How Online Reviews Impact Consumer Shopping Habits

September 21, 2016

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The enterprise once held power over the customer. But today, the customer holds power over the enterprise. We are living during a time that’s been dubbed by Forrester as the “Age of the Customer.”

Customers now hold more power than ever, and their user-generated content has become more influential to other consumers than branded content, according to Deloitte.

The era of word-of-mouth is upon us.

Simultaneously, online reviews are playing an important role in the customer experience when it comes to shopping, especially when it comes to women’s shopping habits. According to ReviewTrackers research, online reviews are considered at least 3 times more influential to women than advertisements when making a purchase decision.

54.6 percent of the 500 women surveyed consider online reviews most influential when making a purchase when presented with the choice of articles about a product, an advertisement, or salespeople.

Just 17.4 percent of women consider an advertisement the most important factor when making a purchase.

Meanwhile, enterprises are spending nearly $187 billion on advertising each year.

Strategy Analytics

Our research also found that 19.3 percent of women say that an “article about a product” is most influential when making purchases, more than an advertisement or salesperson: only 8.7 percent of women are influenced by a salesperson when making a purchase.

An Issue of Trust

This data correlates with the type of research Americans put into shopping today: it’s a time when 69 percent of consumers seek the opinions of others before deciding what to purchase, according to Mintel.

What’s interesting is that the majority of Americans don’t even trust the advertising and marketing industry. Of course, the fact that advertising is the least trusted profession is not new news. But according to a study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, only 4 percent of Americans think the industry acts with integrity. The industry is the lowest percentage on the list. U.S. Congress is right above it at 6 percent.

So in other words, online reviews have an impact on women’s shopping decisions more than advertisements because reviews are from other customers, not companies. Other customers are the individuals who men and women trust.

Customer Experience When Shopping

While women’s shopping habits are important to understand, men shop too. It can be argued that men also don’t consider advertisements as significant as online reviews when shopping. Some of the statistics mentioned above are about both genders of consumers – such as how 69 percent of consumers seek the opinions of others before making a purchase.

At the same time, men also shop.

Proof that men are shopping can be found at stores like Saks Fifth Avenue. The luxury retailer plans to open a men’s-only store in New York City next year, according to the Wall Street Journal. And for the first time, H&M is going to introduce an H&M Studio collection just for men.

The Mobile Consumer

More people are headed to the Internet to research products and companies, and mobile is part of the reason. According to PwC’s total retail survey, 54 percent of 23,000 shoppers surveyed in 25 countries go online to buy products on a weekly or monthly basis. Sixty-seven percent said their shopping behavior is affected when they read or write comments on social media.


According to Forrester, consumers spend 85 percent of their time on smartphones. The mobile device is one of the contributions to the explosion of online consumer culture.

For shoppers of retail, smartphones are the most important device compared to desktop for at least 30 percent of consumers in each of five different countries, according to xAd’s 2016 Mobile Path to Purchase study.

Whether your retail store sells items for men, women or both, online reviews play an important role in how customers shop. The customer wants to know what other customers have to say about your brand.

So you should be ready to hear what your customers have to say online, respond to every review, and use their feedback to improve the experience at your stores.

(Infographic Credit: Strategy AnalyticsPwC)

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