The vast majority of consumers shop online, and an overwhelming number of these look for reviews of the product or service for which they are shopping. Unfortunately, only about 1.5 percent of people that buy a product will leave a public comment. And of these reviews, those that list negative information get the most attention.
The Problem With Negativity
The main reason that people “listen” to negative feedback is that it stands out. There are fewer bad reviews than good ones, and those with a single star draw the eye in more than those with five. This disparity is glaringly obvious on Amazon, where less than 5 percent of verified buyers rated a product with one star; 59 percent were glowing reviews.
Another issue with unflattering feedback is that reviews are written based on a single person’s subjective experience with a product. Even the most universally-loved literature has a few critics. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, long considered one of the finest works of the written word, has less-than-flattering feedback, with one reviewer calling it “boring.” The famous Great Wall of China, an engineering feat unlike any other, gets its own set of complaints. A few sour visitors have taken to the internet to complain about the more-than-600-year-old historic structure’s lack of USB charging ports.
Why We Take Them At Face Value
While positive and neutral reviews certainly have value, when we are shopping blindly online, we want to know what could go wrong. Will these pants shrink after one wash? How hard is this bed to put together? We are looking for a glimpse into potential worst-case scenarios.
Unfortunately, negative reviews don’t always reflect the tested and verified quality of a product. This is because most reviewers, even those that leave positive reviews, are not necessarily a representation of the average buyer. The small percentage of people that take the time to provide feedback online tend to have an advanced degree but are struggling financially. They are often married with children and look for things like shoes and clothing in off sizes. While these things are not true of every reviewer, the fact remains that after the bulk of buyers checkout, they stay silent about their experience.
Despite the drawbacks, reviews are still considered helpful by most buyers, and more than eight out of 10 online shoppers actively look for reviews before making a purchasing decision. The savviest of shoppers have learned how to sort through reviews to find those that are objective and stick to the facts. This starts by skipping the best and the worst comments and scanning for details that matter to them.
A few tips on how to make the most of online reviews are to:
- Look for information that matters to you; ask yourself if the reviewer is using the product the same way you would;
- Skip over emotional rants; reviews filled with frowning emojis and capital letters throughout are likely written based on a single poor experience and probably have little substance;
- Search for longer writeups; the longer the review, the more likely it is to be objective;
- Avoid those written by “sockpuppet” accounts; these are faked profiles, and usually have few reviews, and each of their reviews may read as though they were written from a script.
The takeaway for consumers: don’t take everything at face value. While online reviews remain a useful tool for making a buying decision, not every review is an accurate representation of the product or service in question.
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