These days, everyone’s a critic! And research suggests we’re more likely to give credence to negative reviews than positive ones. (Tweet it!) But just how credible are those one-star slams?
Online buyers, trip planners, moviegoers…we all use online reviews to help us choose. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that 82 percent of American adults say they sometimes or always read online reviews for new purchases. But while more than two-thirds of regular review readers believe they’re “generally accurate,” marketing data indicate that negative reviews in particular dramatically influence our buying behaviors. And research on the biases and demographics of online reviewers suggests our faith in reviews is misguided.
Consumers, wary of “fake” 5-star reviews, value negative ones as a “window into what could go wrong,” writes Caroline Beaton in The New York Times. But the credibility of all reviews — even real ones — is questionable. A 2016 study published in The Journal of Consumer Research looked at whether online reviews reflected objective quality as rated by Consumer Reports. The researchers found very little correlation. Reviews are subjective, circumstantial, emotional and written by a tiny subset of the population (1.5 percent).
Reviews can be helpful, of course, but it's wisest to look at those closest to the median. Also pay heed to facts rather than impressions. Finally, look for thorough reviews whose authors seem driven by a genuine desire to help.
Have you ever written a negative review—and under what circumstances? Do you tend to read and heed negative reviews over positive ones? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
If you would like to read more about creating a habit around masterful communication, check out our book: Be Quiet, Be Heard: The Paradox of Persuasion
7/24/2018 04:28:41 pm
Although my husband always checks online reviews, I rarely do and for just the reasons you suggest. I'll look for comparisons between products, when they are from what, I hope, are independant groups. I'll also read a menu or check how busy a restaurant seems to be by checking it out on a different day. But it would really be nice if one could really trust online reviews...
7/26/2018 12:08:54 pm
Yes, it would be nice if we could trust online reviews and yet, based on the data, we have become increasingly wary. What to do? We tend to put more weight in average (numerical) responses rather than specific comments. There certainly is no exact science in this realm but some data is better than flying blind.Thanks for sharing your insights with our community, Bobbi.
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