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The real impact of online product reviews on consumer behaviour

Are consumers influenced by online product reviews? Do reviews have the power to make or break product sales? Featured this month in Drapers magazine, our latest consumer study reveals what retailers can be doing to harness the power of customer feedback.

According to findings from our latest consumer study Tricky Waters: How Retailers Can Safely Navigate the World of Online Consumer Reviews, the majority of consumers are influenced by online reviews.

Most of us can relate to this. These days not many of us would book a stay in a hotel or make a reservation at a restaurant we’ve never been to before without first consulting TripAdvisor, or purchase a household appliance without scrolling through customer feedback. Reviews appear to play an increasingly important role in our purchasing behaviour.


Populus wanted to discover exactly what kind of impact positive and negative reviews are having on our decision to reach for our wallets. So, focusing on fashion product reviews, we interviewed 2,013 GB adults online between 6 & 7 July 2016.  The report, which featured exclusively in fashion trade title Drapers, uncovers the real impact of online reviews on purchasing decisions whilst letting retailers know exactly what they should be doing to get the most out of their online reviews.

Read our report for the full story or check out the Drapers article to find out what industry professionals think of online reviews.

Key findings from the research include:

Consumers claim to be influenced by reviews while browsing online and in-store

59% of consumers claim that their purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews, with women and young people in particular claiming they are very important. These findings highlight that online reviews should be an area of focus for retailers, particularly as they matter more to consumers than other marketing activities, including TV advertising and social media.

Reviews impact sales!

Our analysis reveals that reviews do have a measurable impact on both claimed and actual purchasing behaviour. As we expected, positive reviews contribute to an uplift in sales while negative reviews put consumers off making a purchase.

Retailers should drive positivity with incentives

A higher ratio of good to bad reviews will drive sales and minimise the potentially harmful impact of negativity. Incentivising consumers is a great way to boost your number of positive reviews, particularly due to the fact that consumers are more likely to leave positive reviews. Consumers themselves say that the best way to incentivise them is to enter them into a prize draw or offer 15-20% off their next purchase.

Negative reviews need urgent attention

It’s not the reviews, it’s how you deal with them. Negative reviews are a drag with the power to seriously impact sales. That doesn’t mean there’s any need to panic – we believe that just because a retailer has received a bad review, it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can work in their favour. If retailers respond quickly and publicly to reviews they’ll have the chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of their customers.

Learn more about our findings on online reviews.

David Racadio

David is responsible for Populus's industry studies, which help clients in a range of sectors, including banking, insurance, food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and retail, to benchmark their corporate reputations and understand the attitudes of key stakeholders that impact on their industry.

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