The Role of Negative Reviews in the Purchase Journey

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A business’ aim is to create products and experiences that consumers love. But even the best product can’t be all things to all people. And consumers don’t trust products that claim to be.

As it turns out, perfect reviews aren’t the best for businesses, either. Our research with Northwestern University found that purchase probability peaks when a product’s average star rating is between 4.2-4.5, because a perfect 5-star rating is perceived by consumers as too good to be true.

While a business never wants to aim for negative reviews, their presence adds a level of authenticity to review content, which helps the company build trust with consumers. Plus, as we’ve found, consumers depend on negative reviews to help steer them toward the products that best fit their needs.

A Growing Number of Consumers Seek Out Negative Reviews

Earlier this year, PowerReviews surveyed more than 1,000 American consumers to understand how shopper dependence on reviews has changed over the past few years. As part of this research, we wanted to explore the role of negative reviews in the path to purchase.

One key finding? 85% of shoppers seek out negative reviews, up from 82% in 2014. Notably, this number jumps to 91% among consumers age 18-29. This points to the growing demand for transparency, especially among younger consumers.

Though it may be tempting to delete negative reviews, resist the urge. Negative reviews build trust, and consumers are actively seeking out this content to help them make informed purchase decisions. And remember–what’s considered to be a negative aspect of a product for one consumer may be completely irrelevant for another. For example, if a consumer indicates that a type of shampoo doesn’t work well for people with curly hair, that comment will be deemed irrelevant for a consumer with straight hair.

Start Embracing Negative Reviews

Negative reviews are an important part of the purchase journey. In addition to helping consumers make smart purchase decisions, negative reviews help brands and retailers build trust with shoppers. Read on to get four practical tips for leveraging negative reviews to improve your business

1. Display Reviews, Regardless of Star-Rating

Of course, no business should aim for negative reviews. But displaying this content adds a level of authenticity to your product pages and helps you build trust with shoppers. In fact, research has found that 44% of Centennial shoppers won’t trust a product’s reviews if there are no negative reviews present. So be sure you’re displaying all reviews (after they’ve been moderated for things like fraud and foul language, of course), regardless of star-rating.

2. Get Alerted

Negative reviews are brimming with insights that can help you improve your products and services. But you likely don’t have the time required to constantly monitor each and every review for your entire catalog of products. Ask your ratings and reviews partner if they allow you to receive an automated alert when a review is submitted that’s below a certain star rating — or if it includes specific negative keywords. That way, you can more easily identify trends in negative reviews and determine the best course of action.

3. Share Negative Feedback With Your Teams

Once you identify trends in the negative reviews written for a specific product, be sure you share that feedback with the appropriate teams. For example, Soft Surroundings, a PowerReviews customer, makes and designs all of their apparel in-house and depends on reviews to improve their products. So when they notice trends in negative reviews, they share that feedback with their internal teams to make product changes.

“When we get feedback, it goes directly to our technical design team. The quicker we get feedback, the quicker we can resolve issues,” said Gail Buffington, eCommerce Manager at Soft Surroundings.

4. Respond To Negative Reviews

There’s certainly no need to respond to every review that’s written about your products. But sometimes, it makes sense to respond to a review — especially if it’s a negative one. By responding to a negative review, you’re showing the review writer (as well as future shoppers) that you care about their feedback. When responding to reviews, empathize with the customer’s frustration and let them know you value their input. And if you’re doing anything to improve the product, be sure to mention it.

Learn More

Want to learn more about how consumers are using ratings and reviews — both positive and negative — to make purchase decisions? Download our latest research report.

Want additional best practices for handling negative reviews? Check out our Complete Guide to Handling Negative Reviews

Ready to see how PowerReviews helps businesses like yours drive traffic, conversion and sales with ratings and reviews? Contact us to schedule a demo today.


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