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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : February 04, 2009

What reaction do consumers have to negative reviews?

It's clear from previous research that consumers rely heavily on customer ratings and reviews when making purchase decisions. But, do you know how your site visitors react to reading negative feedback or what they will do next, and do professionally-written reviews hold more weight?

by Helen Leggatt

Nielsen Online found the number of people that use consumer reviews in their purchase decisions to be 81%, a huge percentage that demonstrates their usefulness and importance for both retailers and shoppers alike.

So, consumers use reviews and act on them, but how do they react to negative content? Lightspeed Research's study in September, 2008, found that two-thirds of consumers will tolerate three negative reviews before deciding against a product or service.

More recently, Forrester Research's recently released report called 'Myths and Truths About Online Customer Reviews' asked consumers how they would react after reading negative customer ratings and reviews on a retailer's site.

Their findings were as follows:

- 47% search for an alternative product

- 37% read professional/editor-written reviews of the product

- 26% continue to shop for the product regardless of the negative ratings/reviews

- 18% look for a retailer/manufacturer that offers a money-back guarantee

- 7% contact the retailer for clarification of the issues raised in the negative review

- 7% contact the manufacturer for clarification of the issues raised in the negative review

- 6% post a follow-up question for the author of the negative review

Of particular interest is that 37% turn to professional/editor-written reviews after reading a negative entry. This seems to infer that contextual information, such as a reviewer's credentials and reputation, are taken into consideration when reading reviews. Consumers want to hear from somebody they perceive, for whatever reason, has inside knowledge, is reliable or has a professionally-trained eye.

Retailers should consider making professionally-written reviews easy to find, while expounding the expertise of the reviewer or building a team of reviewers who can become relied upon to produce unbiased and honest reviews. These people need not be industry pundits. Highly-engaged customers, who have already built up a reputation for their commitment and consistency in reviewing products, could also have their input highlighted, perhaps in the form of 'sticky content' which doesn't become invisible in a sea of reviews.

Research by Springer in March, 2008, also found that a reviewer's reputation gave added weight to opinion expressed in a review. "When consumers read online reviews, they pay attention not only to review scores but to other contextual information such as a reviewer's reputation and reviewer exposure. The market responds more favorably to reviews written by reviewers with better reputation and higher exposure," said the report.

Of course, online retailers must also take care not to doctor their negative responses or encourage wholly positive responses as this will backfire, won't it Belkin?

Tags: Belkin, consumer reviews, customer reviews, Forrester Research, negative reviews, ratings, reviewer

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