Almost half of in-store purchases start with online reviews

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Almost half of shoppers check online reviews before making an in-store purchase.

While brick-and-mortar still has a solid place in the retail world, the path to purchase is continuing to change. As many as 45% of all physical store shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase, a 15% increase from last year.

According to Bazaarvoice's second ROBO (research online, buy offline) research report—with data from more than 30 of the world's leading retailers across hundreds of categories—some of the top categories for online research include art, video games, and toys and games. 

For every dollar of online revenue made in the category of art and influenced by a shopper review, the same reviews influence $6.07 in in-store revenue. In the category of video games, every dollar online influenced by review content influences another $5.19 in-store. And finally, for every dollar of online revenue that is influenced by review content for toys and games, reviews influence another $5.14 of physical store revenue. 

"The trend of researching online and buying offline (ROBO) tells us that shoppers trust and rely on consumer-generated content (CGC), like ratings and reviews, Q&A, and visual content, no matter where they’re shopping or what they’re shopping for," Sara Spivey, CMO of Bazaarvoice, told FierceRetail. "With half of e-commerce traffic occurring on mobile and 82% of shoppers consulting their smartphones before they make in-store purchases, retailers have a real opportunity to influence in-store purchase decisions if they have CGC readily available on their product pages."

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Other categories where reviews online influenced every $4 or more in-store included electronics, TV and home theater, appliances, computers and tablets.

That's not to say that reviews don't have a big influence on online purchases as well. According to the research, 56% of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase. 

And how much are some big product categories being researched online before being bought in brick-and-mortar stores? The most popular categories included appliances, 59%; health, fitness and beauty, 58%; and toys and games, 53%.

According to Spivey, there are several ways in which retailers can unlock the value of ratings and reviews to increase their sales. For example, knowing that CGC influences both online and offline shopping, retailers should focus on regularly collecting a high volume of reviews across as many products as they can.

"The more information available for shoppers to consult, the better," she said.

Also, retailers should be optimizing the mobile experience of their online stores.

"Consumers are constantly on their devices researching products and searching for information before making their purchases, so design the mobile experience around convenience and ease of use," Spivey said.

Lastly, it’s important for retailers to pay attention to reviews and use them as a form of customer feedback.

"Businesses can continuously improve their products and shopping experiences if they listen to their shoppers, respond to their questions and extract insights from their feedback," she added.