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The State Of

Online Reviews Among U.S. Shoppers
A White Paper by ReviewMonitoring.com

Executive Summary
Reading online reviews has become an integral part of the US shopper’s path-to-purchase. More than three in four US shoppers
go online to read reviews. Online reviews are the second most trusted source of information behind friends and family and
actually rank ahead of peer recommendation in terms of being helpful in the shopping process. 73% of shoppers rank online
reviews are the most influential piece of content ahead of videos, photos and blogs that lead to conversion.

US shoppers are most likely to read reviews when purchasing electronic consumer devices. 68% of shoppers seek online reviews
when looking to buy smartphones, tablets and video game consoles among other gadgets. It is also common to read reviews
during purchase of long-term durables such as household appliances and automobiles. US shoppers overwhelmingly prefer to
visit Amazon to read reviews with seven in ten shoppers visiting the online retailer website to read reviews. Amazon’s popularity is
driven by the trust shoppers place on the retailer website’s content with more than a third of US shoppers saying they trust
Amazon ahead of other retailer, brand, or review aggregator sites.

US shoppers aren’t simply looking for positive reviews to help them buy. 77% of shoppers read both positive and negative reviews
to get a balanced opinion of products and brands. In fact, more than four in five shoppers actively look for negative reviews online.
Shoppers who go around reading negative reviews are also 85% more likely to convert than shoppers who don’t. Increasingly,
shoppers suspect censorship or fake reviews when they see a noticeable lack of negative reviews. Having negative reviews can
increase trust in the brand and/or retailer.

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Executive Summary
The two key parts of an online review that influence shopper choices are ratings and review content. Almost all shoppers reading
reviews pay attention to the rating score before deciding to dive deeper and read the text in reviews. Brands and retailers can
monitor the status of their product reviews in the following three steps:

1

Identify the sites where shoppers go to read online reviews

2

Track the rating score using an online NPS metric

3

Identify the drivers of positive and negative trends in NPS using word trees

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Table of Contents
1.

Why should brands care about online review?
Online Reviews - most trusted digital media
Online Reviews - most helpful when making a purchase decision
Online Reviews - most influential digital content

2.

Who is an online review reader?
Affluent households and families are most likely to read online reviews

3.

For which product categories do shoppers read online reviews?
Consumer electronic buyers read online reviews during product research

4.

Where do shoppers read online reviews?
Shoppers prefer to read reviews on Amazon

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Table of Contents
5.

When do shoppers read online reviews?
Online reviews - key shopping tool during pre-purchase research
Opportunity to use credible online reviews in brand websites and other marketing channels

6.

Why do shoppers read online reviews?
Online reviews help shoppers gain emotional and functional confirmation before purchase decision
Price sensitivity drives shoppers to read online reviews
Build shopper trust in online reviews using authentic and transparent reviews

7.

How do shoppers read reviews to make a purchase decision?
Shoppers read multiple reviews with opposing viewpoints while on-the-go
Shoppers pay attention to overall rating score and review content

8.

How to analyze online reviews? Comparing Sony PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One
3 steps to driving meaningful insights from online reviews

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Care About Online Reviews?

Shoppers trust earned over owned media
Friends and family

81%

Online reviews
rank above
experts,
bloggers, and
advertising

76%
76%

Online reviews

Third party experts

70%

Company website

67%

Articles and news

63%

Videos

63%

Online bloggers

55%

Marketing materials

55%

Social media

Shopper trust of marketing sources in general
% somewhat trust to extremely trust

49%

Advertising

47%
0%

23%

45%

68%

90%

Top 3 most trusted marketing channels are earned media - friends/family, online reviews, and independent experts
More than 4 in 5 (81%) shoppers trust word of mouth from friends and family
More than three-quarter of shoppers (76%) trust online reviews from other customers
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Online Reviews - most trusted digital media
Earned media channels like recommendations from friends and family and online reviews from other shoppers lead the pack of most trusted
marketing sources among US shoppers. Paid media sources like advertising and marketing materials languish at the bottom of the heap.

More than four in five (81%) shoppers trust for of mouth from people they trust - friends and family. Peer recommendation has long been the most
trusted source of product or brand information among shoppers. It continues to stay influential even in a digital age when people can easily search for
information on-the-go.
The digital marketing source that comes close to imitating peer recommendation is online product reviews, not social media. Just over a three in four
(76%) of shoppers trust online reviews from posted by previous customers compared to less than half (49%) who trust social media.
A greater trust in online reviews stems from in-depth nature of the content posted by customers who share their purchase and usage experience.
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, on the other hand, are largely used to declare ownership with a view to gain social approval
for the purchase decision.
Online review sections on retailer websites like Amazon and Best Buy also have a well established structure that allow shoppers to sort reviews by
date, ratings, and relevance among others - a sense of control lacking in social media. The reviews, which sit at the bottom of the product page, act
like a pop-up community connecting past and future buyers of a product.
Reviews from other shoppers is also more authentic than opinion from experts. Shoppers trust online reviews more than the opinion of third party
experts (70%) and amateur bloggers (55%) - who may or may not have been paid for the review.
Shoppers also trust online reviews more than paid media outlets such as advertising (47%), and marketing materials like direct mail (55%). There is,
however, opportunity for brands to boost trust in information on company website (67%) by 7 incorporating product reviews in their own websites
instead of relying on online retailers.

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Online reviews are the most helpful source of influence
towards making a purchase decision
72%
72%

Online reviews

Friends and family

Online reviews
as helpful as
friends and
family during
purchase
decision

72%

Company website

68%

Marketing materials

62%

Articles and news

62%

Third party experts

61%

Videos

57%

Online bloggers

55%

Advertising

54%

Social media

Shopper perception of marketing
sources when making a purchase
decision

50%

Infographics

% who find given source somewhat to
extremely helpful

45%
0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

More than 7 in 10 (72%) shoppers find online reviews helpful when making a purchase decision
Company websites (68%) and marketing materials (62%) are the most helpful owned media sources
Just over half find advertising (54%) and bloggers (55%) as helpful during the purchase process
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Online Reviews - Most helpful when making a
purchase decision
Shoppers not only trust online reviews but also find them very useful in the path to purchase as it provides valuable information that helps them make
an informed purchase decision.
More than 7 in 10 (72%) shoppers find online reviews helpful when making a purchase - the same figure as shoppers who say they find
recommendation from friends and family helpful. In comparison only half of all shoppers find social media useful while making a purchase decision.

Greater accessibility of online reviews makes it more useful to shoppers who are considering a purchase. People can easily look up reviews on their
mobile devices while on-the-go compared to depending on availability and knowledge of trusted peers.
Compared to a small network of peers, online reviews provide more first hand information. Shoppers can read through a spectrum of positive to
negative reviews online giving them a broad sense of the product usage experience. While positive reviews can confirm that the product will meet
their expectation, negative reviews can caution them against potential pitfalls, help them find a fix, or direct them towards a better alternative.
Brands can leverage online reviews by incorporating them into their own website. More than three in five (68%) shoppers already find company
websites helpful in making a final purchase decision. Company websites that are largely limited to providing product and store information can
improve customer experience by adding reviews to the mix.
Reviews can also be incorporated into marketing materials sent to potential buyers. These marketing materials include direct mail, coupons, and
email newsletters among others. Already 62% of shoppers find marketing materials useful in their purchase decision process. Reviews from other
customers like them can help influence their purchase decision.

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Reviews are the most influential online content on a
retailer’s website
Online
reviews are
most
influentials
content on a
retailer website

73%
73%

Product reviews
Q&A

48%

Product and brand videos

47%

Photos of consumers using product

42%

Communities/forums

31%

“Trending Now” products

30%

Retailer’s blog

Shopper influence on purchase
decision by website content

28%

Podcasts

% who find content influential when
visiting a retailer website

22%
0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

Nearly three in four (73%) shoppers are influenced by product reviews posted online ahead of all other online content
Just under half of shoppers are influenced by online Q&A (48%) and videos about the product (47%)
Images of other customers using the product influences more than two in five (42%) shoppers
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Online Reviews - most influential digital content
The importance of reviews is highlighted in the fact that they are the most effective online content that push a shopper into making a purchase
decision. A high degree of trust in online reviews followed by it’s useful role in the purchase decision drives how effective reviews are in converting
shoppers.
Nearly three in four (73%) shoppers are influenced by product reviews posted online ahead of all other online content. In comparison 22% found
podcasts to be influential and 28% found content on retailer blogs as influential. Even the seemingly ubiquitous and popular feature - ‘Trending now’
section - influenced decision among 3 in 10 shoppers.
Most telling is the lack of influence from communities and forums (31%) which have long been the home of online discussions. It reflects a shift in US
shoppers’ online behavior where they are using discussions for everyday conversations while turning to online reviews to make a purchase decision.
Communities and forums also play a bigger role in customer service and churn reduction than in influencing customers and driving acquisition.
Just under half of shoppers are influenced by online Q&A (48%). Q&A allow potential buyers to clear any doubt they have before making a purchase.
It is a natural next step for shoppers to engage in Q&A after reading through the reviews. Over time, we can expect the role of Q&A to grow and
become as influential as online reviews.
Visual content also plays a key role in influencing purchase decision. Videos about the product (47%) and images of other customers using the
product(42%) influenced shoppers to make a purchase decision.
The growing influence of visual content is a reflection of the online culture we live in today where most popular content type are videos, infographics
and even the way we communicate is evolving from text based to emoji messaging. In the future we can expect product reviews that incorporate
emoji, photos and videos.

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Who Is An Online Review Reader?

Reading online reviews is common among shoppers across
all gender and age groups
Shoppers who read reviews - demographic breakdown
% who read online reviews by gender, age, income and household make

74%

Under $40K

22%

Male

78%

$40K to $80K

Female

78%

$80K+

0%

78%

79%
80%

35-54

75%

55+

Read Reviews
Do not Read Reviews

0%

89%
0%

20% 40% 60% 80%

18-34

81%

30%

Have children
under
the age of 18

90%

81%

Do no have children
under 18

20% 40% 60% 80%

60%

76%
0%

30%

60%

90%

More than three quarters (78%) of shoppers read online reviews
Affluent households ($80K+) are more likely to read online reviews (89%) than emerging households (<$40K)
Households with children under 18 are more likely to read online reviews (81%)
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Shoppers who read online reviews are also active across
major social media channels
Shoppers who read reviews by social media usage
% who read online reviews by active social media usage

LinkedIn

22%

78%

Instagram

87%

Pinterest

87%

Twitter
Facebook

Read Reviews
Do not Read Reviews

89%

70%

86%
81%
80%

90%

Online review readers actively use social media channels like Facebook (81%), Twitter (86%), and Instagram (87%)

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Affluent households and families are most likely to read
online reviews
Reading reviews to make a purchase decision is now a common ritual among US shoppers highlighting the need for brands to monitor reviews left by
their customers. More than three in four (78%) shoppers read online reviews before deciding what they want to buy.
Shoppers across gender and age groups read online reviews. Both men (78%) and women (78%) are equally likely to read online reviews before
making a purchase decision. The likelihood of reading online reviews is also comparable among 18 to 34 year old millennials (79%) and 35 to 54 year
old boomers (80%). Even among seniors 55 and above, three in four shoppers now read online reviews before making a purchase.
One of the factors that seems to drive online review consumption is household income. Affluent households earning $80k and more are the most
likely to read online reviews (89%). In comparison 81% of households earning between $40K and $80K read online reviews. The figure drops to less
than three in four (74%) among households that earn less than $40K.
Household structure is another factor that seems to drive online review consumption. Households with children under 18 are more likely to read
online reviews (81%) the households who don’t have children (76%).
Brands seeking to influence affluent shoppers and family with children need to invest in tracking online reviews with a view to drive this segment
towards the most relevant and useful reviews. One of the ways to do so is to help them discover reviews through social media.
Online review readers are already on major social media sites like Facebook (81%), Twitter (86%), Instagram (87%), LinkedIn (89%), and Pinterest
(87%). All five social media platforms allow brands to advertise. Positive online reviews can be used as content for ads on these platforms. Brands
can monitor online reviews left by their customers to pick the best content for social media ads.

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Shoppers Read Online Reviews?

Consumer electronic shoppers are the most likely to read
online reviews
Electronics

68%
68%

Household appliances

Electronics rank
above household
appliances and
cars when it
comes to reading
online
reviews

55%

Buying a car

52%

Hotels and rooms for rent

46%

Sit-down restaurants

35%

Local services

32%

Vacation packages

30%

Clothes

26%

Insurance policies

23%

Beauty products

Shopper pre-purchase online
review reading by category

22%

Renting a car

15%

Food for delivery

14%
0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

% who read online reviews while
shopping by category

More than 3 in 5 (68%) shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase decision for electronics
Shoppers also read online reviews when buying household appliances (55%) and automobiles (52%)
More than 2 in 5 (46%) shoppers read online views while looking for hotel rooms or via services like Airbnb
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Consumer electronic buyers read online reviews during
product research
Shoppers looking to purchase electronic devices such as mobile devices, PC/laptops, e-book reader, video game console, and TV among others are
most likely to read online reviews. More than 3 in 5 (68%) shoppers read online reviews for consumer electronics before making a purchase decision.
One of the reasons consumer electronics attracts online review readers is because they spend most of their path to purchase across online touch
points.

In the first discovery stage, when shoppers are looking at what options are available to them, they prefer starting online because it provides a bigger
range of electronic devices compared to physical stores.
In the second influence stage, when shoppers are trying to narrow down their choices online helps them compare two or more products side by side
for a better customer experience. As we have seen, consumer reviews play a pivotal role in the influence stage to drive shoppers towards a final
purchase decision.
Finally, in the conversion stage, when shoppers make the final purchase, they are more likely to find discounted prices for personal electronics like
smartphone, tablets, laptops, and video game consoles online than in physical stores. The same path to purchase applies for buying household
appliances - another category where shoppers are most likely to read reviews (55%). Increasingly shoppers also read reviews before buying a car
with more than half (52%) of them turning to online reviews before making a final purchase decision.
The top three categories that attract the most review reading shoppers - electronics, household appliances, and cars - are long term durables where
consumers approach the shopping process from the point of view that they are investing rather than just buying. As such it is important for them to
conduct a thorough research in the discover and influence stages before making a final purchase decision. This is where online reviews can come in
handy providing much needed first-hand account of product usage from people who have already bought the product.

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Men and women read online reviews for different
product categories
Electronics

72%

Buying a car

64%

56%

Household appliances

48%

50%

Hotels and rooms for rent

59%

44%

Sit-down restaurants

48%

33%

37%

Vacation packages

29%

31%

Local services

28%

36%

Insurance policies

26%

Clothes

Female

20%

19%

32%

Renting a car

16% 13%

Food for delivery

14% 14%

Beauty products 8%

Male

Men are more
likely to read
online reviews for
electronics, cars
and insurance

36%

Shopper pre-purchase online review
reading by category and gender
% who read online reviews while shopping
by category and gender

Electronics is the top category among both men (72%) and women (64%) to read reviews before making a purchase
Women are more likely than men to read reviews when buying household appliances (59%) and clothes (32%)
Men are more likely than women to read reviews when buying cars (56%) and insurance (26%)
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Online review consumption varies across generations for
different product categories
Electronics

66%

71%

Buying a car

47%

Hotels and rooms for rent

44%

52%

Household appliances

42%

57%

Sit-down restaurants

38%

Clothes

33%

53%

35%

25%

21%

68%

Adults 55+ are
most likely to
read reviews for
cars
and household
appliances

55%

42%

62%

33%

18-34 (Millennials)
35-54 (Boomers)
55+ (Seniors)

Shopper pre-purchase online review
reading by category and age
% who read online reviews while shopping
by category and age

Electronics is the top category for millennials (66%), boomers (71%), and seniors (68%) to read reviews
Millennials are more likely than other age groups to read reviews for sit-down restaurants (38%) and clothes (33%)
Boomers are more likely than other age groups to read reviews for electronics (71%) and hotels/rooms (52%)
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Men and women across all age groups most likely to read
reviews for electronic consumer goods
Overall electronics is the top category among both men (72%) and women (64%) for which they read online reviews before making a purchase.

Men are slightly more likely to read reviews for electronics than women, which might largely be due to the fact that marketing for the category is
heavily targeted towards men than women. This is also the case for automobile and insurance. Men are more likely than women to read reviews
when buying cars (56%), renting cars (16%), and getting an insurance (26%).

In general, women are more likely to read online reviews than men with female shoppers leading men in seven out of the twelve categories surveyed.

Women read reviews when buying household appliances (59%), hotels (48%), restaurants (37%), vacation packages (31%), local services (36%),
clothes (32%), and beauty products (36%). This is largely because in most households women are the main shopper responsible for the purchase
decision.
Electronics is the top category for millennials (66%), boomers (71%), and seniors (68%) to seek out online reviews before making a purchase.
However, there are clear generational differences when it comes to other categories. Millennials are more likely than other age groups to read
reviews for sit-down restaurants (38%) and clothes (33%). Boomers are more likely than other age groups to read reviews for hotels and rental rooms
(52%). Seniors are the most likely age group to read reviews for household appliances (62%) and cars (55%).

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Read Online Reviews?

Amazon is the top online destination where shoppers read
online reviews
70%
70%

Amazon
Walmart

Amazon is
easily
the top
destination
to read reviews
online

37%

eBay

35%

Google

25%

Target

23%

Facebook

Online review
consumption destination

16%

CNET

12%
0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

70%

80%

% who read online reviews while
shopping by destination

7 in 10 online shoppers read reviews on Amazon before making a purchase decision
Shoppers are more likely to read reviews on retailer sites like Walmart (37%) and eBay (35%) compared to search engines like Google (25%)
and social media sites like Facebook (16%)
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Shoppers prefer Amazon because they perceive Amazon
reviews to be most accurate
Online website perceived to have the most accurate reviews
% who say website has the most accurate reviews

4%

4%

5%

26%

27%

Walmart

Google

eBay

Others

Don’t Know

34%
Amazon
Amazon reviews are
perceived as the most
accurate

Amazon (34%) is perceived as the most accurate destination for online reviews ahead of eBay (5%) and Google (4%)
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Online review consumption varies by gender across
different websites
Amazon

69%

eBay

37%

Walmart

30%

Google

29%

Target

19%
0%

20%

Female
shoppers more
likely to read
reviews on
Amazon,
Walmart and
Target

72%

32%

45%

22%

Male

26%
40%

60%

80%

100%

120%

Female

140%

160%

Online review consumption
destination by gender
% who read online reviews while
shopping by destination

Amazon is the top online destination to read reviews among men (69%) and women (72%)
Women lead men in reading reviews at Amazon, Walmart (45%), Target (26%)
eBay and Google are more popular review destinations among men (37% and 29% respectively)
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Shoppers prefer to read reviews on Amazon
Amazon is the top online destination for shoppers to read product reviews. 7 in 10 shoppers read existing reviews on Amazon before making a
purchase decision. Shoppers prefer Amazon because they perceive Amazon reviews to be most accurate. More than a third (34%) of shoppers
believe Amazon is the most accurate destination for online reviews - significantly ahead of eBay (5%) and Google (4%).

As the top e-commerce brand, it is not surprising to see that shoppers rank Amazon reviews as the most accurate. In- built features that allow
shoppers to rank reviews as helpful and a ‘Verified Purchase’ mark that points out shoppers who indeed bought the product from Amazon have built
the perception of accuracy. In addition, Amazon’s own fight against fake reviews also helps boost the perception of accuracy.

Overall shoppers prefer to read product reviews on retailer sites like Amazon, Walmart, and eBay over social media sites like Facebook or
aggregation sites like Google. More than a third of shoppers read reviews on Walmart (37%) and eBay (35%). In comparison, a quarter of shoppers
look up product reviews on Google (25%) and only 16% turn to Facebook for online reviews.

Retailer sites like Amazon, eBay and Walmart are more relevant and specific to the shopping occasion. Product reviews are easily available on
retailer sites and can be sorted by rating, date, and popularity giving shoppers greater control over how they read reviews. Facebook and Google, on
the other hand, need a lot more time and effort from shoppers if they are to find and get useful product reviews that help them make a purchase
decision.
This is slightly more true among female shoppers than men. Google, in particular, is more a popular review destination among men than women(37%
and 29% respectively). However, both men (69%) and women (72%), overwhelmingly prefer reading reviews on Amazon. Women also lead men in
reading reviews at Walmart (45%) and Target (26%).

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Read Online Reviews?

Shoppers read reviews in pre-purchase stage of the journey
Shopper online review consumption by path-to-purchase stage
% who read online reviews

86%

Male

14%
85%

Female

85%

18-34

81%

35-54

When Researching What Products to Buy
Just Before I Confirm a Purchase
After I have Confirmed a Purchase

55+

87%
86%

More than four in five (85%) shoppers read online reviews when researching what to buy
Both men (86%) and women (85%) read online reviews in the pre-purchase stage
Reading online reviews during research is common among Millennials (81%), Boomers (87%) and Seniors (86%)
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Online reviews - key shopping tool during pre-purchase
research
Shoppers are most likely to read reviews in the pre-purchase stage when they are researching products and trying to make a purchase decision.More
than four in five (85%) shoppers read online reviews during online research as they decide what to buy.
The shopper path-to-purchase can be broken down into three broad stages - 1. Discovery, 2. Influence, and 3. Conversion.
In the first stage of Discovery, shoppers are eager to collect information on what brands and products are available in the market - both online and in
stores. Research at this stage is cursory and might lightly involve reading online reviews.
The second stage of Influence is where consumers conduct in-depth research into brands and products so that they can narrow down their choices
and come to a final conclusion. Shoppers are heavily invested in reading reviews at this stage as they collect information on product usage
experience from other customers to make an informed purchase decision.
In the final stage of Conversion, once they are decided on what to buy shoppers research into how to go about buying the product. Reviews are again
lightly involved in the stage as consumers decide if they should buy online or offline, search for coupons, and decide on alternative payment methods
if any.
There is very little difference in when shoppers read reviews across gender and age groups. Both men (86%) and women (85%) read online reviews
in the pre-purchase stage. Reading online reviews during research is also common among Millennials (81%), Boomers (87%) and Seniors (86%).
With shoppers turning to online reviews to shape their final purchase decision, it has become increasingly important for brands to monitor how
reviews are displayed on various retailer sites. Brands need to ensure that the reviews are authentic and cover a broad range of opinions as well as
highlight product usage scenarios for shoppers conducting in- depth research to make a purchase decision.

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Credible online reviews are a key tipping point towards
converting shoppers
Friends and family
(In person
recommendation)

79%

Articles and news (Positive)

75%

Online reviews (Good quality)

75%
75%

Company website (Good content)

Thorough and
believable online
reviews motivate
consumers
to buy

70%

Third party experts (Endorsement)

68%

Marketing materials (In-store)

64%

Advertising (Great)

Marketing sources that increase
likelihood to purchase a product

60%

Social media (Engaging content)

53%
0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

100%

% who say given source
somewhat/greatly increases purchase
likelihood

Face to face word of mouth is the top influencer (79%) that tips shoppers from the research to conversion
Three quarter (75%) of shoppers are influenced by trustworthy online reviews in their path to purchase
Company websites (70%) are the most influential owned media channel ahead of in-store (64%) and ads (60%)
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Opportunity to use credible online reviews in brand websites
and other marketing channels
Online reviews not only influence what people buy but are crucial toward forming a final purchase decision. Online reviews push shoppers from the
influence stage on to the conversion stage during their path to purchase. However, the reviews need to be authentic and inspire trust among
shoppers.
Three in four (75%) shoppers are influenced by trustworthy online reviews in their path to purchase just behind in- person word of mouth (79%) from
trusted sources like friends and family.
This also highlights that shoppers pay attention to the quality of online reviews. They actively look for thorough and believable online reviews and are
wary of fake reviews. Reviews are only as influential as they are credible. Shoppers have learnt over time to identify fake reviews from authentic
ones. Review sections have turned into communities where shoppers can question the authenticity of a review and rate reviews themselves making
sure that the most credible reviews are easiest to access.
In a culture of review policing, brands cannot stop at monitoring the number of reviews. They need to go deeper into picking out the most influential
reviews and use them in their marketing materials - especially in-store marketing materials as more than three in five (64%) shoppers make purchase
decisions based on such marketing materials. Reviews in physical stores act as testimonials that can connect with shoppers at a personal level,
influencing their purchase decision.
Online reviews provide great content for a brand’s paid media outlets. A marriage of earned and paid media can prove to be a novel way ahead for
many brands struggling to raise key metrics around brand perception.
Another marketing assets where brands can incorporate online reviews is their own websites. Seven in ten (70%) shoppers find company websites
influence their final purchase decision. As a branded website, shoppers already trust that the information is true. Brands can leverage this trust further
by adding reviews to their website.

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Read Online Reviews?

Shoppers read online reviews for social proof that products
meet expectation
% who read online reviews while
shopping
To make sure the
product is good

79%

To make sure the
product works

Shoppers read
reviews to gain
peace of mind
about their
purchase
decision

61%

To make sure
I don't get ripped off

53%

To make sure the
product is safe

45%

To make sure the
vendor is safe

A third
of shopper have
a price threshold
that motivates
them to read
reviews

37%

33%
33%

If the price is
over a certain amount
0%

20%

40%

60%

80%

100%

Nearly four in five (79%) shoppers read reviews to make sure the product is well liked by others as well
Over three in five (61%) shoppers read reviews to make sure the product will meet their needs/requirements
Just over half (53%) read reviews to make sure they do not make a decision they might regret later
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Online reviews help shoppers gain emotional and functional
confirmation before purchase decision
Shoppers read online reviews to get confirmation that they are making the right purchase decision. Nearly four in five (79%) shoppers read reviews to
make sure the product is good i.e. confirmed as ‘good’ by other shoppers like them.

The social proof that comes from shared experience of other shoppers is a powerful motivator towards making a final purchase decision. As such,
online reviews, primarily function to allay emotions of concern and uncertainty shoppers have around products and brands. Shoppers are first and
foremost scanning a product review to see that the brand or product is perceived positively by others.

After receiving positive emotional confirmation for the product, shoppers seek out practical information around product usage to make sure it does
what they expect from it. Over three in five (61%) shoppers read reviews to make sure the product works.
This is the functional motivation where shoppers are not only looking for confirmation that the product functions well but also for tips and tricks into
how they can potentially get more out of it. Such functional drivers in combination with emotional drivers put the shopper mind at ease and take them
closer to making a purchase decision. Finally, shoppers look for any red flags around the brand and product so that they do not have to regret the
purchase decision later in case they missed a problem that was quite obvious. Just over half (53%) read reviews to make sure they don’t get ripped
off.
‘Not getting ripped off’ could be something price related along the lines of finding out where to get the cheapest price or a more valuable packaged
deal. It could also be related to product quality such as finding out that a better option exists out there. For many shoppers, it could be about safety
concerns around the product (45%) and vendor (37%). They would like to ensure that they get the right product delivered and it doesn’t pose a risk
during usage.

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Half of all shoppers read reviews for products that cost $30
or more
Price threshold to read reviews
% who read online reviews if product costs over a certain amount

100%

81%
75%

50% of
shoppers will
read reviews if
product
is above $30

60%
45%
33%
19%
Up to $10

Up to $20

Up to $30

Up to $50

Up to $75

Up to $100

More than $100

A third of shoppers go online to read reviews when products are $20 or below
Three in five (60%) shoppers read reviews for products that cost up to $50
All shoppers turn to online reviews when products cost more than $100
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Women likely to read reviews for cheaper products
Price threshold to read reviews by gender
% who read online reviews if product costs over a certain amount by gender

Female

Male

100%
82%

86%

70%

Women have
a lower price
threshold than
men

77%
69%

52%

37%
24%

51%
38%

29%
14%
Up to $10

Up to $20

Up to $30

Up to $50

Up to $75

Up to $100

More than $100

Half of women read reviews when product is $30 or less while half of men read reviews when product is $50 or less
More than four in five (82%) women read reviews for products $75 or less compared to only 69% of men
All men and women read product reviews when products cost more than $100
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Price sensitivity drives shoppers to read online reviews
Price of the product also plays role in shopper motivation to read online reviews. A third of shoppers say they read reviews if the price is over a
certain amount. Among these shoppers, there is a wide variation in the price threshold to read reviews with half of them reading review for products
that cost more than $30.

A third of price conscious shoppers go online to read reviews when products are $20 or below. As expected, the figure starts growing as the price
increases. The share of shoppers reading reviews increases to three in five (60%) when the price of the product climbs to $50. All shoppers turn to
online reviews when products cost more than $100.

Men and women have different price thresholds that drive them to read reviews with women more likely to read reviews for cheaper products. Half of
women read reviews for products that cost $30 or less while half of men read reviews for products that cost $50 or less.

The greater likelihood of women reading product reviews for cheaper products stems from the differences in role men and women are responsible to
make purchase decisions in a household. While women make purchase decisions for categories that are bought regularly, men tend to be solely or
jointly responsible for durables that are a long term investment and come with a bigger price tag.

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Trust drives shoppers to read online reviews before making
a purchase decision
Shopper trust in online reviews
% online shoppers who read online reviews

13%

73%

8%

1%

5%

Very
Trustworthy

Somewhat
Trustworthy

Somewhat
Untrustworthy

Very
Untrustworthy

Don’t
Know

Net Trustworthy 86%

More than four in five (86%) shoppers trust customer reviews they read online
Most trust is mild in nature with 73% saying they somewhat trust online reviews
Just over one in ten (13%) shoppers find online shoppers very trustworthy
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Lack of absolute trust in online review stems from fear of
fake reviews
( % online shoppers who read online reviews
Shopper perception of fake reviews
)
Happens Ever

90%

90%

89%

88%

89%

91%

16%

19%

13%

17%

16%

15%

48%

47%

49%

45%

50%

48%

26%

24%

27%

26%

24%

28%

10%

10%

11%

12%

11%

9%

All Shoppers

Male

Female

18-34

35-54

55+

Happens never

Happens rarely

Happen sometimes

Happen often

Nine in ten shoppers believe people post fake reviews online with nearly half (48%) believing it happens sometimes
Men (90%) and women (89%) are equally likely to be suspicious of fake reviews online
Millennials (88%), boomers (89%), and seniors (91%) all believe that people post fake online reviews
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Transparency is key to winning shopper trust with online
reviews
Shopper concerns with online reviews
% online shoppers who read online reviews

Suspect censorship or faked reviews when they
see very few negative reviews

16%

Trust reviews more when the see both positive
and negative reviews

84%

Consider review by an ordinary user more trustworthy
Consider review by a celebrity/expert more trustworthy

Question if the author has been paid or
incentivised to provide a positive review

Question if unfavorable comments
or reviews have been removed

95%

68%

60%

57%

More than four in five (84%) shoppers trust online reviews from other consumers over celebrities and experts
Almost all shoppers suspect foul play when they see very few negative reviews compared to positive ones
More than 3 in 5 (68%) trust reviews more when they see both positive and negative reviews
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Shoppers seeking negative reviews are more engaged and
likely to buy
Shopper behaviour with reading negative online reviews
% online shoppers who read online reviews

18%

15

26.1

4.35

2.35

82%
4.6
Time on Site (minutes)

Seek out negative reviews

3
Pageviews

Conversion rate (in %)

Read available reviews only

More than four in five (82%) shoppers actively look for negative reviews during the research process
Shoppers who look for negative reviews spend five times as much time on the site consuming 5 times the content
Shoppers who look for negative reviews are 85% more likely to buy the product that all shoppers
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Build shopper trust in online reviews using authentic and
transparent reviews
Shoppers read online reviews to shape their purchase decisions because they trust in the experiences shared by other shoppers. More than four in
five (86%) shoppers say they find online review somewhat or very trustworthy. Most of this trust is, however, mild in nature with nearly three in four
(73%) shoppers saying they ‘somewhat’ trust online reviews compared to just over one in ten (13%) who find online reviews very trustworthy.

This lack of absolute trust in online review stems from fear of fake reviews. Nine in ten shoppers believe people post fake reviews online with nearly
half (48%) of all shoppers believing it happens at least sometimes. Men (90%) and women (89%) are equally likely to be suspicious of fake online
reviews. Shoppers across all key age groups - millennials (88%), boomers (89%), and seniors (91%) - are aware that people post fake online reviews
making this a key challenge that retailers need to address.

The most effective way in which retailers can address fake reviews and win shopper trust is by making reviews as authentic and transparent as
possible. One way of doing that is by encouraging more everyday shoppers, not celebrities and experts, to post reviews. More than four in five (84%)
shoppers trust online reviews from other consumers over celebrities and experts.

Retailers and brands can use ‘verified purchase’ to guarantee that a review has not been paid for. 3 in 5 shoppers are skeptical that reviews have
been bought by companies and brands.

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Build shopper trust in online reviews using authentic and
transparent reviews
There should also not be any filtering of negative reviews. Almost all (95%) shoppers grow skeptical at the lack of negative reviews. In general, more
than half (57%) of shoppers tend to believe that negative reviews have been removed by companies and brands. This shows the relative importance
of keeping negative reviews. In fact nearly 7 in 10 (68%) shoppers trust reviews more when they see negative reviews.

The importance of negative reviews is highlighted in the fact that more than four in five (82%) shoppers actively seek out negative reviews. These
shoppers are more engaged in the research process as well spending more time and consuming more content than other shoppers who do not
actively seek out negative reviews.

Negative reviews also go a long way to converting browsers into shoppers. Online shoppers who seek and read negative reviews are 85% more likely
to buy the product compared to all other shoppers, showing that shoppers want a balanced opinion from online reviews and not just a glowing
account of how great a product is.

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How Do Shoppers Read Reviews
To Make A Purchase Decision?

Shoppers read a mix of positive and negative reviews
Shopper review reading behavior by sentiment ( % who read online reviews )

11%

12%

9%

16%

11%

7%

77%

75%

79%

73%

76%

81%

9%

9%

9%

9%

9%

9%

All Shoppers

Male

Female

18-34

35-54

55+

I tend to read more
positive reviews

I read an equal amount of
positive and negative reviews

I tend to read more
negative reviews

Don’t know

Nearly four in five (77%) shoppers read a mix of positive and negative reviews to make a purchase decision
Men (75%) and women (79%) read both positive and negative reviews during product research
Seniors (81%) are most likely to read a mix of positive and negative reviews than millennials (73%) and boomers (76%)
www.reviewmonitoring.com

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A minimum of six reviews is required to cover all shoppers
to read online reviews
Number of reviews read before making a purchase
% who read online reviews (cumulative)
100%

71%
61%
49%
30%
16%

1 Reviews

2 Reviews

3 Reviews

4 Reviews

5 Reviews

6+ Reviews

Nearly half of shoppers (49%) read up to 3 reviews before making a purchase decision
Brands need at least six reviews to cover 100% of shoppers who read reviews to make a purchase decision
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Shoppers read reviews on smartphones while shopping
inside a physical store
Shopper in-store smartphone activity

( % shoppers )
55%

Check/compare prices

46%
46%

Read reviews

22%

78%

Get product information

45%

Get coupons

45%
43%

Check product availability

41%

Make a purchase online

39%

Access social networks
Use smartphone in store
Do not use smartphone in store

Shoppers more
likely to read
online reviews
than look up
coupons or
access social
media

50%

Shop/browse online

33%

Get exclusive deals

27%

Scan barcodes
0%

15%

30%

45%

60%

More than three in four (78%) shoppers use smartphones while shopping inside a store
Just under half (46%) use smartphones inside a store to read online product reviews
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Shoppers read multiple reviews with opposing viewpoints
while on-the-go
Shoppers read both positive and negative reviews to get a balanced picture of how previous shoppers have experienced the product. Reading
reviews is after all part of the product research stage where shoppers want to get as much information on the product as possible. Nearly four in five
(77%) shoppers read a mix of positive and negative reviews before making a purchase decision.

Reading positive and negative reviews is common across gender and age groups. Both men (75%) and women (79%) read positive and negative
reviews during product research. Seniors (81%) are the most likely to read a mix of positive and negative reviews followed by boomers (76%) and
millennials (73%). Brands and retailers will do well if they do not remove negative reviews in fear that it could dissuade potential buyers.

Shoppers not only read reviews across both sentiments, but they read multiple reviews to form a holistic opinion of a product or brand before buying
it. Nearly half of shoppers (49%) read up to 3 reviews before making a purchase decision. Brands need at least six reviews to cover 100% of
shoppers who read reviews to make a purchase decision. It is imperative that brands follow-up new buyers encouraging them to leave an honest
review online.
Increasingly shoppers read reviews on-the-go using their smartphones while shopping inside a physical store. More than three in four (78%)
shoppers use smartphones while shopping inside a store. Among them, just under half (46%) use smartphones in-store to read online product
reviews. Brands and retailers need to make there product reviews accessible via mobile devices by either making their websites mobile friendly or
serving reviews through their mobile app.

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Shoppers consider product’s overall rating score when
reading reviews to make a purchase decision
Shopper perceived importance of review ratings
% who read online reviews

34%

53%

10%

1%

1%

1%

Very
important

Somewhat
important

Neither important
nor unimportant

Somewhat
unimportant

Very
unimportant

Don’t
know

Net Important 87%

More than a third (34%) of shoppers say the overall rating score is very important
More than half (53%) of shoppers say the overall rating is somewhat important
Nearly 9 in 10 (87%) shoppers consider ratings important in making a purchase decision
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Shoppers consider review content before making a purchase
decision
Shopper perceived importance of review content
% who read online reviews

41%

49%

7%

1%

1%

1%

Very
important

Somewhat
important

Neither important
nor unimportant

Somewhat
unimportant

Very
unimportant

Don’t
know

Net Important 90%

More than two in five (41%) shoppers consider the content of a review as very important
Nearly half (49%) of all shoppers consider the content of a review as somewhat important
9 in 10 shoppers say review content plays an important role in shaping their purchase decision
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Shoppers pay attention to product rating score and the
review content
Shoppers don’t skim through product reviews but go over key aspects of a review before making an informed purchase decision. One of the key
aspects shoppers look out for is the product’s overall rating score.
Overall nearly 9 in 10 (87%) shoppers consider product ratings as important in making a purchase decision. More than a third (34%) of shoppers say
the overall rating score is very important and more than half (53%) say it is somewhat important.
Ratings are a convenient way of getting a quick opinion on a product or brand without having to read through multiple positive and negative reviews.
Ratings motivate shoppers to continue further with their research and read some of the reviews in more details.
In fact, 9 in 10 shoppers go on to read the review content and even say that the content plays an important role in shaping their purchase decision.
More than two in five (41%) shoppers consider the content of a review as very important. Nearly half (49%) of all shoppers consider the content of a
review as somewhat important.
The content section, while wordy, provides detailed information on the experience of previous customers. Shoppers can gather information to clear
any doubts they have about the product, develop a better idea of what they can expect from it, and even consider looking for add-ons that improve a
product’s experience based on the information shared in online reviews.
For many customers a combination of ratings and content seals the purchase decision. Hence it is vital for brands and retailers to monitor the rating
score of most recent reviews as well its content on a near daily basis. While brands shouldn’t remove any negative ratings and reviews, they can
monitor reviews to keep an eye out for any sign of growing discontent among their customers before it turns into a crisis. One of the ways to do so is
to look for common themes among negative reviews such as poor customer service or a faulty product.

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How To Analyze Online Reviews?

1. Identify the relative volume and sites where customers post
online reviews
Total number of online reviews by retailer website - Nov 2013 to Oct 2015
number of online reviews by website

21731

6051

Sony PlayStation 4

Xbox One

10585 - (49%)

Amazon

10717 - (49%)

Best Buy

429 - (2%)

Walmart + Target

2504 - (41%)
3412 - (56%)
135 - (2%)

Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) has more than 3 times the number of online reviews as the Xbox One
PS4 reviews are evenly distributed across Amazon and Best Buy
Xbox One customers are more likely to post in Best Buy over Amazon
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Leading brands stay ahead in sales and reviews
1.4

Monthly units sold in the
US - Xbox One vs Sony
PlayStation 4

0.9
0.5
0.0
Nov 2013

Feb 2014

May 2014

Aug 2014

Nov 2014

Feb 2015

May 2015

Aug 2015

number of units sold in
millions per month

10000

Monthly reviews posted
online - Xbox One vs
Sony PlayStation 4

8000
6000
4000
2000
0
Nov 2013

Feb 2014

May 2014

Aug 2014

Nov 2014

Xbox One

Feb 2015

May 2015

Aug 2015

number of online reviews
posted by month

Sony PlayStation 4

Sony PS4 has been ahead of Xbox One in sales and reviews since its launch back in 2013
In terms of sale Sony had a more successful console launch while Xbox stood out during 2014 holidays
Xbox could not match Sony’s initial burst of online reviews even during the 2014 holiday sale burst
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2. Use online NPS to track review sentiment
Online review NPS for Sony and Xbox by retailer website
Online NPS by console and retailer websites
Xbox One

Sony PlayStation 4

58%
77%
61%
Overall NPS

59%
34%
Overall NPS

45%

27%
19%

Amazon

Best Buy

Walmart + Target

Amazon

Best Buy

Walmart + Target

Online NPS = (Percent of 5 star ratings) - (Percent of 1,2 and 3 star ratings). 4 star ratings treated as neutral

Sony PS4 has twice the overall NPS of Xbox One across all retailer sites
Both consoles score well in Best Buy, Walmart and Target
Sony outperforms Xbox One among Amazon reviewers with Xbox scoring a 19% NPS
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3. Identify drivers of positive and negative scores
Word tree for Sony PlayStation 4 - Positive Reviews
Word trees by console and sentiment

Sony PS4 positive reviews are driven by PlayStation fans and the product’s suitability as an ideal gift to friends, family members and significant
others
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Identify drivers of positive and negative scores
Word tree for Sony PlayStation 4 - Negative Reviews
Word trees by console and sentiment

Sony PS4 negative reviews are driven by a common device based error nicknamed ‘the blue light of death’

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Identify drivers of positive and negative scores
Word tree for XBox One - Positive Reviews
Word trees by console and sentiment

Positive reviews for the Xbox one are driven by its impressive voice based controls

www.reviewmonitoring.com

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Identify drivers of positive and negative scores
Word tree for XBox One - Negative Reviews
Word trees by console and sentiment

Negative reviews for Xbox one are driven by its poor customer service

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3 steps to driving meaningful insights from online reviews
The first step in analyzing online reviews is to identify where customers are posting reviews for a product or brand as well as its key competitors.
In analyzing the video game console industry, we looked at online reviews for Sony PS4 and Xbox One posted by buyers in Amazon, Best Buy,
Walmart, and Target.
Sony buyers were much more likely to go online and post product reviews compared to Xbox customers. Overall Sony had three times the number of
reviews as Xbox showing that Xbox needs to provide more motivation and encouragement to its buyers to leave positive reviews post-purchase.
More than 9 in 10 (98%) of all reviews for both consoles were posted to Amazon and Best Buy highlighting the importance of monitoring the two
platforms for both brands.
The second step in analyzing online reviews is to measure them against a benchmark. The most practical metric brands can use is online NPS - a
variation of the traditional Net Promoter Score that calculates a score based on the ratings left by customers.

Using ratings to calculate an online NPS not only provides an overall view at reviews left by customers but also helps a brand understand how it
might be impacting prospective customers who glance at the overall rating score while making a purchase decision.
Online NPS can also be used to compare brands against competitors for each review platform showing helping brands identify customer pain points
as well as where it should focus its marketing efforts. The overall NPS scores for Sony (61%) and Xbox (34%) show that Sony is better positioned to
convert prospective buyers who read up on reviews during research. The NPS score of 19% for Xbox reveals that it needs to focus on its Amazon
customers to turn things around.
The final step in analyzing online reviews is to understand what is driving negative as well as positive sentiment among shoppers which can be done
via word trees. Word tress reveal that Xbox’s lower NPS is driven by a record of poor customer service when buyers contacted Microsoft postpurchase. Sony’s positive reviews are driven by its legion of fans and customers who are pleased to find it acts as suitable gift for their loved ones.

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References

2015 Consumer
Trust Survey
Experticity, 2015

The
State of Content
Adobe, 2015

UPS Pulse of the
Online Shopper
UPS and Comscore, 2015

YouGov Omnibus
Online Reviews

Bad reviews are
good for business

YouGov, 2015

Reevoo, 2014

From Reviews to Revenue
Power Reviews and Northwestern
University, 2015

2015 holiday
survey
Deloitte, 2015

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