Everyone has an opinion, and nowadays most people are willing to share it; for better or worse. So it shouldn’t be surprising then – what with the sheer number of outlets available in which consumers can express their feeling about products and services – that nearly seven-in-ten consumers actually base their purchases on the digital recommendations of strangers.
That is according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. adults for the American Lifestyles 2015 report from global marketing firm Mintel, which found that perusing online reviews is now an integral part of how consumers make purchases.
“In a never-ending quest to buy the ‘best,’ consumers are looking to others, peers and strangers alike, to glean from their opinions and experiences in order to validate the choices they’ve made and to avoid feelings of buyer’s remorse,” Fiona O’Donnell, Lifestyles Category Manager at Mintel, said in a statement.
O’Donnell says that seeking reviews online can make the simple act of buying a household item less overwhelming for any consumer, it’s especially useful to younger consumers who have yet to build brand loyalty.
In fact, according to the report, the younger the consumer the more likely they are to rely on online reviews when determining what to buy. Nearly 81% of the survey respondents who seek out the opinion of others online before making a purchase are categorized millennials.
When it comes to where consumers turn to for advice on products and services, Mintel found that age also makes a difference.
For instance, millennials say they are more likely to visit user-generated review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List, while consumers 35 years of age or older are more likely to rely on independent review sites like Consumer Reports or Edmunds.com.
Still, both age groups say they would also consider the recommendations they receive from their own social networks – although with less conviction. About 72% of millennials say they take their “friends” opinions into account, while 46% of older consumers trust the opinions offered by those in their social networks.
Despite consumers willingness to seek out virtual reviews for products, most say they take the feedback with a grain of salt, especially if the opinion of a personal acquaintance differed from those found online.
Mintel reports that a majority of the opinion seekers say they don’t trust a product that has only positive reviews.
Additionally, 54% of respondents say they would try a product recommended by someone they know even if it had negative online reviews.
So while online reviews have no doubt become an important part of consumers’ purchasing experience, they still don’t beat the personalized opinions of family and friends.