Monday, September 29, 2008

Negative Online Reviews and Trust

Here’s a real mind boggler about online customer reviews:

Bazaarvoice has served over 10 billion peer reviews to date, and the majority of them are 4.5 out of five stars. Even more surprising, a negative review converts more effectively into a sale than a positive review.

According to the author of the post – called Selling 2.0 – Let the Customer Do the Communicating from Six Pixels of Separation – the answer to why negative reviews convert into sales has do to with one thing: trust.

I agree with him. If I’m browsing a website and I see a negative review allowed on the site, I know that the positive reviews are probably authentic. And there are usually a lot more positive reviews than negative ones. Obviously if a product page was filled with negative reviews I’d have second thoughts, but that’s pretty rare.

It also indicates faith in their product from the seller. By opening things up to consumers such that they can say whatever they want, the seller shows off a great deal of genuine confidence that customers will like what they’re selling.

Devil’s Advocate

On the flip side, there are some sites where reviews have become virtually meaningless. On Amazon, for example, I ignore the average rating. They’re all 4 and a bit out of 5. What’s the point?

I often browse the reviews anyway because occasionally a reviewer will go very in-depth on the book (or DVD, or whatever), giving me a better understanding of what it is I’m getting. The average rating is pretty useless, to me, but the written reviews can be extremely helpful.

In fact, I’m surprised most products don’t go more in-depth in the product summaries. Want me to click “Back” on your Amazon product page? It’s easy – provide a summary that tells me nothing about what I’m buying. Don’t outline any benefits. Ramble off a list of books the author has written that I (along with the average Amazon-user) have never heard of.

What's the Point?

Opening up your e-commerce website to online customer reviews is, in this day and age, pretty much necessary. Today’s web users care about what others are saying about your product.

If you have a web store – open things up to reviews. And if you have to, ask for them.

At the very least, have the customers shoot you a quick email telling you their thoughts on their experience with your company and your products. Ask them to go into as much detail as they want. Worst case scenario is that you get some negative feedback and some great ideas on how to improve.