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Study: Recent reviews critical to purchase decisions

Brands with recent positive online consumer product reviews have an advantage in converting sales.

According to a new study from PowerReviews, “The Power of Review Recency and Volume,” a majority of surveyed U.S. adult shoppers do their homework prior to making a purchase, with nearly 70% reading between one and 25 consumer product reviews.

More than four in 10 (44%) respondents want access to reviews written within the past month, and 38% won’t purchase a product if the only reviews available are older than 90 days. Close to four in 10 (38%) respondents won’t purchase a product if the only reviews are older than 90 days, while more than six in 10 (62%) will not purchase a product if the only reviews available were published a year or more ago. 

Most respondents (86%) place even more importance on review recency when buying a product or brand for the first time. Almost all (97%) respondents consider review recency to be at least somewhat important when considering a purchase. About two-thirds (64%) of respondents are more likely to buy a product with fewer, more recent reviews than if it has a higher volume of reviews published three or more months ago. This number is even higher – 69% – among baby boomers. 

Respondents are less likely to buy a product if it has no reviews. This number is even higher – 92% – among Gen Z shoppers. Sixty-four percent of respondents are more likely to purchase a product that has more than 1,000 reviews than one that has 100 reviews, assuming the average star rating is the same. Significantly more Gen Z respondents (80%) say this is the case.

Over half (54%) of respondents are more likely to purchase a product with 10,000 or more reviews than a product with 1,000 reviews. The percentage is even higher (73%) among Gen Z respondents.

Other interesting findings include:

  • 79% of respondents consider the volume of reviews “always” or “regularly.” 
  • In an ideal world, 23% of respondents say products should have more than 500 reviews. However, nearly half (45%) say a product must have a minimum of one to 25 reviews for them to feel comfortable with the purchase.
  • Consumers expect a lot of reviews, but typically read far fewer. Seven in 10 (69%) respondents read between one and 25 reviews when considering a product.
  • There is a 296.2% lift in conversion among shoppers who are exposed to 5,000 or more reviews, when compared to those exposed to no reviews.
  • E-commerce site visitors exposed to 5,000 or more reviews convert at a rate that’s 122.1% higher than those exposed to between one and 100 reviews.

The “State of Retail Report” from Bazaarvoice Inc. supports these findings. When consumers were asked what technologies they would like to see integrated into the in-store experience, three of the most popular answers were virtual displays showing other customers’ reviews, photos, and videos (36%); QR codes that can be scanned to read reviews (34%); and availability of live/up-to-date star ratings in-store based on customer feedback (33%).

“Brands and retailers often make the mistake of thinking that review recency isn’t as important as review volumes,” said Andrew Smith, VP, marketing, PowerReviews. “Based on our survey results, this is clearly not the case: the recency factor is of equal importance to consumers. Essentially, review collection is not a ‘one and done’ activity: it’s something that needs to be an ongoing effort.”

The Power of Review Recency and Volume consumer survey draws on responses from 9,012 shoppers aged 18-74 across the U.S. who have opted in to offers and discounts from retailers. The research also evaluated shopping activity on more than 1.5 million online product pages across more than 1,200 brand and retailer sites between May 1 and Nov. 4, 2021.

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