Online customer reviews have become a part of everyday life for products, services, and anything in-between. More than ever businesses are requesting reviews from consumers whether it’s about rating a hotel experience on Expedia or purchasing a product on Amazon. Reviews are now an essential part of the buying and selling process. Furthermore, many consumers looking for products and services are sorting their searches based on the highest ranking reviews and heavily weighting their buying decision on this piece of information, however, a recent study has found that consumers are less likely to be influenced by reviews of experiential purchases (ie. restaurants) versus material purchases (ie. hot tubs).
The study conducted by UCLA Anderson’s Hengchen Dai and Cassie Mogilner Holmes and the University of Toronto’s Cindy Chan have found that consumers are influenced by online reviews when purchasing a product or tangible good because the qualities of that product are typically expressed more objectively or factually as compared to online reviews of an experience (restaurant, nail salon, etc.) because experiential reviews are perceived as being more grounded in opinion and personal bias. For example, a shopper looking to buy a hot tub or swim spa for their home would be more likely to rely on customer reviews because it’s a material purchase whose attributes such as quality,workmanship, engineering, features, and performance can be objectively assessed and more easily relied upon.
Also of importance is the findings from one of the final experiments in the study in which they take a deeper dive into the experiential versus material reviews. That particular study utilized control groups in which participants were shown experiential reviews that called out more objective assessments which had a higher rate of influence on participants. In essence, they found that experiential reviews that are written more objectively have a higher rate of influence than those expressing opinion or personal bias.
With that said, hot tub reviews are an excellent source of information and should be considered before purchasing, however, we would always recommend purchasing from a local dealer versus online as they are an expensive purchase that requires post-sale maintenance and support which a good hot tub retailer or dealer can provide.