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Who Should You Trust - Consumers or Critics?

buying . / Credit: Purchase Image via Shutterstock

Shoppers trust the opinions of other consumers more than those of professional critics when buying electronics, new research has found.  In that research, 65 percent of shoppers say they were more inspired to buy a product reviewed by other consumers than they were one reviewed by professionals.

Shoppers trust other consumers so much that the average buyer looks at 11 consumer reviews before making a purchase, the research found.

"We know consumer reviewers are a powerful force," said Bradford Williams of global public relations firm Weber Shandwick, which conducted the research.  "Now we know that they are the most powerful force.  Savvy marketers are the ones who listen to, manage and deploy consumer reviewers to harness their considerable might at the cash register."

Shoppers, however, are still wary of consumer reviews despite trusting them more than those of critics. Eighty percent of buyers say they are concerned about the authenticity of online reviews, while an additional 51 percent of buyers say that they are concerned that reviews are planted by manufacturers.

Consumers say the most influential reviews are fair and reasonable, well-written and contain come kind of technical data. Additionally, consumers say they trust the reviews found on popular websites such as Amazon, BestBuy and Consumer Reports most.

"The increasing impact of consumer reviews on sales means that marketers must learn how to effectively manage the flood of online opinion engulfing shoppers," said Williams, president of the North American Technology Practice at Weber Shandwick. "Online user reviews are transforming buying decisions.  Our study sheds new light on why, how and when shoppers use both user reviews as well as traditional editorial reviews in the purchase process."

Even though consumers are more trusting of other shoppers, savvy businesses can stand to benefit from several simple practices when marketing products. The list of tips composed by Weber Shandwick includes:

  • Corral informative reviews – Include a representative sampling onto the product website to assist consumers in simplifying the process and reducing the likelihood they'll be distracted by a competitor's product. To help address skepticism about the authenticity of reviews, adopt and publicly announce a policy restricting employees from commenting or contributing to customer reviews.
  • Design product marketing pages — Use the format of a reviews site, not marketing collateral, where consumers can get the information they so fervently seek as they make buying decisions.
  • Encourage reviews— Encourage customers to review new products on consumer review sites and on the product site, but ensure dedicated resources are in place to engage with reviewers online. Companies need dedicated resources to manage social network communities for purposes that go beyond branded content. An online community manager should be encouraging customers to review products, disseminating positive customer and professional reviews through social channels, and working in tandem with customer service to respond to customer feedback or issues quickly.
  • Identify influential reviews —Marketers can't directly influence user reviews, but they can identify those reviews with the potential to have the most impact and post them to their own product websites, online forums and social network sites. Marketers should not necessarily discredit anonymous reviews.
  • Be mindful of the power of reviews— Recognize that consumers visit shopping sites for reviews and information at various points in their buying journey, not just to check a price or to click and buy. The product information on online shopping sites should be as helpful and engaging as possible, employing video content, product feature charts and similar elements whenever possible.

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