. Unfortunately I feel the first review read, will always be the underlying impression of the subject.

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