Learn From Your Customers

Trustpilot Consumer Insights: Consumer behaviors that changed in 2020, and what to expect in 2021

Tuesday, 16 February 2021
Trustpilot Consumer Insights: Consumer behaviors that changed in 2020, and what to expect in 2021

In 2020, our daily lives adapted in ways that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

It’s safe to say that the period of self-isolation we all had to go through changed the way consumers search and shop, whilst businesses have had to adapt to new channels of communication, new consumer behaviors, and new audiences.

With all of the constant adjustments brands have had to make in 2020, what can businesses expect in 2021?

As we start to see light at the end of the tunnel, consumer behavior will no doubt be greatly impacted once again, forcing companies to change their approach.

To better understand the 2020 shift in consumer behavior, and what kind of trends businesses should expect to see emerge in 2021, our Trustpilot team took a look at global consumer activity on our platform from July 2020 to January 2021. All Trustpilot data was taken on January 31st 2021.

Here are the findings...

1. The businesses consumers researched the most

There’s no doubt customer reviews can show us a lot around consumer shopping habits.

While there are a few different reasons why people read them, consumers often research reviews when they’re looking to make a purchase, so pageviews on different types of companies can tell us a lot about what consumers are currently in the market for.

1 Company profile views last six months

It’s fascinating to see that between July 1st 2020 and January 31st 2021, shopping & fashion was the most researched industry for customer reviews, even throughout the pandemic. One survey from the end of last summer digs deeper into the types of clothing people are purchasing. Were they purchasing more athleisure while being stuck at home or – perhaps – were they stocking up on outfits for a post-pandemic world? As vaccinations continue globally, this could suggest some interesting purchasing trends...

Will fashion retailers have an opportunity for heavily increased sales even before the pandemic ends, as people prepare for newly invigorated social lives and attempt to spread out their purchases?

It’s relatively unsurprising that Electronics & Technology comes in at second for the most researched types of products on Trustpilot, and this actually wasn’t the case for portions of 2019, before the pandemic hit. This category includes home appliances in addition to phones, computers, software, etc.

As people around the world have been stuck inside more than ever in recent history, it comes as no surprise to see consumers looking at purchasing and upgrading their lives and homes with these types of products. The big question here is whether or not this pattern in researching products will continue after the pandemic ends, when people are spending considerably less time at home.

Considering the flood of new investors to the market as the pandemic hit, and the general financial uncertainty that has affected many families during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that Money & Insurance appears as one of the top categories (3rd) shoppers researched on Trustpilot between July 2020 and January 2021. There are many different types of financial services and products out there, and the pandemic has made all of us painfully aware of how quickly our own financial situations can change when something like COVID-19 happens.

2. The businesses consumers reviewed the most

Today’s consumers are more inclined to write reviews when the experience they’ve had strikes an emotional chord, whether it’s positive or negative. So if a person has had a great experience, they’re likely to applaud the company with a good review. If, however, they’ve had a poor experience, chances are they will leave a bad review out of frustration.

Helping peers make a better buying decision, sharing a good or bad experience, and rewarding a company for their stellar customer service are some of the top reasons why today’s shoppers like to leave reviews at the end of the journey.

From July 2020 to January 2021, Trustpilot received a whopping 22.4 million service reviews.

2 Total number service reviews

And that’s not all. Consumers also left over 3 million product reviews on Trustpilot.com in the same period of time.

3 Total number product reviews

Now that we’ve got a better understanding of why consumers write reviews, and how many service and product reviews Trustpilot has received in that timeframe, here’s a detailed breakdown of the most reviewed types of businesses on Trustpilot.com from July 2020 to January 2021.

Global service reviews per industry between July 2020 & January 2021

4 Service reviews per industry months

From July 2020 to January 2021, the three industries which received the most service reviews were B2B businesses, shopping & fashion and home & garden.

B2B businesses received over 2.8 million service reviews, or 12.5% of all service reviews left in the same period of time.

Once again, it is surprising to see that in the midst of a pandemic, shopping & fashion businesses still received more than 2.7 million service reviews, or approximately 12% of all service reviews, given that our latest Fashion report found that 72% of fashion consumers spent less or the same as they did before the pandemic.

There’s no doubt the home & garden industry benefited from lockdown in 2020. With most of the world population confined to their homes all year, people invested both time and money in their home and garden. This trend was reflected in the amount of reviews the home & garden sector collected on Trustpilot. The industry received approximately 2.6 million reviews between July 2020 and January 2021, or 11.6% of all service reviews left during that time frame.

These three sectors were closely followed by electronics (≅2 million) and finance and insurance (≅1.4 million).

All categories saw a dip in reviews in the late summer and early fall of 2020 (August and September), and most categories observed a spike in service reviews towards the end of the year, in November and December, likely as a result of events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holidays.

B2B businesses, shopping & fashion, home & garden, and electronics were the categories that saw the biggest spike of customer service reviews in Q4 of 2020. These sectors were also the most reviewed industries of Q4 2019, which demonstrates the importance of these verticals, whether in times of crisis or not.

Global product reviews per industry between July 2020 & January 2021

5 Product reviews per industry last six months

When looking at product reviews in the same period of time, the three categories which received the most reviews were home & garden, shopping & fashion and beauty & wellbeing.

Unsurprisingly, the home & garden industry received just over 509,000 product reviews, or 16.9% of all product reviews left in the same time frame. Shopping & fashion received about 492,000 product reviews, or 16.4% of all product reviews.

In July 2020, a Trustpilot and London Research study found that the coronavirus pandemic prompted a significant leap in spending in the health and beauty markets. 59% of US consumers and 55% of UK consumers said they were spending more on health and beauty products due to the coronavirus crisis. With so many consumers buying from the beauty & wellbeing industry, Trustpilot received over 388,000 product reviews in this sector, which equates to about 12.9% of all product reviews.

These were closely followed by electronics (≅227,000) and entertainment (≅180,000), which comes as no surprise given the current circumstances.

Most of these categories seemed to have a stable amount of product reviews throughout the summer and fall of 2020, and observed a spike around the holidays and after the Black Friday rush, in December 2020.

However, the three industries with the most product reviews – home & garden, shopping & fashion and beauty & wellbeing – all observed a much bigger dip in the late summer and early fall (August and September), and saw a much higher increase in product reviews than any of the other industries pictured, starting earlier – in October 2020, suggesting that consumers were less interested in doing their shopping online and leaving reviews in the peak of summer, when measures were eased in most countries.

3. The top reasons behind why consumers leave online reviews

The Trustpilot team also analyzed millions of 1 and 5-star reviews left between August and December 2020 in order to better understand the top reasons behind why consumers leave online reviews on our platform. Here’s what we’ve observed.

A. The one reason consumers recommended a business to others in 2020

We found that one of the most mentioned keywords in 5-star reviews was “delivery”, appearing in over 1.3 million of reviews, a whopping 17% of all 5-star reviews, between August and December 2020.

Another common word in 5-star reviews was “customer service”, with just over 500,000 mentions in the same six-month period.

“Shipping” came last, with just under 160,000 mentions, a mere 2% of all 5-star reviews left during the same timeframe.

This review data confirms that in times of crisis, customer service is one of the best assets a business can have to combat uncertainty, build trust and improve customer satisfaction.

Companies which were able to continue delivering their products quickly and efficiently, whilst still offering great customer service were clearly the brands that truly stood out in the eyes of consumers in the midst of this pandemic.

B. The one reason consumers decided to take their business elsewhere in 2020

When analyzing 1-star reviews left between August and December 2020, we observed that one of the top reasons why consumers left bad reviews was “customer service”, with over 210,000 mentions in just six months, or about 18% of all 1-star reviews in that period of time.

“Delivery” was also one of the most repeated words in 1-star reviews with over 174,000 mentions, which represents approximately 14% of all 1-star reviews.

“Shipping” was, once again, the least-mentioned, with only 39,000 of 1-star reviews containing the keyword.

Looking back at this analysis, it is clear that bad customer service and delivery issues were two of the top reasons why consumers felt the need to leave a negative review and take their business elsewhere in the second half of 2020. Proof that every business should always strive to deliver great customer experiences and continuously invest in their customer service.

4. Businesses who respond to customer reviews have higher star ratings

Responding to reviews (and how you do so) can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction with your brand. We separated companies by industry and then by average star rating, to compare that with whether or not companies respond to their customer reviews.

6 TrustScore vs Number of responses to reviews

When we sort by the amount of reviews a company has replied to, you can see that the top domains have very high star ratings. This could suggest that being smart about responding to reviews (especially responding to negative reviews in the best ways for your brand) can be incredibly effective in achieving a high level of customer satisfaction.

Something else that this data points to is the sheer number of reviews for all of the top groups in here. Unprompted, reviewers typically only leave reviews if they have an emotional experience. Unfortunately, those can often be negative ones.

These companies have relatively high numbers of reviews, so chances are they’re asking for feedback from each and every customer that does business with them. Since these typically include many happy customers who simply didn’t think to leave reviews, this can balance out the reviews from negative customers in your overall star rating.

When we reverse the graph, it shows us the domains by industry and star rating with the lowest number of replies (with the exception of one domain). Here, we can mostly see two and three-star companies. While we do see a fair amount of companies that are responding to a good percentage of their reviews, they all have a low number of reviews in total.

7 Star rating reverse

This can also point to companies who are not actively collecting reviews, but letting reviewers come to them. It’s likely that most of the customers leaving them reviews are the ones unhappy enough to search out their profile pages and leave reviews.

The biggest takeaways here are that businesses should have strategies in place around actively collecting customer feedback and responding to all reviews. If you don’t have a plan for either of these two things, your online reputation could be at risk.

Trends to look out for in 2021

In 2020, businesses have had to adapt to a new reality: consumer purchasing behaviors changed drastically, leaving brands with the challenge of keeping their head above water whilst trying not to be too intrusive or pushy in their customers’ eyes.

In these times of uncertainty, consumers have also been turning to their peers a lot more than usual and looking for third-party validation more than ever before when making purchasing decisions online. Naturally, this has majorly affected the amount of reviews read and written on platforms like Trustpilot.com in the last couple of months.

It’s safe to say customer reviews have become such an invaluable tool, both for consumers and businesses. Today’s consumers want to engage with more human brands, brands who put their customers at the heart of everything they do. Consumer trust is truly one of the most important things a business can build to cope during difficult times.

So what can we expect in 2021?

We asked Gavin Laugenie, Head Of Strategy & Insight at dotdigital, for some of his 2021 predictions:

“It’s always tricky predicting or anticipating trends because change is inevitable. 2020 highlighted that fact more than ever. It was all about how we adapted to the obstacles in our paths. Which is why I say, 2021 is the year of adaptability. Your marketing needs to mirror the same agility you and your team display. That means having powerful data-crunching AI to segment and serve up accurate data to deliver targeted messages to your audience on the channels that will make the most significant impact at any given time. Email remains king, but as consumer behavior continues to change regularly, complementing email with live chat, SMS push etc. will help deliver the contextual messages your customers demand. The inbox is more crowded than ever, so your content needs to be empathetic, thought-provoking and not solely conversion driven. Spice up your creative; show some flare, be interactive, sow the seed of intrigue. But above all, have faith in your tech and be ready to rip up plans and pivot when circumstances inevitably change, and you require a new strategy.”

So what kind of changes can businesses prepare for this year? And how can reviews continue to be such a huge part of the consumer journey when the pandemic comes to an end and shops start to reopen?

Well, after over a year of non-stop online shopping, it’s clear consumers are in need of more human contact and interactions than ever before.

In the last few months, we’ve seen brands organise virtual events, and offer virtual try-ons (brands like Fenty, Lancôme or IKEA already offer this technology to consumers) in an attempt to offer more real-life experiences to their customers.

But consumers’ growing desire to shop from smaller businesses and purpose-driven brands could also mean that brick and mortar shops will be making a comeback when life resumes.

As reviews become more and more important, it’s safe to say that businesses should continue to innovate, adopt new technologies, create new content (e.g. product videos) and continue to offer great customer service in order to keep consumers both happy and engaged online. And when traditional shopping outlets reopen and consumer behaviors adjust once again, continuing to capture and learn from customer reviews should still be a priority for all businesses, both online and offline.

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of trust and third-party validation in times of crisis, check out the article below:

This article was co-written by Flora Frichou & Joseph Russell


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