Many consumers find ratings and reviews helpful when doing product research online. Our Technographics survey shows that about half of US online men and 42% of female Internet users are using ratings and reviews at least monthly. Less than half of them are posting ratings and reviews regularly.

But how do consumers value these ratings and reviews, and what do they do about not knowing who's behind the ratings? To get a better understanding of this, we recently asked the community members in Forrester’s Digital Consumers Community the following question:

'Do you read customer reviews before you buy a product? If so, how important are others’ reviews when making your decision to buy a product? Does your reliance on customer reviews vary for different products?'

While most are checking consumer reviews, the comments reveal that they are not heavily influenced by peer reviews. People tend to seek out reviews when they are about to purchase a big ticket item and they are reading the reviews to make themselves feel more comfortable with spending that money – like they have done their homework – but in the end, it’s their own judgment they rely on.

Some key quotes:

“I always see what others have to say regarding the products, some are helpful and some are not”

“I read customer reviews to see if there is a pattern. Usually, there isn't.  If there is a pattern, then more research is needed to prove or disprove it.  Some people just don't know how to use/operate some things.”

“I often read customer comments to get ideas that I might question when considering a purchase.”

“I prefer to look for customer reviews where I intend to buy and other popular sites where the same model/product being sold. It is just a habit to get a little extra info if I have enough time to do research on a product. Generally, I do not spend too much time on customer reviews as it is considered bias no matter where you go… though it is neat to get the extra opinions from buyers who were truthful in their reviews.”