Social Commerce

The Power of Consumer Reviews: It’s a Cultural Thing – US vs UK [Data]

Social intelligence – our ability to understand and learn from each other and profit from social situations – is a universal trait, but how we use our social intelligence may be culturally variable.  Some new research from Lightspeed Research (online research panel) has found that US consumers trust online reviews from friends and family over professional reviews and consumer reviews.  In the UK, it’s the other way around, Brits prefer to trust professional reviews and consumer reviews over friends and family.

What they both appear to agree on though, is that

  • a) online reviews and online reviewing have become mainstream activities and are an important component of online research (see stats below)
  • b) 3 negative reviews are enough to put the majority of people off purchasing (obviously the review content and volume will influence this – and note that negative reviews may increase trustworthiness of the review page)
  • c) reviews on company websites are to be distrusted

Okay, so it’s survey research and so to be taken with a block of salt, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  Overall the results show that the “review economy” is alive and thriving in both the US and UK. In the US 62% of people read online reviews, 61% in the UK.  And 47% of US consumers post online reviews, compared to 49% of UK consumers.  Interestingly, UK consumers are more keen on price comparison than reviews, but in the US it’s the other way round.

Here’s a selection of review stats from the two Lightspeed surveys conducted in March 2011, with some charts for you to grab.  The US research report is downloadable for free here; the UK research does not seem to be published in full – here’s the UK promo blurb.

Our big takeout is that this reinforces the urgent need for many brands and retailers who are still using an outdated ‘passive audience’ model of the consumer, to replace it with a new ‘active researcher’ model.  The SoLoMo consumer is a smart consumer – and you’ll need smart marketing to win their hearts, minds and wallets.

  • US: 62% of people read online reviews for products and service, and 49% of people compare prices online
  • UK: 61% of people read online reviews for products and service, and 75% of people compare prices online
  • US: 47% of people post online reviews
  • UK: 49% of people post online reviews
  • US: 62% of people trust reviews from friends, family and colleagues, 56% trust review from other consumers and 50% trust reviews from professional reviewers
  • UK: 64% trust review from other consumers and 58% trust reviews from professional reviewers, 51% of people trust reviews from friends, family and colleagues
  • US: 28% trust reviews on company websites
  • UK: 17% trust reviews on company websites
  • US: 62% of people will change their minds about a purchase after reading 3 negative reviews
  • UK: 67% of people will have changed their minds about buying a product after reading 3 negative reviews


  • US: 85% of the reviews last posted by consumers were positive
  • US: 73% of people would be more likely to post a review if incentivised to do so
  • US: 79% of people compare prices online prior to purchase (personal tech), 61% read online reviews – 10% ask their social network, and 40% ask friends/family/colleagues
  • US: 64% of people use search engines to find online reviews, 7% look for reviews on social networking sites
  • US: 73% of people rate positive reviews for product in consumer reports important, 18% rate positive reviews among social network friends important


Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

8 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Brant Emery says:

    So more research showing that retailers (or e-commerce) sites are at the tough end of the social commerce evolution.

    From the charts, however it appears they used two different question / selection methods, a bit annoying for trying to create a like-for-like comparison. Adds more fuzziness to the mix.

    Also, I reviews and price comparison often sits in different stages of the purchase process. There’s a big difference between “where do i find the cheapest iPad?” to “what’s the best tablet?”

  2. John Smith says:

    Great article, although I would disagree with your comment about “taking survey research with a grain of salt”. Many of the world’s most well-known research companies utilize online survey research….It has become in some areas more popular than other methods of consumer research.

  3. I’m not quite sure why the US chart isn’t Top 2 Box, Neutral, and Bottom 2 Box for a better comparison with the UK data, which seems to be shown that way. Also, the scales are inverted, and that makes it harder to compare. Really, for TRUST we have :

    Consumer: 72% US 64% UK
    Friends: 62% 51%
    Company: 28% 17%
    Professional: 50% 58%

    I see they are written up correctly in the bullets, which are harder to follow and I expect most people would go straight to the charts to see what the article is about. Odd and potentially misleading. Tsk tsk

    1. Paul Marsden says:

      Hi Michelle, thanks for the comment – yes, I agree the charts are weird, especially how the data is presented. But useful to raise the question of cultural differences in social learning/social media.

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