I frequently shop online. And yes, I’m an Amazon Prime customer. While some people may say that I am in the clutches of the giant, it works for me. I love the convenience, the wide array of products, fast shipping and other benefits. I rarely return items and attribute much of my shopping success to careful scrutiny of customer reviews. So, when I came across an article in the New York Times regarding the inability to trust negative online reviews, it caught my attention.
What I learned is that negative customer reviews greatly influence our buying decisions, more so than positive reviews. That made sense to me. There have been times when I changed my mind about a purchase based on negative feedback. However, the interesting part is that research has found that online reviews in general are not necessarily trustworthy. The personal biases and demographic profiles of online reviewers make them less credible or useful to the average person. On top of that, reviews are subjective and we may misinterpret the comments.
There are reasons why we place more value on negative reviews:
- Positive reviews outnumber negative reviews. Therefore, we add more weight and importance to the negative reviews and pay more attention to them.
- Negative reviews tend to make consumers think about scenarios where things could go wrong and we don’t want to risk a bad outcome.
- The awareness of “fake” reviews has made people more skeptical of glowing reviews or top ratings and we place more trust in negative reviews.
Well, that certainly gave me something to think about. Maybe I will put that selfie lighted phone case back into my shopping cart (not for me, of course). But, the marketer in me wanted to dig a little deeper. Who doesn’t love some good marketing psychology?
There was no shortage of information on the subject of online reviews. That seems logical when accounting for the fact that 82% of Americans say they sometimes or always read online reviews before buying. The majority of people trust online reviews and reviews will impact almost 68% of purchasing decisions. Negative reviews are particularly damaging to small businesses:
- 22% of consumers will not buy after reading one negative review. After three negative reviews, that number increases to 59%.
- Four or more negative reviews about a company or product may take away 70% of potential customers.
- 86% of people will hesitate to buy from a business that has negative online reviews.
- On average, one negative review will cost you 30 customers.
- Negative reviews in Google search results can cause you to lose 70% of potential customers.
If you are a B2B or B2C marketer, take note of the importance of addressing negative reviews quickly and also of encouraging good customers to leave positive reviews.
So, what are we as the consumer to do when we see an online review? Ignore them? No. But, we can be smarter about how we read them. Here are 5 tips:
- Toss out the most extreme reviews. People are more likely to write reviews if they have strong feelings about something.
- Look at reviews that are closer to the median. A three-star review tends to be more moderate, detailed and honest.
- Ask yourself if the reviewer is like you. People have different tastes, body shapes, intended product use etc.
- Pay attention to specific details and facts rather than general impressions and ratings as people have different rating standards.
- Focus on more thorough reviews as they can be easier to distinguish from paid reviews.
Happy online shopping all!