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When Buying Expensive Items, Consumers Turn to Reviews

Although price and quality ultimately affect their decision

Many consumers turn to online reviews to help inform their decision when researching a big-ticket product, according to new data from YA.

In fact, when researching an expensive item—$250 or more—online ratings and reviews were the most common source respondents consulted, more so than word-of-mouth, in-store sales associates or social networks. 

But interestingly, while favorable reviews certainly affected their decision to buy one item over another—11.7% said they did—quality and price were more important. Roughly a third (32.4%) of respondents said quality is the primary factor in choosing to purchase a durable item, like a new computer or washing machine, and another 26.6% said price comes first. 

YA's study is just one of many that looks at how influential online reviews are. Last year, the Better Business Bureau and Nielsen conducted a survey that revealed more than half of respondents used ratings and online reviews "always" or "often" to inform purchasing decisions. 

Meanwhile, an annual BrightLocal survey on attitudes toward online reviews reported that more than eight in 10 internet users said they generally trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations—as long as long as certain criteria are met, like there being multiple reviews. 

That said, consumers' review-related behaviors do vary. According to a Q3 2017 study from GlobalWebIndex, younger respondents were more likely to post online reviews than use them for product research. But among older cohorts, those practices were reversed.