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The Positive Side of Negative Reviews

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Imagine you buy a new piece of luggage for an upcoming vacation. While you’re on vacation, one of the wheels falls off. You come home from your trip and write a 1 star review for the luggage. A few weeks later, you get a letter in the mail from the luggage brand telling you to take down your review or pay a steep penalty fee.

Sound unbelievable? It’s not. Today, some businesses are using non-disparagement clauses — also known as gag clauses — to prohibit customers from criticizing their company, notably, in the form of negative online reviews.

However, there’s currently a bill in process that would put an end to these bogus gag clauses. Known as the Consumer Review Freedom Act, the bill was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last month, and it’s now on its way to the full Senate floor. If the bill passes, companies will no longer be allowed to prohibit their customers from writing negative reviews.

Receiving a negative review can certainly be disappointing. But the Consumer Review Freedom Act is a good reminder that it’s never a best practice to try to silence negative reviews. In fact, displaying all reviews — both negative and positive — helps you earn the trust of consumers. And trust is what drives sales and loyalty.

Negative Reviews Earn Trust
PowerReviews research found that 86% of consumers say reviews are an essential resource when making purchase decisions. Why do consumers turn to reviews? Because of their authenticity. When a customer is researching a product, there’s nothing quite like hearing directly from another customer who has purchased the same product. 

Your knee jerk reaction may be to delete negative reviews. But don’t do it. Our new Centennial Shopper Survey found that 44% of Centennials (age 13-18) would not trust product reviews that included no negative reviews. And 60% read negative reviews first. By displaying negative reviews, you’re showing consumers that your brand has nothing to hide.

Negative Reviews Help Consumers Make Smart Purchase Decisions
Today’s consumers want all the information they can get about a product before making a purchase, and that includes negative reviews. In fact, 82% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews. In addition to establishing trust and authenticity, negative reviews also help consumers determine whether or not a product is the right fit for them. Consumers will see the negative reviews, determine whether the setbacks are important to then, and make a more informed decision. Sometimes, a negative review can even lead to another consumer’s buying decision, as one person’s negative is a positive for someone else.

Negative Reviews Drive Sales
Yes, you read that right. It might seem obvious that consumers are more likely to buy products with higher ratings. And that’s true…to a point. Consumers are more likely to buy a product with a 4 star rating than one with a 3 star rating. However, we recently partnered with Northwestern University and found that a perfect 5.0 star rating isn’t the most desirable. Instead, a consumer is most likely to purchase a product when its average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Why? Because a perfect 5.0 rating is seen as too good to be true. An average star rating of 4.2-4.5 stars, however, is seen as more transparent and balanced.

Negative Reviews Drive Improvement and Innovation
Negative reviews can help you improve your business. How? By shedding light on opportunities for your business to better serve its customers.

For example, a PowerReviews customer had a watch on their eCommerce site with an average rating of 2.7 stars. The company took a closer look at their reviews and found that many customers commented that the clasp of the watch loosened after wearing it just a few times. The company worked with their manufacturer to improve the clasp, and the new version of the watch has an average rating of 4.3 stars. Without reviews (especially the negative ones), this company may not have identified that the clasp was causing issues.

Rather than trying to silence negative reviews, start embracing them. Negative reviews are an important way for both consumers and brands to listen and learn.

Post a Comment

  1. Jeff Toister Reply

    I’m very curious to learn how the likelihood to purchase was calculated in the Northwestern University study. Can you share this information? It’s not discussed in the report (which I downloaded).

Theresa O’Neil

Theresa is the SVP of Marketing for PowerReviews. She is responsible for building and leading the PowerReviews marketing team in the development and execution of programs that increase awareness of the PowerReviews brand and technology, generate leads and support direct and indirect channels to grow revenue and profitability. Theresa brings more than 20 years of… Read more »