'Do I know you?' How online reviews became our biggest influencer

Once upon a time, we only trusted the words of people we knew pretty well. While friends, family and colleagues still wield a lot of power over our decisions, we're adapting more and more to placing trust in complete strangers. And that's a great thing for online shopping and humankind, says Trustpilot's Ashley Scrace.

I trust my Dad more than anyone in the world. Sure, his advice isn't always great, and flippancy colours our conversations at times, but I hold his opinion above everyone else's.

Well, unless he's doing my shopping. Then I trust JaySmith2001 or whoever.

See, there was a time we were only influenced by two sections of society: people we know; and clever marketers.

Today, we're older and much, much wiser. Discovery is just a click away. Our influencers are infinite, and largely anonymous.

In this era of customer empowerment, a business who hides in the dark, who talks to their customers rather than with them, is a dying business. I don't buy from a bunch of people in the shadows who make no connection with me either on their website, on their social media, or in their marketing.

That's because, if I'm to truly invest my time and money in something, I want to know it's the right choice. And that's when I, and millions of other people every day, search for online reviews.

Amazon customer review

The power of the consumer

77% of consumers consult online reviews before making a purchase. That means around three of your last four customers probably saw a review of what they were buying before they bought it.

How many of those people writing reviews did the customer know? Probably none of them. 

It doesn’t matter though; there’s an honour to a business which opens up to customer feedback. It shows they’re not afraid to keep abreast of what their customers think, or scared of making changes depending on customer feedback. 

A real business is a trusted business. The closer we feel to the business, the more open the business is with the people paying the wages (heads up - it’s the customers), the more likely we are to invest with that business. It’s that simple.

Tripadvisor review

Online reviews differentiate you

Price is not as important as it once was. Sure, you’ve got other things that differentiate businesses, such as quality and so on.

But reputation is the biggest differentiator. And the only way to earn a reputation is by collecting reviews. The more reviews you have, the more trusted you become.

The more trusted you are, the more comfortable customers feel, and the more likely they are to buy. 

91% of consumers say they trust the input from people just like them, in the form of online reviews, over input from a salesperson. That doesn’t mean you should sack your sales team, but it proves this point: everyone wants assurance from people just like them, not a faceless entity who they believe has a vested interest.

We value independent thought and having control over our decisions. Building a reputable business backed by customer feedback makes it easier to assess the options and come to our own conclusions.

Clinique customer review

Clinique customer review

Trusting strangers isn’t rare, but it is powerful

All this talk of reviews and trusting people we don’t know shouldn’t come as a surprise, though.

Did you personally know the pilot of the last plane you boarded?

Do you know everything about the last person who advised you in a store?

Are you friends with every single driver you’ll pass on the way home tonight?

No, no, and no. And that’s fine.

It’s not blind, naive trust. It’s because, despite everything the news media paints as grim in the world, we are looking out for one another. We do want to help each other. We do trust each other to keep our best interests at heart.

That’s rather humbling and comforting, isn’t it? Online reviews have power because the people writing them are part of a community; and in any community or group of people, everyone wants what’s best.

We certainly do at Trustpilot. We want customers to confidently choose the right products and services for them. We want businesses to get better and better by building closer relationships with their customers. 

We want what’s best for you, and so do the customers writing reviews. And that’s why, even though there are a few bad apples, reviews can be trusted and have a powerful influence over purchasing decisions. Just a handful of positive reviews can increase conversions up to 30%

So Dad - thanks for all your advice. You’ve taught me a lot about life, and most of what you’ve said has been great. But this time, when you’re recommending a buy the same model phone as you, just because you’ve had yours for 10 years, I think I’ll turn to someone else, even if I don’t know them.

It’s nothing personal.

Trustpilot is a review community that builds trust and transparency between consumers and businesses. Companies get insights from customers, and customers can leave reviews and improve the shopping experiences for everyone. 

PIcture credit: Trustpilot

PIcture credit: Trustpilot

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Talk to us about strategytraining and content creation. Or if you're an ecommerce business and want to connect with your customers through trusted online reviews, chat to Trustpilot.