Online reviews have become an inseparable part of our shopping decisions.

According to Business.com, 77 percent of people take the time to read product reviews before they make any purchases online.

Nowadays, consumers have a wealth of information at their fingertips that helps them determine whether or not they should buy this product or shop from that website. Online reviews have significantly shifted the way we shop online simply because we’re getting a first-hand experience straight to our online doorstep.

But the real question is, what motivates people to read reviews in the first place?

Why do people choose to read online reviews?

Decisions… decisions…

We are busy making decisions all the time – Which hotel should I book for my next month’s trip to Greece? What health insurance is best for me and my family? Which Netflix show should I binge-watch? What is the best online store for buying holiday gifts?

We’re busy making decisions all the time and it’s only natural for our minds to be bombarded with choices on a daily basis.

Information overload is everywhere and even the smallest decisions can take up valued time.

This where reviews come in.

Online reviews help guide us to make informed decisions because they sum up the collective opinions of other consumers regarding what they have purchased, where they ate, and where they traveled. While some details will be less relevant to you than others, they still help make up your mind towards making the right decision. You may bump into tips you’ve never even considered important. By reading reviews, you’re getting the full picture to shape up the best decision for you.

It’s a matter of trust

People’s basis of trust has changed significantly over the past few decades.

The reason why 7 in 10 American consumers seek the feedback of others before they buy something is that they’d rather rely on the opinions of their peers instead of advertisements or salespeople. Once upon a time, the salesperson was the end-all-be-all of the sales process. Today, though, consumers slowly steer away from salespeople for they have the obvious agenda of selling. Ads create the same outcome.

A study by AdAge ( the American Association of Advertising Agencies) reveals that only 4 percent of Americans trust advertisements while the rest rely on themselves and their community.

So in other words, consumers trust other consumers and that is why successful brands channel their marketing strategies towards platforms people trust – social networks and online reviews.

But it’s not just trusting a brand or an ad. Reviews are admissible if they are genuine and can be trusted. When reviews are verified, when you see a face and a Facebook presence behind each reviewer’s profile, you know that there’s a real person writing this review. And with the surging popularity of social proof, a person with a picture and active social accounts motivate trust.

The best recommendations are reviews

There’s no doubt reviews are influential. People usually require extended thought and search efforts to ensure their buying confidence about higher-cost or new products, especially from brands they are less familiar with.

For example, buying a new flat-screen TV is not something we decide to purchase every day, so when the time comes to make this kind of investment, we want to know for sure that we’re making the right choice – from brand to product quality. Instead of grabbing the first TV we see or buying the cheapest one on sale, you’d better off asking for advice and recommendations. Reviews help as information as we can about that TV, so spending substantial time looking into online reviews is a good idea.

Otherwise, we’ll end up stuck with a mediocre product that lacks in quality and surprisingly enough, is non-refundable.

To sum it up, online reviews can help us craft an informed shopping decision if they:

  • Include relevant and guiding details
  • Are written by real people
  • Illustrate the best worth of products

The more you understand what you’re after, the easier your way will to closing the deal with confidence.