We talk a lot about reviews for good reasons. They are an extremely powerful influence on the consumer journey. In fact, our research has found that 71% of people read consumer reviews before making a purchase. Reviews are so influential they have integrated every form of consumer marketing. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s examine the market’s current conception of reviews, the influence they wield, and the importance of quality and quantity.

5 Predictions About the Growing Power of Online Customer Reviews
By Tomer Tagrin for Entrepreneur

Nielsen’s latest Global Trust in Advertising report revealed online consumer reviews are the 2nd most trusted source of brand and product information. Unsurprisingly, 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. Serving as the first stop for potential customers, reviews are rightfully gaining importance and making ripples. Tagrin notes “Some industry observers predict that retail will change more in the next five years than it has over the past century.” He shares five predictions for the future of reviews.

1. All reviews will eventually be linked to social networks

As reviews become linked to shoppers’ real identities, anonymity will disappear. The benefits of this are tremendous. Reviews will gain credibility when associated with real people and consumers will easily determine which reviewer is a chronic complainer or trustworthy source. Retailers will have the ability to identify and interact with valuable customers and further customer relationships.

2. Shoppers will turn to their friends’ reviews first

I see the seeds of this prediction now in Facebook likes, Google+ reviews, and Twitter interactions between consumers and brands. And it makes sense that you would place more value in your techie friend Jessica’s review of a tablet than a complete stranger’s thoughts.

3. Reviews will be aggregated by reviewer

What if you appreciated Jessica’s tablet review and now want to see what other tech products she likes? Tagrin predicts in the future you’ll be able to click on a reviewer’s profile and see all the online reviews she’s written, across multiple sites or stores, in one place.

4. Reviews will be personalized

With a growing number of reviewers for more and more products, odds are consumers will be inundated when conducting research. To improve user experience, reviews will be personally tailored to each reader, returning results from people with similar interests. Because both reviewer and review-reader’s personal information will be readily available online, the matches will likely be very relevant.

5. All formats will become compatible

Currently, there are many different review formats and information required by websites and retailers. Tagrin writes “websites will continue to get smarter about extracting the most important information from any type of customer review.” No matter if it’s a video review or stars-ratings, the information customers care most about will consistently become prominent and easily found.

Moms Shopping for Baby Gear Are Swayed by Online Recommendations
By Jason Campbell for AdWeek

Reflecting more comfort with digital than Gen X mothers, online baby registries have increased 94% from 2013 as millennial moms are making registry decisions online using all information available there – including peer reviews.

While three of every four expectant moms surveyed do have cheaper items like bedding and diapers on their registry lists, 72% also include expensive things like car seats and baby characters. Interestingly the survey compared the effectiveness of online reviews written by other parents and those written by editorial experts. In $50,000-$100,000 households, 61% of moms bought or placed strollers on their registries after reading parent reviews whereas only 44% of moms did so after reading the online editorial expert reviews.

Consumer reviews influence purchasing decisions for all products – cheap and expensive. Which means not soliciting or prominently displaying customer reviews could cost you.

88% Of Consumers Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations
By Myles Anderson for Search Engine Land

In the stroller example, why is there such a big jump in between the impact of peer vs. editorial expert reviews?

Trust.

Almost nine in ten consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumers are more trusting if there are multiple customer reviews to read. The survey noted 67% of consumers read up to six reviews and 85% read up to ten. Shoppers value reviews and are willing to spend time reading them.

Also intrinsic to trust is authenticity. Anderson writes:

“The subject of fake reviews has had a lot of news coverage and is clearly in the consciousness of the average consumer. It’s likely that they will only become more discerning in their trust of reviews as this issue becomes more prevalent.”

Yelp Is Allowed To Manipulate Ratings And Remove Good Reviews, Says Court
By Jay Barmann for SFist

Yelp has consistently denied that they force small businesses into paying fees to keep positive reviews prominently displayed and hide or remove negative reviews. Now a three-judge panel at the 9th Circuit has ruled that “even if plaintiffs could adequately prove that Yelp has removed and replaced positive reviews and manipulated star ratings in exchange for paid ads, Yelp wouldn’t have been doing anything illegal.”

While not illegal, it is incredibly damaging to Yelp’s integrity. And it’s not over. There is still a shareholders’ lawsuit that cited the over 2,000 complaints the Federal Trade Commission has received about Yelp and a separate false advertising suit over Yelp’s claim of having “the most trusted reviews”.

Consumers are tired of fake reviews. With such overwhelming evidence of the power of authentic reviews, why would any company risk losing such a valuable tool?