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Online consumer opinion matters

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Online reviews and opinions posted by consumers sway most British shoppers as they research a purchase, even if they’re buying on the high street.

Some 64% of respondents to an online survey by Lightspeed Research said they trusted the opinions and experiences of other consumers when researching a purchase. At the same time, only 13% of respondents said they had not researched online before buying a product, whether on the high street or over the internet.

Other trusted sources of opinion on products included Which? (60%), and professional reviewers (58%). Many said they looked at the company website as part of their research but only 17% said they would trust reviews they found there. That’s the same percentage as would take the opinion of friends on social networks into account when buying.

Meanwhile, 49% of respondents said they had written a review and posted it online. Of those, 88% said their review was positive. But negative reviews so play an important part in the decision making process, with 24% saying they changed their mind about buying a product or service after reading two bad reviews. A further 39% said three negative reviews would persuade them against making the purchase.

“Word of mouth is acknowledged to be highly effective, but social networks don’t seem to be the place where it works so well,” said Ralph Risk, marketing director, Lightspeed Research Europe. “Online communities are about friendship and conversations: product and service reviews don’t fit into the discourse.

“Brands need to be aware of the influence that online reviews have, both positive and negative. There is a real danger that companies will focus on social media because it is so popular and in doing so miss out on the opinions that consumers actually value – those of other consumers, Which? and professional reviewers.”

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