In an exceptionally detailed survey conducted by YouGov, a number of interesting data points suggest that online reviews may be even more important for certain businesses.
YouGov asked 1174 US adults a series of questions related to their use of online reviews when purchasing a product or service. Additional data were collected so the survey results could be tabulated by Gender, Age, Region, Race, Income, Education, and Social Media participation.
The first question was:
“Which of the following statements best describes the amount of attention you pay to reviews of products/services before purchasing?”
|34%||I always check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
|48%||I sometimes check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
|12%||I rarely check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
|6%||I never check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
As expected, the vast majority (82%) of respondents indicated that they “always” or “sometimes” checked reviews. Only 6% of responded marked that they “never” check reviews. By itself, this one data point provides an extremely strong case that every business, regardless of size or industry, needs to take a proactive approach to review management as part of an overall reputation strategy.
The data becomes even more interesting when first compared to the results from 2014, and then dissected on demographic factors to see if certain groups rely on reviews more than others to make purchase decisions.
2014 Survey Results
A virtually identical survey was conducted in 2014. In this case, 1193 US adults provided the following responses:
|26%||I always check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
|53%||I sometimes check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
|14%||I rarely check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
|7%||I never check reviews before purchasing a product/service|
The combined “always” & “sometimes” score of 78% was a bit lower than the 82% recorded for the recent survey. The largest change is seen in the shift from “sometimes” to “always”. The survey suggests that in just three years the number of US Adults that always check reviews before making a purchase decision has gone from 1-in-4 to over 1-in-3. As Google and other platforms continue to promote user-generated content, it would not be surprising to see this increase to 50% in the near future.
Reviews Use & Education
Taking a look again at the current Survey, the answers were further divided by respondent Education levels with the following results when combining the percentages for “always” and “sometimes”:
|“Always” or “Sometimes”||Education Level|
|75%||No HS or High School Graduate|
|85%||Some College, 2-Year|
|90%||4-Year College & Post Grad|
Of note, the percent of Post-Grad respondents who “never” check reviews was a provocatively low 1%.
Reviews Use & Income
The percentage of respondents answers “always” or “sometimes” broken down by household income levels:
|“Always” or “Sometimes”||Household Income|
|88%||440K to $80K|
Again, there seems to be a solid relationship between the variables. This is possibly more evident if you invert the data presentation. Here are the percentages of respondents by income level who “never” or “rarely” check reviews:
|“Never” or “Rarely”||Household Income|
|12%||440K to $80K|
Respondents with household incomes over $40K are roughly half as likely to not use reviews frequently as respondents with incomes under $40K.
Review Use & Gender
The percentage of respondents answers “always” or “sometimes” broken down by gender:
|“Always” or “Sometimes”||Gender|
Looking at the individual segments, there does not seem to be a material difference in review usage by gender. Men are more likely to “always” use reviews (36% Male vs 33% Female) while women are more like to “sometimes” use review (45% Male, 50% Female).
Review Use & Age
The percentage of respondents answers “always” or “sometimes” broken down by age:
|“Always” or “Sometimes”||Age Range|
There is currently a slight bias against using reviews by older customers, but this expected to diminish as the current pool of core review users ages. Once a process has been embraced by a new generation, it generally tends to remain in place as the cohort matures.
Reviews are more important than ever. 82% of survey respondents now consult reviews frequently before purchasing a product or service. However, the data suggest that for business who are seeking to earn the business of educated men and women under 55 years old, online reviews are even more important than prior survey data might suggest. Companies marketing to these demographics ignore review management at their very peril.