According to a ReportLinker report released Wednesday, 78% of people believe online reviews are at least “somewhat reliable.” The report also noted that some 59% of shoppers see online reviews as trustworthy as a review given by a friend, highlighting the critical focus companies should pay to their online brand strategy.

The report said that, while marketing professionals and other leaders might fear the impact of negative reviews, embracing online reviews overall can provide great benefits.

“Online reviews can help brands sell more. That’s because reviews help consumers evaluate their choices and increase their confidence in their decision, the report said. “Thus, businesses that embrace online reviews are likely to see sales rise, while those who ignore them may miss out on a significant number of potential customers.”

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In terms of where customers look for reviews, 33% went to search engines first, 25% went to reviews websites, 22% went to the company’s website, and 18% went to Consumer Reports, or other accredited sources. An additional 2% of customers initially went elsewhere for reviews.

In addition to noting the first place people look for reviews, the report also listed the main source that survey respondents relied on. Google was at the top with 30% of responses, Amazon had 20%, and Yelp had 11%. Places like Facebook, Twitter, and TripAdvisor were also listed as other places respondents would look for reviews.

Amazon and eBay were the most popular destinations for product reviews, and electronics were the most popular category of online reviews, the report found. Hotels, restaurants, and automobiles were also highly sought-after for their reviews.

Most users search for reviews on smartphones (35%), meaning that a mobile-optimized website is key for your business. Laptops (32%) and desktops (22%) were also popular methods for customers to find reviews.

According to the report, consumers judge the trustworthiness of a review first on the content it provides (62%). Secondly, they look at the total number of reviews (58%) and then they check the mix of positive and negative reviews.

Only 51% of respondents said that they write reviews, and users are more likely to write a review for a positive brand experience than a negative one. About half of those surveyed said a satisfying experience will inspire them to write a review, while 34% said a dissatisfying experience will make them want to write a review, the report said.

To get its results, ReportLinker surveyed 535 online respondents that it said were representative of the US population. The data points to the increasing importance for businesses to invest in their online presence, and be aware of how and where reviews are being written about them.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. According to a ReportLinker report, 78% of people believe online reviews about businesses are reliable.
  2. Online reviews can help businesses sell more, if they are embraced properly and in the right context, the report said.
  3. Customers are more likely to write a review because of a positive experience than a negative one.