Online reviews have become increasingly important, with more and more people turning to the internet to research products and services before making a purchase.
But just how much do people trust online reviews?
According to the most recent survey by BrightLocal, a staggering 77% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations and reviews from friends and family, social media personalities, or topic experts.
Although some respondents selected more than one answer (meaning it adds up to more than 100%), the data clearly shows people still trust reviews overall:
- 46% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
- 35% trust reviews as much as recommendations from social media personalities.
- 27% trust reviews as much as professionally-written articles by topic experts.
- 23% don’t agree with the above
It’s interesting to note that trust has decreased slightly since their last survey in 2021.
Back then, 79% of people said they trusted reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family, social media personalities, or topic experts.
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Fake Reviews Dent Trust
The reason for the drop has to do with the rise of fake reviews.
A study by the World Economic Forum found that 4% of online reviews are fake, as unscrupulous and desperate businesses try to compete in the review-led economy.
Consumers have therefore become more savvy when reading online reviews, an they look out for signs of fake reviews, such as overly-positive language or a lack of detail.
So why do so many of us trust online reviews?
Why Online Reviews Are Taken Seriously
There are many reasons why consumers take online reviews as seriously as they do.
To find out more about this, we need to look at consumer behavior and how a customer makes their purchasing journey.
We Live Our Lives Online
Modern life revolves around technology – more specifically around the internet.
We can now easily access tons of information about companies, products and services, including the reviews and opinions of other customers.
This offers a level of transparency that we couldn’t get before.
So if there is a business we have never heard of – we can simply Google them.
Google of course has its own review platform, and this is one of the most trusted and most used review platforms online.
So a customer might simply Google the business and read the first review they see.
If this review is negative, it’s possible that they do not research further and take it as complete truth.
But why might this be the case? Our next point might explain that.
We Have So Much Choice
We live in a world where anything is available at your fingertips.
So, when a customer wants to buy a particular product or look for a particular service, they do not need to explore a business any further if they read a negative review.
In other words, let’s say a customer is looking for a restaurant. They Google restaurants in the area and the first one that appears has a negative review on the top.
The customer does not need to take any risk or investigate any further because they can simply go to the next option.
Indeed, it is the plethora of choices that customers have that could be the reason why they are taking online reviews so seriously – simply because there’s no need to check the authenticity of a review.
We Can’t Afford To Take Chances
People generally like to avoid taking risks with their purchases, as falling for a rogue trader or buying a shoddy product can cause financial loss and social embarrassment.
As a result, if a prospective customer sees that someone (real or not) has had a negative experience with a product – they will simply look elsewhere.
Reviews provide comfort because they are a form of social proof. We feel safer from social stigma when we go along with the perceived wisdom of the crowd.
Negative Online Reviews
One of the most shocking statistics regarding online reviews also revolves around consumer behavior.
Data suggests that 96% of consumers specifically look for negative reviews, which is up from 85% in 2018. 
Bizarrely, the data explains that consumers can spend as much as five times longer on a webpage when they are engaging with negative reviews rather than positive ones.
Due to the time that consumers are spending looking through negative reviews, and the fact they are engaging with them could potentially be one of the reasons why online reviews are taken so seriously too.
Consumer Behavior And Demographic
People of all ages read reviews, but the largest demographic is between 18 and 34, where the statistics show 97 percent read online reviews regularly or occasionaly.
However, the breakdown of these figures provides us with a much more interesting set of data.
Out of these numbers, 11% of this sample say that they always trust online reviews whereas 35% say they trust the reviews if they believe they are authentic.
Another 21% of the sample say they take online reviews more seriously if they are supported by other reviews.
It also shows that users are more likely to take a business seriously if they have lots of reviews, rather than just a small amount of reviews.
The particularly interesting thing about these figures here is the fact that 11% of these consumers say they always trust online reviews, despite not knowing if they are genuine reviews or not.
So, what does this mean for a business? How should you use this data?
We’ll look at this next.
Take Online Reviews Seriously
The bottom line is that you must take online reviews, whether they are genuine or not, as seriously as the consumer does.
In other words, even if you are convinced that a review you have received is fake – you still must respond to it.
If you are using Google reviews, it’s a good idea to report the review if you suspect it is fake.
However, in the meantime – ensure that you engage with the review and respond to their claims.
This is for two reasons.
Primarily, it is to show other customers that you actually care about your customers and you value their feedback – which is critical when you want to retain customers for repeat business.
The second however, is from what we have already seen.
If customers are more likely to spend time looking for negative reviews, responding to them with your defense can be as useful as a promotion.
It’s most important that you do not ignore these online reviews though.
Take them as importantly as you would with other customer satisfaction surveys and be sure that you’re always taking points on board.
Ignoring online reviews could spell disaster for a business and without being proactive with them, you could find a significant drop in new customers – which can lead to a drop in revenue!
We’ve seen that a staggering 79% of people trust online reviews. However, knowing the number is just the starting point for you as a business.
You now have to understand what to do with this information, and we hope we’ve helped you understand what to do.