Report: For every $1 online influenced by reviews, offline impact at least $4

Retailers need to optimize content and reviews to fully realize the “ROBO” opportunity.


While e-commerce has grown to hundreds of billions of dollars annually, the influence of digital media on offline purchases is a multi-trillion-dollar phenomenon. And though this behavior pattern has been around for at least a decade, only in the past couple of years have marketers started to understand it — because of the arrival of smartphone ubiquity.

Retail reviews platform BazaarVoice has sought to document the impact of online product reviews on in-store shopping in a new report called the ROBO economy: How reading reviews impacts offline sales (registration required). The term “ROBO” (research online, buy offline) was publicly coined by Yahoo years ago to describe the then-nascent consumer pattern.

Product review research before purchase

Bazaarvoice ROBO

Source: BazaarVoice “The ROBO Economy”

BazaarVoice uses a mix of third-party data and its own customer data in the report to argue that retailers must have the right content (i.e., reviews) to influence omni-channel shoppers across platforms in real time.

Citing Google research, the report points out that 82 percent of shoppers use their smartphones as shopping assistants in stores. Among other things, they’re looking at product pricing and reviews.

While people typically assume this is to determine if they can buy something cheaper online (“showrooming”), the behavior is more often about validating the intended purchase in the store. Specifically, BazaarVoice says that 39 percent of in-store buyers look at reviews in real time before making an in-store purchase.

The report also examines the impact of online research and reviews across various product categories.

Products researched online before being purchased offline

BazaarVoice ROBO report

Source: BazaarVoice “The ROBO Economy”

The above figures are drawn from the company’s many years of data across product categories. I suspect the reason the numbers aren’t even larger is that consumers may have difficulty finding product reviews in many cases. Indeed, one of the primary use cases for Amazon and the Amazon mobile app is product research. But that can lead to product purchases on Amazon.

In the report, BazaarVoice says that in general, for every $1 of online revenue influenced by reviews, that impact is multiplied offline by 4x or 5x. Therefore, it is incumbent on retailers to offer sufficient content and reviews to influence and support offline purchase decisions — especially those of mobile shoppers in-store, looking up information on their smartphones.

(Some images used under license from


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