Product reviews are a crucial way for companies to build consumer trust and to help customers make confident purchase decisions. According to recent research [download page] from Bazaarvoice, consumers seeking reliable information about a product trust consumer reviews most – but this is not to say that online shoppers don’t value subject matter expert (SME) reviews for some product types.
Indeed, consumers place a lot of trust in SME reviews for some product types, in some cases preferring them to consumer reviews. When buying electronic products, more than 4 in 10 (44%) respondents prefer to read a review from a subject matter expert over a consumer review, and the same goes for financial services (44%). A further two-fifths (40%) of consumers prefer SME reviews when buying automotive products. Compared to these more considered purchases, fewer consumers are inclined to look beyond customer reviews when shopping for products like groceries (23%) and apparel (22%).
The preference for SME reviews for considered purchases may also be due to some decline in trust for consumer reviews: about 1 in 4 shoppers surveyed (24%) reported a decline in trust for consumer reviews.
Separately, recommendations from micro-influencers are trusted more than those from super-influencers, which aligns with where marketers are placing their own trust for campaigns. All told, despite just 28% saying they trust influencer recommendations, more than three-quarters (77%) who have purchased an influencer-recommended product were satisfied.
While consumer reviews are consistently the most trusted source of information for shoppers, the nuances of consumer reviews can impact trustworthiness. Increasingly, online shoppers appreciate an emphasis on user-generated content: Bazaarvoice saw a 17% year-over-year increase in reviews with photos in their network and a 67% increase in photo submissions in their Influenster community.
What’s more, the impact of these nuances varies across age groups. Shoppers ages 18-44 are more likely to trust reviews than those aged 45+. This latter group is less likely to want photos included in reviews.
The survey found clear consumer preferences not just in terms of review type, but in how companies respond to customer feedback. Indeed, previous research shows that whether or not a company responds to reviews is one criterion consumers use to judge the business.
Whatever form this response takes, an average of 8 in 10 shoppers think that brands are obliged to give some kind of response to positive or negative reviews. More than 9 in 10 expect a response to a question in a social media post within 24 hours, including 40% who expect that response within an hour. Therefore, companies should be sure to not drop the ball when engaging with reviews if they want them to remain an asset.
Read the full report here.
About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of more than 5,500 adult (18+) consumers from the US, Canada, Mexico, the UK, France, Germany and Australia.