Study: Negative Online Reviews Influence 80 Percent of Shoppers

Paul Lilly

Imagine you found a great deal on a flux capacitor. Not only does it make time travel possible, but the new version is able to freeze time and only requires half a gigawatt to operate. Plus, it's 33 percent cheaper than the one Doc Brown built into the DeLorean. Sounds like a no brainer, until you read a couple online reviews claiming it set their cars on fire. And so you remove it from your shopping cart. This isn't unusual, and according to a new study, it happens far more often than not.

Cone, Inc., a strategy and communications agency located in Boston, Massachusetts, released its 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker report on Tuesday containing data from an online survey of 1,054 U.S. adults. According to Cone, 89 percent of consumers trust online product and service reviews, and four out of five -- or 80 percent -- of those surveyed said they've changed their mind about a recommended product after reading a negative review. In 2010, that number was 67 percent.

Why the year-over-year increase? Cone attributes the spike in online verification to near-universal access to the Internet and widespread use of smartphones, making online information more accessible to a wider audience than ever before. Careful spending might also be playing a role, Cone says. For pricey items, such as cars (or flux capacitors), Cone says Americans are 25 percent more likely to verify a product recommendation by looking up related online reviews.

"Today’s consumers want reassurance before loosening their purse strings, and personal recommendations alone are just not enough to guarantee a purchase," explained Mike Hollywood, director of New Media, Cone. "The explosion of online word-of-mouth channels and the adoption of online verification have forever changed the marketing landscape. Targeting the right people is a marketer’s first step toward influencing the conversation."

You can view all the hard data here .

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