The positive power of negative reviews
A study from Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center in partnership with PowerReviews finds that negative reviews have a positive impact on brands because they help establish trust and authenticity.
The analysis across 40 product categories found that the number of stars in a review has little effect on purchase when the rating is between one and about three stars. When the star rating surpasses three, the higher the review, the more likely the purchase. But the likelihood of purchase peaked with an average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5 and lessened closer to a five star rating.
The Northwestern team believes consumers perceive ratings close to a perfect 5.0 as “too good to be true.” In fact, many five star reviews are ignored because they are assumed to be fake.
“Consumers understand that a product can’t be all things to all people, and they appreciate negative reviews as an important element in their decision-making process,” wrote the researchers in the study.
The study also notes that previous PowerReviews research found that 82 percent of shoppers specifically seek out negative reviews. Reviews in general were found to be important in alleviating price or safety concerns as well as in gaining trust in a new brand or product.
Writing for TechCrunch, Tom Collinger, executive director of Northwestern’s Spiegel Research Center, suggested brands test and offer review options, such as offering highest to lowest ratings as well as “most helpful” reviews, to provide a more personalized experience. He added that, in moderation, negative sentiments in reviews can have a “dramatic” positive impact on purchases in some categories.
He wrote, “The consumer is expecting the brands they choose to not just offer a great product, but to listen, respond and, per our research, stay authentic.”
- Northwestern Study: From Reviews to Revenue – PowerReviews
- You Don’t Want A 5-Star Review – TechCrunch
What insights does the Northwestern University study offer into the influence of negative reviews on the purchase decision? What tips around handling reviews would you add to those offered in the article?