From browsing to buying: How reviews influence consumer behavior

Aleš Randa

10 min

Find out how positive and negative reviews are forming consumer purchasing decisions and how brands can use this trend to their advantage.


Nowadays, it is no longer an exception that we carefully read online reviews before every click on the "Buy" button. And no wonder - reviews have become one of the most important factors that shape our purchasing decisions. Whether we're looking for the best restaurant in town, the latest technological advancements or a reliable home appliance, we often turn to the experiences of others to help us make a choice.

Studies show that up to 91% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. But what exactly is behind this phenomenon? How do online reviews shape our perception of products and our buying decisions? And why can one single negative review sometimes cause us to turn away from a product altogether?

In this article, we'll look at the psychology of online reviews, explore how different types of reviews influence consumer behavior, and focus on strategies companies can use to their advantage. Prepare to uncover interesting insights that will not only give you a deeper understanding of the dynamics of online reviews, but also help you navigate the world of e-shops more effectively - whether you're a consumer or a business.

Related: What are authentic reviews and why are they important? Learn all this in the article: "Using Authentic Reviews to Optimize Conversions in Your E-shop."

The psychology behind reviews

Online reviews play a key role in consumer decision-making. Let's look at two major psychological effects that influence how people react to online reviews: 'negativity bias' and 'social proof'.

Negativity Bias: Greater weight of negative information

  • Definition: negativity bias is the tendency of people to give more importance to negative information than positive information. In the context of online reviews, this means that negative reviews have a stronger impact on our perception of a product.
  • Impact on consumer behaviour: one negative review can turn away potential buyers even if there are many positive reviews alongside it. This phenomenon highlights why customers often find negative reviews more trustworthy.

While negative reviews can discourage customers, there are strategies to help minimize this impact and even turn the situation in your favor. One effective method is to use authentic reviews to prevent shopping cart abandonment. For a deeper understanding of how authentic reviews can prevent cart abandonment, we recommend taking a look at our article:"Preventing Cart Abandonment with Authentic Product Reviews."

Social Proof: imitating the behaviour of others

  • The concept of social proof: social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon where individuals adopt the behaviour or attitudes of others in order to fit in or make the right decision in specific situations. Online ratings and reviews are an example that strongly influence the decision making process of customers.
  • Influence on consumer preferences: positive reviews reinforce our beliefs about the quality and reliability of a product, and positive feedback from other customers provides us with evidence that the product is worth the investment.

An interesting aspect is how these psychological factors complement each other. Negativity bias makes us more cautious and pay attention to potential risks, while social proof reassures us of the correctness of our decisions based on the behaviour of others. Together, these effects form a complex picture of how online reviews influence our buying behaviour.

The impact of reviews on different types of products

Online reviews have different effects on consumer behaviour depending on the type of product. While for some products reviews may play a key role in the purchase decision, for others their influence may be less significant. Dividing products into functional and aesthetic categories helps us to better understand this phenomenon.

Functional Products

  • What are functional products: functional products include items where performance and reliability are the main criteria, such as appliances, electronics or automobiles.
  • Influence of reviews: For functional products, reviews have a strong influence on the decision-making process. Consumers look for reviews to see whether a product delivers on its promised features and whether it is durable. Negative reviews regarding functionality can significantly influence the purchase decision.

Aesthetic Products

  • What are aesthetic products: aesthetic products are those in which design, appearance and personal preference play a major role, such as clothing, decoration or cosmetics.
  • The influence of reviews: Reviews are less influential on consumers for aesthetic products than for functional products. While reviews can provide useful information, the final decision often depends more on personal taste and design preferences. Positive reviews can increase interest in a product, but negative reviews often do not deter potential buyers if the product suits them aesthetically.

While functional products are subjected to thorough analysis through reviews, aesthetic products offer more room for individual interpretation. This shows that the influence of reviews varies not only between different product categories, but also between individual consumers who have different priorities.

Retailers should adapt their review presentation strategy according to the type of product. For functional products, they should highlight reviews that talk about reliability and performance. For aesthetic products, on the other hand, it is important to show a wide range of personal experiences that reflect a diversity of tastes.

When dividing products into functional and aesthetic, it is clear that reviews have a different impact on each category. How can reviews boost sales and customer loyalty in your online store? "Reviews and the e-shop conversion funnel: optimize sales with the power of feedback"  provides interesting insights on this topic.

How consumers search for and read reviews

The process of searching and reading reviews is a crucial step in consumers' purchasing decisions. This process not only determines their final purchase decision, but also shapes their overall impression of the product.

Search for reviews

Consumers often start by searching for reviews as soon as they discover a product or when comparing different options. This step is a way for them to get an idea of the quality and satisfaction of other customers.

Reviews reading

Consumers are selective when reading reviews. They choose those reviews that best match their specific needs or interests, usually paying particular attention to negative ones.

Interpretation of reviews

Consumers are trying to assess the credibility of reviews. They look for indications that the review was written by a real customer and is not just part of a marketing strategy. They also compare reviews to identify recurring themes or common elements of criticism or praise, allowing them to get a more comprehensive view of the product.

Reactions to reviews

Reviews can greatly influence how consumers perceive a product and may cause them to change their perspective or seek further information. Some consumers respond to reviews by expressing their own opinions or sharing their experiences.

This process shows how important it is for consumers to find reviews they can trust and how much of a role they play in shaping their purchase decisions. For businesses, this means that promoting transparency and authenticity in reviews is crucial to gaining customer trust and loyalty.

The impact of positive reviews

Positive reviews have a significant impact on consumer perceptions of products and brands. They are not only a source of valuable information, but also serve as a tool for building trust and brand awareness.

Building trust

Positive reviews are crucial for building trust between consumers and a product or brand. When potential customers see that a product has many positive reviews, they are more inclined to believe that the product will meet their expectations.

Increase sales

There is a direct correlation between positive reviews and an increase in sales. Positive reviews can encourage hesitant customers to make a purchase decision, which is especially crucial for new products or brands seeking to break into the market.

Improving brand perception

Positive reviews also play a key role in improving brand perception among consumers. They provide evidence of satisfaction from previous customers and can help to create a strong, positive brand image.

Positive reviews are not just a tool to build trust; they also play a crucial role in maximising sales. For more information on how you can effectively use positive reviews to drive sales and increase revenue, we recommend reading our article: "How to Use Positive Reviews to Maximize Sales."

The impact of negative reviews

Negative reviews have a significant impact in e-shops, but their influence is not always straightforward. They can act as a double-edged sword, potentially putting off customers on the one hand, while offering brands an opportunity for improvement and open communication on the other.

Bouncing off potential customers

Negative reviews can easily deter customers from making a purchase, especially if they are among the first reviews they come across. People's natural tendency to pay more attention to negative information means that even one bad review can have a significant impact on a product's sales performance.

Valuable feedback for improvement

On the other hand, negative reviews provide brands with valuable feedback that they can use to identify areas for improvement. In this way, companies can find out exactly what customers are missing or what they would like to see improved in products or services.

Opportunity for positive communication

Negative reviews also offer an opportunity for brands to show their commitment and willingness to solve customer problems. Responding to negative reviews with an offer of a solution or explanation can improve public perception of a brand and show that the company genuinely cares about customer satisfaction.


Positive reviews build trust and brand awareness, increase sales and strengthen customer loyalty. On the other hand, negative reviews can serve as valuable feedback for improvement and an opportunity to demonstrate customer care and brand engagement. In both cases, how companies respond to reviews and the value they get from them is key.

Today, it's important for brands to not only focus on generating positive reviews, but also on the constructive way they respond to negative ones. Transparency, active communication and a willingness to improve based on feedback are critical factors that contribute to success.

Ultimately, whether you are a brand looking for ways to better engage your customers or a consumer trying to make the best purchasing decision, the importance of online reviews cannot be overlooked. By partnering with our community of micro-influencers who generate authentic user-generated content in the form of reviews and product photos, you can increase trust in your products and strengthen your customer relationships.

Get started with Brand Testing Club today and improve the way you interact with your customers through the power of authentic reviews.


1. Why are online reviews so important?

Reviews provide insight into other people's experiences with a product or service and help people make better purchasing decisions.

2. What impact do negative reviews have on sales?

Negative reviews can scare off some customers, but they also give businesses the opportunity to show that they care about customer problems and are willing to address them.

3. What is "negativity bias"?

People tend to take negative information more seriously than positive information, which means that negative reviews can have a greater impact on their decision-making.

4. What effect does social proof have on consumer decision making?

Social proof shows that if many people rate a product positively, others are also more inclined to buy it.

5. How to respond to negative reviews?

It is important to respond quickly and constructively, offer solutions and show that the company takes feedback seriously and wants to improve.

6. Can too many positive reviews become a problem?

If all the reviews look too positive, people may start to doubt their authenticity. Credibility is gained through balance.

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