10 things you didn't know about online consumers

Note: This post originally ran on  iStrategy Blog , and is republished here with permission. 

Online consumers love to share their opinions with each other on the things they buy. Savvy shoppers have always turned to this public feedback for guidance, but since more and more word of mouth data has been digitized, archived, and analyzed, companies are now able to rely on it for their own guidance. In the last year alone, our research has distilled tens of millions of consumer data points into a strikingly clear picture of today’s consumers. Here are ten of the most interesting things we’ve learned in the process.

1. Language is price-sensitive

Consumers talk about price more during economic downturns. They mention “price” in their online feedback more often when the Consumer Confidence Index is low (-.66 correlation), as well as when the Dow Jones Industrial average is low (-.68 correlation).

2. Proximity, purchasing power don’t predict sentiment

The most positive country in the world in terms of consumer sentiment toward products is Moldova (average rating: 4.54 stars out of 5). The least positive? Moldova’s neighbor, Ukraine (3.31 stars out of 5).  Essentially no correlation can be found between a country’s purchasing power or wellbeing (as measured by Gallup’s Global Wellbeing Survey) and sentiment toward products.

3. In-store shoppers less satisfied

In-store shoppers are just as likely to leave online feedback as online shoppers. However, they tend to be less satisfied with their purchases.

4. iPads rule the night

The iPad dominates online shopping from12AM to 5PM, where a plurality of shoppers use the device. They also spend 3% more time onsite than computer users and 16% more time onsite than other tablet and mobile users.

5. Positive reviews still contain product suggestions

20% of all 4-star reviews contain product suggestions, while 7% of 5-star reviews contain product suggestions.

6. Millennials require social proof

Many Millennials (consumers ages 18-34) will not buy products and services without first consulting user-generated content. Top purchases that Millennials won’t make without UGC:

  • Major electronics (44% will not buy without UGC)
  • Automobiles (40%)
  • Hotels (39%)
  • Travel accommodations (32%)
  • Credit cards (29%)
  • Insurance (29%)

7. Millennials trust strangers

When consulting user-generated content on a company’s website, Millennials are more likely to be influenced by the opinions of strangers (51%), than by the opinions of friends and family (49%).

8. Millennials opine to help each other

Millennials share feedback for the benefit of other consumers, not companies. Seventy-one percent of them share opinions because they feel other consumers value their thoughts.

9. Rural consumers have less to say (or are they more efficient?)

Urban consumers write longer reviews than rural consumers, based on an analysis of word count from United States consumers. This seems to be caused by the fact that rural regions have more older consumers per capita, and older consumers write shorter reviews. In fact, reviewers ages 66 and over write 24 fewer words than reviewers ages 19-24.

10. Women more keen on products than men

Female consumers are more positive than male consumers when discussing products. Our analysis shows that women leave four- and five-star reviews at a higher rate than men. Perhaps there is truth to the notion that men simply enjoy shopping less than women.