9 Out of 10 Consumers Read Reviews
Don't think of online reviews as something extra for consumers, a small piece of the puzzle that they use when deciding what to buy. The truth is that they're far more important than that. They're a critical part of the process, with nine out of 10 consumers choosing to read reviews before they make a purchase. It's clear that they value the input of other shoppers and even, to a degree, allow those shoppers to make their decisions for them. Reviews are seen as a way to get an inside scoop so that one does not have to rely only on what the company says -- as companies are naturally biased toward their own products. Reviewers, in theory, are not.
Different Items See Different Interactions
One thing that is interesting is that the type of product being purchased impacts how often buyers look to reviews. Big-ticket items often get the most review traffic, which makes sense; people are going to do far more research when they're going to spend thousands of dollars on a new computer as opposed to 60 dollars on a new pair of shoes. Oddly, some studies have shown discrepancies in this data -- mattress buyers only use reviews about half of the time, for instance -- but it tends to hold true. When people are going to pull the trigger on a big purchase, they want to know what other buyers thought before they do.
Are Reviews Fair?
This raises the question of how fair the review process is. Are people more likely to leave a review after a negative experience? Say your company sells 100 units of a new product. A full 90% of the buyers love the product. However, since they expected to love them, most people just enjoy the product and neglect to leave a review. You get 10 positive reviews. The other 10 people who had a negative experience, though, are outraged by it. All 10 of them leave negative reviews. Based on the reviews alone, it now looks like people are split 50/50 on whether or not your product was worth it, though the reality is that 90% of buyers love it. This can skew the data significantly for future potential buyers. They believe they're getting an inside scoop and an accurate account, but they're not.
You may also have concerns about the competition. Are all of the reviews real? Are any of the reviewers biased? In a space where you compete directly, would the owner of a similar business leave false reviews or excessive negative feedback, seeking to damage your reputation, knowing that consumers trust those reviews? These types of things do happen, and they can pose a serious problem. You may know a review doesn't add up, but a buyer isn't going to dig into it. They may just take 10 seconds to look at the star rating, read a few lines and decide to look elsewhere.
In some cases, consumers themselves skew the reviews. We've all seen reviews clearly based on user error, such as someone complaining that a product was hard to assemble or that they didn't know how to use it. Negative reviews can also be based on inaccurate expectations. Maybe your confirmation email tells the consumer the product will take a week to process and a week to ship. The buyer misreads it as taking a week to arrive and is furious when it takes two weeks -- when, in reality, they should have known about it in advance and you did everything in your power to tell them.
Finally, reviewers don't always consider exactly what they're reviewing. For instance, someone may give a movie one star. This implies that the movie is poorly made. However, actually reading the review reveals that they loved the movie, but the packaging was damaged in the mail, so they gave it one star because they were unhappy about that. This can be massively misleading to other buyers who just look at the stars and not the text, and it's certainly unfair to the product, but reviewers are human and they're going to make these types of errors.
What This Means for You
There's a lot to consider when thinking about your own company and your own products. First and foremost, know that reviews are powerful and that they see frequent use. Don't ignore them. They make a difference.
Beyond that, consider what to do about false reviews and inaccuracies. While we will never write fake reviews here at Content Customs, we can help you with online reputation management and things of this nature. When your company is being negatively impacted by false information, we can help. We strive to make everything as accurate and transparent as possible, allowing customers to know exactly what they're buying and companies to get the reputations they deserve.