How Do Reviews Influence B2B Buyers?

Stefanie Miller
January 22, 2023
Blog, Buyer Insights, Reviews
11 min read

How Do Reviews Influence B2B Buyers?

In the last few years, the influence of online reviews on consumer purchases has steadily climbed in importance. 59% of 2,185 technology buyers we surveyed in our 2022 B2B Disconnect Report said reviews are impactful resources when making purchasing decisions. Reviews influence what they decide to buy, who they buy it from, and what they are willing to pay for it.

B2C studies gauge influence by asking consumers how often they use reviews, by measuring conversion rate at the point of sale, and by tracking amount spent. Some look at the percent of site visitors who buy a product when reviews are displayed on the page, which is greater than the percent who buy when there are no reviews. Others look at shoppers’ likelihood to buy a product that has reviews over other similar products that don’t have reviews on ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon.

But business technology investments are generally more complex and expensive purchases. The purchase process is longer, and there are multiple individuals involved. Since it’s harder to pin down the influence reviews have over these decisions, we’ve conducted studies to uncover the impact of B2B reviews from various angles.

Reviews have a more distributed influence in B2B purchases

Based on our 2022 B2B Disconnect study, we know that reviews are among the most widely used information sources for B2B buyers, with checking TrustRadius and traditional review sites as the first step in product research after identifying a need. Buyers also rank reviews as more influential than traditional resources like analysts, media coverage, forums, customer references, case studies, and other vendor-produced collateral.

In the same research, we found that one third of buyers say collaboration among stakeholders has increased in the decision-making process. Some knew their fellow buyers were reading reviews on their own, while others said they circulated reviews they found or included review data in their recommendations to the committee.

Reviews don’t necessarily appear just at the point of purchase in B2B because the buying process is nonlinear. Buyers use reviews at multiple stages to get educated about the market, narrow things down, and make a confident decision. This happens across all segments of the market, with the importance of user reviews growing year over year.

How reviews influence the B2B buying process

In the initial stages of a buying project, reviews influence the list of products on a buyer’s radar. Reviews help them understand what their peers are using, and which products out there might meet their needs. These are the options they plan to research further.

Buyers using reviews on TrustRadius to build their list say the most influential pieces of information at this point are:

  • The pros, cons, and use case answers in reviews
  • Demographic information about reviewers
  • Reviews across a variety of similar products, for comparison

Because technology and business needs change fast, buyers are looking for recent, in-depth reviews that speak to specific use cases so they can compare their own needs to what the product has to offer. They also want to know how future-proof the product is, and if it will continue to be the right fit for the company.

Reviews influence buyer expectations 

As buyers evaluate their options, narrow it down to the lead contenders, get approval from economic stakeholders for their final choice, reviews are integral to the process. Even as buyers prepare to roll out a new product post-purchase, they want to know what they can realistically expect. And, reviews contain input from users who have been through this experience already.

Buyers also use the TrustRadius decisioning platform to compare experiences and set their expectations, by reading reviews to better understand:

  • Pros and cons
  • Product usability, support, and specific features
  • Implementation, change management, adoption, etc.
  • Potential ROI/results achievable with the product
  • Direct advice and recommendations (i.e. lessons learned, things to watch for)

Rreviews influence buyer selection, decision, or recommendation

Though the purchase may not go through that instant (there are stakeholders to sign off on the decision, contracts to be drawn up, legal departments to navigate, etc.), buyers say reviews are one of the top three most important factors when choosing which product to go with. Because of the significant time and money that goes into the investment, their professional reputation is on the line. Buyers want to make sure they’re making the right choice for their business. Reviews help them validate their thinking, feel more confident, and even convince others that their process of evaluation was thorough and that the product they chose is a good fit.

Here’s what one buyer says about how reviews on TrustRadius help to make their final choice:

Buyers say reviews they found influenced their questions for vendors

Once buyers are engaged in conversation with the vendor, they want to make sure they’re asking the right questions. They know you’re motivated to present your products and services in a positive light, showcasing the strongest features and the best case scenarios. They also know that any customer references you share will most likely be happy ones, with model use cases.

Reviews provide a more balanced perspective, with feedback on challenges and product limitations from a wider set of customers. Reviews inspire buyers to ask you about topics they might not have thought to bring up otherwise. Reviews also provide evidence buyers can use as ammunition in negotiations, to support any questions they have and make sure you address their doubts/concerns before they commit to working with you.

Buyers using reviews on TrustRadius to develop questions for vendors say the most influential pieces of information at this point are:

  • The cons mentioned in reviews
  • Use cases from reviewers who gave low ratings  

Reviews can help vendors be more influential with buyers

Throughout the buying process, there’s a link between trust and influence. The more buyers trust a resource, the more influential it becomes–especially when the story it tells lines up with information from other sources. The holy grail for buyers is a complete picture of what using a particular product and working a particular vendor will be like. But typically, that’s hard to come by. It takes lots of research and hard work for buyers to piece together an unbiased view with the details that are most relevant to their use case.

Vendors can be more influential by loosening their control over marketing and sales messaging, and making it easier for buyers to get a complete picture. Research shows that very influential vendors are more upfront about product limitations, and are more likely to give their buyers access to customer perspectives. The key is to open the door to more voices that can speak to real life experience with your product.

One way to do this is to make it easier for buyers to find reviews. Reviews help buyers understand product limitations, know what to expect, and feel more confident in the decision they make. Reviews are a more trustworthy and more influential type of customer evidence than case studies or customer references, and they’re more scalable too.

First, vendors should make sure they have reviews on third-party sites, and that the reviews cover the topics that are important for their buyers. Some sites will ask only a few very general questions that solicit basic responses, while others delve deeper into use case details, ROI, usability, implementation, and other specific topics.

Then vendors should share insightful reviews and relevant quotes with buyers. There’s no need to wait for buyers to find the reviews on their own. Review content can be included in marketing assets, sales emails, company websites, and more. When vendors proactively get reviews in front of buyers, it positions them as a more transparent and authentic resource. Reviews help build a foundation of trust, and make life easier for buyers, who don’t have to work as hard to uncover the whole truth.

Here are some examples of how vendors have used reviews on TrustRadius and other third-party sites to be more influential with their buyers:

Ready to put reviews to work at your company? Request a demo to learn how we can help.

About the Author

Stefanie Miller
Stefanie Miller is a marketing copywriter focused on connecting tech companies with their ideal audience. At the core of her work is unlocking the ‘why’ of each piece of content and delivering quality answers. Stefanie’s been a small business owner for nearly a decade, is a forever-learner, and born storyteller. She lives in California's Bay Area where she hikes the rolling hills, hangs with her family, and creates art with her laser cutter. You can find her on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefaniemiller1/