The emergence of an 'opinion economy' has spurred a seismic shift in the impact of online reviews on Australians, sounding a warning for businesses in today's digital age.
A Bankwest survey of Australia's largest population hubs – NSW and VIC – found online reviews were dictating more than ever where young people were choosing to spend their money.
The shift was most evident around accommodation reviews, with half of all Gen Y respondents relying heavily on the opinions of others when booking Airbnb (53.2%) and hotel (52.1%) stays.
That majority was in stark contrast to Gen X (35.5%, 33.5%) and Baby Boomers (38.4%, 25.9%), whose spending decisions were far less influenced by online reviews.
The data also showed young Australians' reliance on digital reviews was on the rise, with a third having increased their use of opinions on apps (31.6%), Facebook (31.6%) and Google (37.4%).
The findings highlighted the extent to which the opinion economy had become a driving force behind the real economy, influencing decisions around where young Australians spent cash.
Bankwest Executive General Manager, Customer Solutions & Insights Pieter Vorster said: "When we think about digital disruption, we generally think about the likes of Spotify and Uber.
"This research shines a light on how our behaviours are influenced in today's digital age, which has made the opinions and judgements of others far more prevalent, accessible and influential.
"We can all relate to the temptation of checking our smart phone to have a quick look at the reviews and ratings of others when we're planning to spend some of our hard-earned money.
"The opinions of people we don't know, who we might never meet, are now having an increasingly significant impact on how and where we spend, thanks to new technologies.
"This has ramifications for all organisations, but as a banking business, the opinions of our customers and how strongly they recommend and rate us is increasingly important.
"This shift in expectation from service to experience requires all businesses to listen more than ever to customers, to better understand their pain-points and needs in order to address them."