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How Online Reviews
\ Evidence of the Power of Online Reviews to Shape Customer Behavior
Data-Driven Insights on How Retailers Can Maximize the Value of
Their Engagement With Consumers Through Online Reviews
2 \ How Online Reviews Influence Sales \ spiegel.medill.northwestern.edu
QUESTIONS WE ADDRESS
• What is the upside impact of online reviews
on sales? What’s the downside impact?
• Are higher ratings always better predictors
of increases in sales?
• Does familiarity with the product category
alter the influence of reviews?
• Is there an optimal number of reviews?
If so, how many?
• Should brands prompt purchasers
to submit reviews?
• Do reviews from verified buyers have
greater impact on sales than those from
\ Executive Summary
Insights into How Online Reviews Affect
With nearly 95% of shoppers reading online
reviews before making a purchase, reviews
have transformed the way consumers make
purchase decisions.* But reviews are more
than just a way for shoppers to gather
information. Reviews are a powerful form of
Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research
Center has been at the forefront of answering
questions about how consumers engage with
brands and how that engagement shapes
customer value since 2011.
As part of Spiegel’s ongoing, multi-faceted
exploration of consumer engagement,
we have spearheaded research into the
financial impact of consumer engagement
via online reviews.
In this research, we set out to answer
two main questions:
• Do online reviews affect sales?
If so, in what ways, by how much,
and under what circumstances?
We have found that online reviews have
a significant and quantifiable impact on
purchase decisions – but the degree of that
impact depends on a number of factors,
such as star ratings, the nature of the review
content, the number of reviews, the price
of the item, and the source of the review.
These findings have powerful implications