Money Talks – and Listens: Characteristics of Rating and Review Site Users


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This is the third of a three-part series from my colleague Dr. David Ensing which discusses the results of Maritz Research’s 2013 Online Customer Review Study. Just like the previous postings, Dave provides valuable insight into the use and application of online review sites. Let me know if you have found this series valuable.


Previously we’ve discussed the general findings that many consumers are skeptical of dedicated review site information, that customers read reviews at many more places than dedicated review sites, and that participation at review sites is surprisingly low. Here we will briefly focus on who is using these sites and their perceptions of the information presented there.

Of all of our respondents, just over half (50.6%) read reviews on at least one of the 13 rating sites in the past year, and just under one-quarter (22.5%) posted a review. Men and women showed slight differences in site usage. A significantly larger percentage of women read reviews as compared to men (53.2% and 48.3%, respectively) but women and men posted at approximately the same rates (22.3% for women and 22.7% for men).

More significant differences in site usage were found to be related to age, income, and racial background. Both activities of reading and posting reviews at rating sites peak in the 25-34 age range and then tend to decline with age.

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In the future, it will be interesting to see if this is a cohort effect (in which case rating site usage should go up for the older age groups as the younger respondents move into those groups) or if people’s interest in rating site information decreases with age. Regardless, at present it seems that younger people are a bit over-represented at rating sites.

Reading and posting activity varies even more by income. Those in the upper income groups read and post at rates about twice those of lower income groups.

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Finally, we also found significant differences in both reading and posting rates when looking at ethnic background. Larger percentages of people of Asian and Caucasian descent read reviews at ratings sites and Asians, Caucasians, and Hispanics posted at higher rates compared to African Americans and people who listed their race as “Other”.

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Putting this all together, younger, more affluent, and people of Asian and Caucasian descent tend to use rating sites at higher rates than others.

These differences are interesting when you look at the same demographic variables and ratings of trust of the information presented at these sites. While there was no relationship between annual income and trust of information, other significant differences were found:

  • More women than men think the information is a fair representation of customers’ experiences (78% vs. 73%, respectively)
  • Trust tends to grow with age

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  • African Americans and Asians view sites as more trustworthy

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It is interesting to note that some of the highest users, younger people of Caucasian background, are also some of the most skeptical of the information presented on rating and review sites. There could be a number of reasons for this.

First, in survey research, younger respondents generally give lower ratings than older respondents. Also, as noted in a previous paper, many of our respondents that used rating sites talked about the need to “take things with a grain of salt” and to weed out the biased or fake reviews from the real ones.

Perhaps even though people are skeptical of the information, they feel so confident in their ability to assess its validity that their skepticism doesn’t stop them from using it.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Travell
Chris Travell is VP, Strategic Consulting for the Automotive Group of Maritz Research. He is responsible for working with Maritz' Insight Teams to further the understanding and application of the firm's automotive research. He has appeared on numerous television programs and is often quoted in Automotive News, Time, USA Today, Edmunds, Detroit Free Press, The Globe and Mail and various other publications in regard to issues related to the North American automotive industry. He is the principal contributor to The Ride Blog, Maritz Research's automotive blog.


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