Consumer Psychology: Reading Online Reviews

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The Importance of Online Reviews

In our constantly-connected and increasingly-virtual world, online reviews have become a strong pillar upon which most of us make our decisions.

In 2013, 90% of customers said that their buying decisions were influenced by online reviews. We can only imagine this number has increased since then.

It’s no wonder, then, why most successful business owners spend a lot of time reading, answering and obsessing over online reviews.

Are negative reviews always a death sentence? Do the number of reviews matter as much or more than the rating?

In this article, we will discuss how consumers read, digest and use reviews to help them make decisions because, it turns out, this process isn’t clear cut. Yet another facet of Internet gray area, reviews say much more than what they actually say.

Understanding how consumers read reviews will help you navigate and respond to yours successfully, improving your brand identity and reputation while engaging and growing your target audience.

Reading Reviews: What are Your Customers Thinking?

The number of reviews matters just as much as the overall rating.

When it comes to reading reviews, there’s evidence to suggest that size matters. Take the following scenarios, for example. Which signifies a better product to you?

  1. A 4-star rating out of 160 reviews
  2. A 5-star rating out of 3 reviews

If you picked number one, you’re right. The first scenario is more likely to win the conversion, especially when backed by detailed customer accounts.

Sure, everyone is looking for the highest-rated products and services they can find, but the star system cannot hold its own. Consumers are more likely to trust a 3- or 4-star rating backed by 100 reviews than a perfect rating backed by only a handful.

The more reviews there are, the more shoppers feel they are getting an accurate picture of the product or service, increasing their confidence in buying or denying. This may be the one area of marketing where quantity can mean more than quality.

So, what does this mean for you, the business owner? You should encourage, encourage, encourage customer reviews.

Being careful not to coerce biased reviews through bribes or other unethical avenues, consider:

  • Offering a small coupon for customers that review products honestly.
  • Posting review sites’ stickers or signs up in your store.
  • Thanking reviewers that are extremely helpful, thoughtful and detailed.
  • Commenting back to every single negative review appropriately and quickly.

How you respond to negative reviews is important.

Negative reviews are not a death sentence. When handled correctly, they can actually help improve your reputation believe it or not.

In fact, consumers are so comfortable with negative reviews that they actually expect them to be there and are skeptical when they are not.

According to econsultancy.com’s blog,  “[Social commerce company Reevoo] found that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see anything negative at all.”

So don’t freak out about bad reviews. Handle them as best you can as quickly as you can and move on.

Looking for tips on how to respond to negative reviews? Check out our blog “Handle the Haters: 6 Tips to Turn Negative Reviews Into Positive Marketing.”

Consumers can detect BS reviews.

Everyone has a different level of tolerance. Some people may feel the need to leave a negative restaurant review because their food took a long time, leaving out important facts like it was the busiest night of the year, the computers went down and the server was apologetic and attentive.

Though you don’t want to get reviews like this, you can have a little faith in your audience that they can detect and disregard inaccurate or exaggeratory reviews.

Readers use tactics like:

  • Comparing the review to others.
  • Comparing it to their own experience with your company.
  • Looking for inappropriate or immature language.
  • Looking for your account of what happened.

This is why it is so important for you to answer politely to all negative reviews, thanking customers for their time and opinions, outlining the steps you took to appease the situation and sharing your side of the story if applicable.

Consumers are excellent researchers.

Consumers are extremely good at online research. Often, they do most of the “selling” themselves and approach you only once they’re ready to buy.

Though they trust reviews to help them get to this decision, they look at them as part of a whole, taking many other aspects into consideration when browsing.

The thing to remember is that you’re dealing with audience members that are adept at surfing the web and conducting detailed research. They’re good at weeding out inaccurate info about your products and services. The more reviews you have, the easier you make this for them.

It’s important for you to encourage reviews and respond to them accordingly…even the ones that you want to hide from.

Represent your company, products and services honestly. Consumers will see this transparency, appreciate it and take it into account when deciding whether to do business with you.

What do you take into consideration when reading reviews or researching a company that we haven’t shared here? Please share any tactics for handling and leaving reviews below.

 

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