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How Ratings and Reviews Guide Consumers

Positive Reviews? Check. 5-Star Rating? Sold.

Consumers can be super picky about shopping. Some will spend hours looking for the right deal, only to back out at the last-minute because of shipping costs.

Others won’t even consider a product unless it’s accumulated enough positive ratings and reviews—or unless their closest confidants personally recommend it.

A majority of US internet users said they primarily trust their friends, family or colleagues for shopping recommendations, according to February 2019 data from Oracle. Gen Z respondents, which Oracle defines as 18- to 24-year-olds, are more likely to do so than older cohorts—but not by much.

Putting that into perspective, US internet users trust their inner circle for recommendations more than they'd trust an employee in a store, fellow online consumer or influencer.

Product recommendations certainly encourage brand discovery and can even get shoppers to spend more than intended. But if a product has a low rating or not enough reviews, it can be quickly overlooked.

Nearly seven in 10 US internet users surveyed by retail operations platform Brightpearl and Trustpilot, a community-driven online review platform, said they primarily focus on star ratings when judging a brand or retailer.

The number and recency of available reviews also come into play. Roughly 61% of respondents regarded the quantity of reviews to influence their purchasing decision, while 44% focused on the most recent reviews on hand.

“Consumers understand that online ratings and reviews can be gamed," said Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer. "They view quantity of reviews as a way of immunizing from the distorting effects of fake reviews, while also serving as a proxy for a brand having an established track record. They also know that products and experiences can erode over time, so they place additional weight on the most recent reviews. In the absence of direct social proof from a trusted friend, applying these mental filters allows shoppers to overcome the trust hurdle.”