Product reviews have a direct implication on product purchases as they tend to shape customer behaviour. The importance of a review and how often customers rely on it varies depending on what you sell but on the whole, nearly 90% of people first consider what their peers have to say about a business before deciding to further the interaction. Reviews are, therefore, a major driver of the commerce that takes place across the globe daily.
Impact of Customer Reviews
The 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey found that negative reviews convinced 94% of consumers surveyed to avoid a particular business. Customers stand to benefit the most by getting feedback from their peers who have already used a particular product or service. A person who is looking to buy a product has access to information from people across the globe who have purchased the product previously and used the concerned brand in the past. Business owners should pay a great deal of attention to the feedback received and scrutinize reviews to understand consumer needs. People frequently express their sympathy leaving positive feedback or leave a hint to what would make them buy again.
More surprisingly, 85% of consumers in the BrightLocal survey trusted online reviews as much as they did recommendations from friends and family, which suggests that online reviews now hold nearly as much sway as personal referrals. Reviews hold so much eminence that we have highly valued websites that serve as a platform to host industry-specific inputs. Some big labels in that area comprise of Yelp, Facebook, Foursquare, G2 and Yellow Pages. Reviews have a remarkable impact on purchase decisions but the degree of impact depends on a number of factors being the type of rating, source of the review, nature of review content, number of reviews, review exposure, characteristics of the reviewer, and the price of the product.
The different platforms that house these reviews, such as blogs, tweets, forums, and chats are collectively addressed as electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM). These include the most commonly used sources of information that customers rely on before making a purchase decision. Online platforms often provide consumer reviews in two formats. One, the average ratings giving an overview of the generally perceived quality of the product and the other, single subjective reviews that contain personal narratives of experiences made with a specific product. A recent consumer survey indicated that customers regard average ratings as most important. Even though both types, statistical and narrative information, seem equally persuasive, it has been reported that albeit average ratings are considered significant, single vivid narratives overrode average ratings. The question of how strongly single reviews influence behaviour is particularly important because people often only read a small number of reviews before making a decision, focusing on the latest review by default. Average ratings of a product, however, may lose their influence on decisions if they are inconsistent with a well-written, single review.
The Tone of Review
The most important features of influence are the valence and the volume of reviews. In general, as expected, more positive reviews increase sales and brand health, whereas negative reviews reduce them. Furthermore, some research indicates that negative reviews exert a stronger influence than positive ones suggesting that single negative reviews may carry more weight than many positive ones. Although positive and negative reviews can steer consumer behaviour, they differ in their impact. Negative reviews have the strongest effect on brand perception, suggesting that negative reviews may carry more weight than positive reviews — a finding that resonates with research in further areas of communication. Furthermore, it is suggested that consumers may not weigh negative reviews more strongly per se, but perceive them as more informative because they often tend to be rarer and of higher quality. Sometimes, readers are skeptical of reviews that are too positive or consider it ‘too good to be true’, and hence, in many cases, a negative online review is viewed as more credible. It is believed that the listing of negative reviews brings authenticity to a site’s content.
But all the nice things aside, negative reviews can be damaging to the prestige, profitability, and trustworthiness of a business. In the unfortunate case that these negative reviews pop up on Google searches, the businesses can potentially lose around 70% of their future customers. Keeping all the above consequences in mind, it is key to address these negative aspects to drive the conversion rate upwards.
Customer Review Use-Cases
Businesses can incorporate valuable customer feedback in ways that can work wonders in building trust, a win-win for both the consumer and the company.
1. Using reviews on key pages
Build consumer trust and esteem by showcasing experiences from the current customers on key pages such as the homepage, landing page, or the checkout page. Reviews give consumers the encouragement they need to complete a purchase.
2. Using reviews in search ads
Search engines also rank websites based on scale ratings. The stars beneath the page results reflect useful feedback to search users and tend to pull the user towards the webpage. Good ratings hence improve visibility on search engines.
3. Using your customer’s voices on social channels
Having your existing customers engage with your prospects can work wonders for business as testimonials from them can be of utmost validation. And the right place to unobtrusively show that a business is trustworthy and increase plausibility is via the social media platform.
4. Using reviews in emails
It has been proven that marketers recognize email as the most effective channel of marketing owing to its high ROI. Highlighting customer feedback in email messages allows readers to set the right expectations, building credibility off-site, and also improving click-through rates.
5. Using reviews in ads and marketing material
Ratings, reviews, and testimonials on advertising material aid the business in promoting themself by radiating experiences from satisfied customers. Research has shown that ads with user-generated content get more engagement and higher click-through rates than those without.
With the advent of big data in this day and age, businesses are now equipped to analyze customer reviews for business intelligence. Reviews collected from different sources, gathered from across platforms, available in various formats, structured or unstructured, requires proper attention and wrangling. With the right combination of people, processes, and tools, customer data can be harvested to obtain valuable insights. Feelings expressed by customers in their reviews are key and calls for sentiment analysis and automated natural language processing (NLP). In an attempt to explore the review language, one gets to comprehend how their users talk about, describe, comment, and criticize their products or services. NLP and AI can help in review moderation by identifying abusive language and detecting fraudulent reviews. Scraping data to fetch the demographic identity of the reviewer’s profile might help to picture the customer base that needs customer care. Python and its AI ecosystem single-handedly offer great libraries for text classification such as gensim, NLTK, CoreNLP, or spaCy. The text analytics-based approach helps in gaining valuable insights from what may be a praise or a complaint.
Numerous studies have shown that consumer ratings and reviews impact people’s purchasing behaviour and intentions, as well as attitude towards products and cognizance of the retailer on the whole. The reason why reviews are crucial is the fact that they help boost customer loyalty towards a brand. A person who takes the time to leave a positive review in a forum about a particular brand is likely to come back for more business should the need arise. In order to maintain a positive image that drives sales and brings revenue, a business needs to make sure that its products and services are beyond reproach. These observations have powerful implications for most brands and their suppliers as they are now constantly indulged in ruminating about how to collect, manage and promote online reviews of the products and services that they have to offer in their line of business. It is truly astonishing how consumer opinion and customer reviews have become a vibrant industry in itself.