Why do people read reviews? What our research revealed

Why do people read reviews? What our research revealed

Our consumer research and UX team has interviewed over 100 Trustpilot users to understand why consumers write and read reviews as part of ongoing research to improve our efforts and products. In this two-part article, our UX analyst, Siri Shadduck, goes over the results and what the research revealed.

Reviews open up a world of possibilities. They help consumers make smarter choices and are instrumental to improving companies. And that is music to our ears.

After all, as UXer’s, it’s our job to provide a better review experience for everyone. How? By improving our products and services through thoughtful design.

Like the Marco Polos or John Cabots of the world, we, the Trustpilot’s UX team, like to think of ourselves as curious minded people, keen to explore. While you might think the review space lacks much of interest (the grandeur of subcontinents, the perils of circumnavigation or the beauty of hidden treasures, to name just a few), to us, it’s fascinating territory in its own right.

To achieve our goals, the UX team spends a lot of time talking to users, doing one-on-one interviews, running surveys, testing concepts, prototyping and digging into stats and trends.

Ultimately, these efforts have placed our focus on two pivotal questions:

 1) What motivates people to read reviews?                                                                                                                                                  2) What motivates people to write reviews?

From our research, we’ve come across some fruitful insights. In this article, part 1, we’ll be discussing what the research revealed regarding why people read reviews.

Why do people read reviews?

 

In a world filled with decisions, reviews offer simple, relevant guidance

Which series should I watch on Netflix next? Which insurance provider is best for me and my family? What hip, new restaurant should I take my Tinder date to? These quandaries may sound familiar - in this day and age, it’s common to feel bombarded by choices.

Decisions, even minor ones, can be difficult and tiresome, particularly when we’re presented with so many options. Humans can only process so much information at once.

Enter reviews.

Consumer reviews, and popular opinion in general, sum up the wisdom of the general population and serve it as a means of collective intelligence, giving shape and structure to the wealth of information out there.

People read reviews to guide them in their decision making process:

As one of our surveyed consumers said:

“I like the way consumers share their own views and what they have experienced regarding what they have purchased. It helps enormously to make a quick decision...”

 

When experiences reign supreme

An increasing number of consumers are spending more of their income on experiences, like  travel and entertainment. Experiences can’t be exchanged - so experiential reviews hold a lot of weight.

After all, not every business fulfills their promise, and consumers don’t want to end up disappointed and sans cash or worse. So before purchasing, consumers look to reviews to tell them a story about a company -  is the business likely to dazzle or to deceive?

According to one consumer:                                                                                                                                                                                 

“Reading individual anecdotal reviews is often very revealing....  Shops & services talk a good game online, but sometimes it's all just waffle & fluff - you get to know what these companies are REALLY like and whether their employees cut the mustard…”

 

Chasing the perfect product

Consumers are also more likely to consult reviews if they’re purchasing a product from an unknown brand, or to assess quality if the product is new to market. Reviews also matter more if a consumer feels the purchase is expensive. For example, reviews are sought after for high ticket items such as electronics or home appliances.

Similarly, consumers are very interested in reviews of personal health and fitness products and services. While consumers are keen to try new things, there’s also often a degree of skepticism. As one surveyed shopper put it: “Everyone reads reviews when they want to try something new"

Of course, when consumers trust the information they find, it’s easier for them to weigh their options and make a smart decision.

 

Trustworthy reviews take the cake

When it comes down to it, reviews are only meaningful if they can be trusted. Verified reviews allow consumers to get a trustworthy sense of how companies treat their customers. Reputable reviews make it much easier to figure out which businesses to avoid, saving consumers time and hard earned money, two very precious resources.

As one consumer put it: reviews help you “gather a true idea about companies before parting with your money.”  

To sum up - people read reviews because they:

  • Offer valuable guidance from people who’ve used the service or product
  • Make it easier for shoppers to decide
  • Attest to a company’s reliability
  • Indicate what’s the best and worse that could happen
  • Give consumers insight about product quality

You can see why over 88% of consumers trust online reviews to make informed purchases.

Our research is yet another example of the change in consumer behavior. Traditional advertising doesn’t have the weight it used to. Consumers are smarter, they have more information at hand, and they like to feel like they’ve made the right decision when it comes to making a purchase. An advertisement doesn’t help a consumer make a purchase, it merely gives them another options. Reviews, recommendations, and personal experiences carry a much higher value for consumers who take the time to be more deliberate with a purchase.

Businesses should be taking advantage of this and utilize reviews in their marketing, sales, advertising, and even customer success. Make customers happy and they’re likely to spread the word on your behalf. Better still, we’ve learned that customers are actively looking for reviews, so why not give them what they want?