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7 Surprising Ways Online Reviews Have Transformed the Path to Purchase

Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff
Oct 02, 2015

Today, with a simple click, it becomes easier than ever to make comparisons, get more insights and choose between similar brand offerings based on online reviews.

To get a better understanding of how these e-commerce product reviews will influence shopping habits and how recommendations from others sway their purchasing decisions, Influence Central embarked on a research study of more than 500 women.

What we discovered proved that e-commerce reviews have upended the traditional consumer purchasing path.

Here are 7 ways online reviews have changed the way we shop:

Closing the Deal

E-commerce reviews rank high for women consumers on their consumer journey, as 85% say they consider online reviews extremely/very important when making a purchase, and 87% of women consumers now post online reviews either occasionally or often.

  • 71% of consumers say online reviews are important when considering making a purchase in specific categories such as electronics, appliances, home décor, and more.
  • 57% of women consumers check online reviews for certain categories (e.g., books, clothing, electronics, appliances, etc.) while 43% check reviews for all purchases.
  • Just 1% of consumers say they believe online reviews to be not at all important.

Seeking Reviews Instead of Salespeople

The insights and authenticity of today’s online reviews have led to a major change-up of how consumers get information. Back in the day, consumers would turn to a salesperson when they had questions about a product’s durability or needed information about care and maintenance.

Now, if consumers need detailed insights on a brand they may want to buy, they turn to online reviews to answer their questions.

In fact, when making a purchase, 91% of women consumers consider an online review more important than input from a salesperson in a store.

Checking Reviews While In-Store

Consumers typically spend time poring over e-commerce reviews in the initial stage of product research—when they first discover a new product or when comparing one brand over another.

In fact, 88% check e-commerce reviews from computers, 26% search from mobile phones, and 18% check from tablets. But today, looking over online reviews doesn’t stop there. Even when shopping offline, consumers know they can check reviews on the fly.

Nearly 60% of consumers check online reviews of a product from their Smartphones while shopping in a retail store. 

Sparking Trial of New Consumer Brands

Often, consumers want to try a new brand, but they stick with old favorites because they know what to expect. Today, the online review culture takes the mystery out of switching to a new brand, as 88% of consumers consider e-commerce reviews very influential when purchasing an unfamiliar brand. But online research doesn’t stop there.

Even when purchasing from a brand they already know, 67% of women consumers consider online reviews very influential, and just 2% of consumers say they rarely seek out reviews for products they want to buy. For the 43% of women consumers who say they check e-commerce reviews for brands they know, they do so for two reasons: first because they want to see if others have had a similar experience. And second, even though they may have had the same product in their home for years, they still want to see if a better option exists.

Determining Where to Buy

Today, 87% of consumers say they check e-commerce reviews for both online and brick-and-mortar purchases. Moreover, women consumers say they shop online more frequently (44%) than at brick-and-mortar stores (36%).

Once they read a review and decide to make a purchase:

  • 77% buy the product online, and
  • 23% will go to a brick-and-mortar store for their purchase

Creating a New Generation of Discerning Consumers

As conducting product research becomes easier and more streamline due to the rise of online reviews, one result proves to be a more informed consumer base.

In fact, 97% of consumers feel confident they can tell the credibility of a posted review, and 90% say they can always/most often tell if a reviewer is exaggerating. 88% of women consumers feel confident in detecting bias in online reviews.

Impacting the Holiday Shopping Experience

Even though fall just began—most consumers know that the holiday shopping season can’t be too far away. Our survey showed that online reviews continue to play a key role in the holiday shopping frenzy, as nearly 50% of women consumers check e-commerce reviews more frequently during the holiday shopping rush.

Why? Savvy shoppers check out online reviews as they make their holiday purchases to:

  • Ensure quality
  • To gather more insights when deciding between similar products, and
  • To get the best deal
  • 76% of consumers don’t just read reviews—during the holiday season they plan to write online reviews of the products they ultimately buy.
Image Credit:

Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff
Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of Influence Central, is a social media strategist, attorney, and best-selling author. A frequent national and international speaker, she consults with brands on consumer and social media trends. You can reach her at Want more insights and trends? Subscribe to the Influence Central Trend Report at