comScore and The Kelsey Group released yesterday the results of a new research study on the influence of online consumer reviews on offline purchases.  The press release alone is full of interesting data, but I've summarized key takeaways below.

Specifically, the study looks at the influence that online consumer-generated reviews for offline services (e.g., restaurants, hotels,  automotive, medical, legal, etc.) has on purchases of those services. 

  • Nearly 25% of surveyed Internet users reported reading online reviews prior to paying for an offline service!  
  • Online reviews were a significant purchase influence for approximately three-quarters of review users in all eight offline service categories.  Hotels ranked the highest at 87%, while legal services ranked the lowest at 73%. 
  • Impressively, 97% of users that attributed their purchase decision to a review felt that the review was accurate. 
  • Review users felt that reviews from fellow consumers were more influential than those authored by professionals. 
  • Depending on service category, users were willing to pay from 20% more (home) to 99% more (legal services) for services with a consumer quality rating of 5-stars (Excellent) versus just 4-stars (Good).

These are amazing statistics.  The Web is still primarily a research medium but multi-channel brands still struggle to quantify the impact that online content has on offline purchasing behavior.  Reviews are a useful bridge, since both online and offline purchases can be attributed back to specific reviews using web analytics tools, buyer surveys, customer feedback at the point-of-sale, and other means. 

While many local service providers may struggle to engage their customers to review their purchases online, due simply to size and scale challenges, the global and national brands behind those local providers – major restaurant and hotel chains, automotive service franchises, healthcare providers – should take steps to empower their local business affiliates with tools to capture consumer reviews and measure their influence.  

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