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The importance of customer reviews

In his presentation ‘The Real Life Social Network v2’, design strategist Paul Adams explains why we often look to others when making decisions:

People try to behave rationally, they try to make objective decisions, but other factors mean that they can’t. The problem is that we all have limited access to information, and limited memory. Because of this, we have learned to rely on others to help us make decisions.
We assume that other people know things that we don’t. In fact, we do this so often, that we automatically look to the actions of others, even when the answer is obvious.

In so doing, we increase our reliance on social networks to make decisions:

The web is increasing the volume of information available to us, but our capacity for memory isn’t changing. So it is likely that we will increasingly turn to others to make decisions. There was once a time when we picked what restaurant to eat in by looking in the window.
But now, we often can’t decide without pulling out our phones and searching the web for reviews from people who have eaten there before.

Interesting question: how would negative reviews by people who've eaten in that restaurant before influence your decision to go in and order dinner? According to a Lightspeed Research study, between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service.

The study also found that the majority of "window shoppers" used the internet for some kind of product research before making a purchase online or offline. This is in line with McKinsey's Consumer Decision Journey model. Just before the "golden moment", the moment of purchase (online or offline), people enter what McKinsey calls the active evaluation phase. To find the information and opinions they're looking for, shoppers will often go online. For information, they turn to Google Search. For opinions, they turn to friends and family (including their extended circle of friends and family on their social networks). They also look at review sites.

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