Forbes Consulting Group, Lexington, Mass., announced that holiday shoppers who read online reviews, and generally feel they were useful, are more likely to feel fulfilled about their overall purchase.

The study, which used the company’s proprietary applied neuroscience technology MindSight, demonstrates that online reviews impact the emotional experience shoppers obtain from their purchases. Sixty-nine percent of respondents stated that the more useful consumers find reviews in general, the more likely they are to use them for gift purchases, and 67 percent reported that they are more satisfied with their purchases if they find the reviews useful. 

“Online reviews help consumers feel a sense of confidence about the purchase,” said David Forbes, founder and chief executive officer of Forbes Consulting Group, in a statement. “They also feel more engaged and focused in the decision-making process. In turn, consumers derive a sense of mastery and success of having made a smart purchase based on the reviews.”

However, the study also found that not all sources of online reviews are seen as being equally useful. Consumers report they are more likely to find the reviews on reputable retailer websites like, Target’s and Walmart’s websites,  and review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. These sites were considered to be more valuable than others that are more anonymous, limited in the number of actual reviews, or potentially biased such, as those found on manufacturer websites.

Based on these findings, Forbes Consulting Group suggests that retailers can leverage these new insights through promotional messaging and outreach that help customers feel “in the zone” as a “skilled” shopper and highlight the peace of mind that comes with completing their holiday shopping.

In addition, retailers need to do more than just provide customers with product reviews, the market research firm says. It advises retailers to actively curate those reviews to make them as useful as possible so that potential consumers feel more confident, engaged and accomplished. For example, making it easy for consumers to tag the reviews they find helpful and then sort them by usefulness can help consumers feel more successful, Forbes Consulting Group says. Also, retailers can consider partnering with review websites to pull in additional relevant reviews while being wary of blogs and social media, as consumers generally tend to find those less reliable sources of reviews, it adds.

This study consisted of an online survey of more than 400 adults aged 18 or older who made a gift purchase of at least $50 in the past month. The survey was fielded between Nov. 13 and 18.