User Study: Online reviews trusted more than peer opinions in the UK

Published on 30/09/2019 by Sonia Navarrete

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” said Warren Buffet, CEO of the American corporation Berkshire Hathaway. And in today’s digital world where everything is instantly online – good and bad – his quote is relevant more than ever. 

The rise of online reviews allows customers to leave their opinions of your business almost in real time. But why has online reputation become so important? Reputation has always been critical for the success of a business. In the days before the internet, customers were the ones spreading the word by telling friends and family their opinion about the business, and their opinions would eventually make their way back to the business. 

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Capterra interviewed 299 businesses in the UK to find out the importance of online reviews. The results of the study revealed that 62% of people prefer to consult the opinions of other buyers rather than listen to experts or recommendations from acquaintances before deciding on buying a product. 

The ideal review for UK customers

If we had to imagine the perfect review for UK customers drawn from the results it would look like this:

  • Positive: Results showed that positive reviews (57%) are more trusted than negative ones (43%). 
  • Number of reviews: 5-20 is the ideal number of reviews that a product requires in order to be trusted by customers (46%).
  • In this case, less is less: Only 7% of respondents would trust a product with less than 5 reviews.
  • Fresh reviews preferred: A third of respondents (30%) prefer reviews that are not older than 3 months.
  • Reviews over ratings preferred: 75% of respondents would trust a less rated product with higher number of reviews.

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Respondents in the UK trust online reviews more than experts’ opinion

84% of respondents consider that is very good that customers can leave their opinion online. In addition, 53% of respondents always read online reviews about a product/service before buying a product, and 40% often before making a decision. Only 2% rarely read a review before making a decision.

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62% of respondents trust online reviews more than expert’s opinion when looking for trusted opinions on the web. Only 11% of respondents would consider expert opinions before making a purchasing decision. And, as Dr. Alex Fenton states: “Word of mouth now extends to electronic word of mouth where customers will often be strongly influenced by reviews of people they do not know.” 

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This result may not come as a surprise. If you think about it, online reviews are trusted more because they come from real users in that specific industry that have used the product. That does not mean that the expert’s opinion is not valued, but in the end is the user’s review that people value most.

Satisfaction is the main motivation to leave reviews

Over half of respondents (56%) leave a review often and when asked for the reason why they write reviews, respondents stated that they wanted to help other customers before they buy the product (37%) and show satisfaction (35%). 19% stated that they leave reviews to show their dissatisfaction and only 8% wanted to give feedback to the manufacturer about the product.

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In the UK, users leave reviews if they are satisfied with a service so other users can see that the product or service they are looking to buy or try is worthy. However, despite the percentage of customers showing their dissatisfaction being lower (19%) than the satisfied ones, it’s also common in the UK to find reviews from customers that weren’t happy with the service as a way to complain and make future customers aware. The most important characteristic of a review for respondents is the comments in text form (70%) followed by rating of the product (16%) and number of reviews (11%).

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Software, one of the least reviewed items online

The results of the survey showed that electric items (24%), food (20%) and clothing (15%) are the three most reviewed items online by customers. Only 4% of respondents had reviewed software in the past. 

This could mean that many users are not aware of software comparison platforms. When asked about what platforms respondents consider to be the most trusted for reviews over half of them (55%) stated Amazon and industry-related rating platforms such as Tripadvisor or Trivago. Despite this, 42% of respondents consider reviews very important when buying software.

Companies not dealing with reviews

When asked about how important is for the company to respond to reviews, respondents stated that they would have wanted a response from the company (39%), while 48% are not interested in having a response from the company. 

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Nearly half (40%) of respondents state never having received a response from the company following a review from one of their products and 61% has never had a reaction from the company following a customer rating. 

Companies are missing an opportunity to engage with their customers. By answering their reviews (positive and negative ones), they are acknowledging the customer’s voice, making them feel part of the company. A study by Harvard Business Review that analysed how Tripadvisor and Expedia were answering reviews on hotels found that a third of the hotels studied increased their ratings by half a star in six months from the first management response.

Our study found that 92% of companies are not using software to evaluate online customer reviews. Investing in a  review management software can help you collect reviews, respond to negative feedback and improve customer perception of the product or service that the business offers, leading to an increase in reputation and sales.

As Warren Buffet said, reputation is hard to gain and easily lost but with the right software by your side you can minimise the effects of bad reviews and turn them into positive reviews!

Methodology of the study

To collect the data for this report, we conducted an online survey. The answers come from a sample of the target market UK. The survey was completed by 299 participants who qualified to complete the survey through screening questions out of a total of 325 participants in August 2019. Qualified participants are employed (full-time, part-time or self-employed), work in a small to medium sized enterprise (1-250 employees).