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How negative reviews benefit your online sales

February 23, 2017 4:25 pm | Written by: Jeroen Den Bok
How negative reviews benefit your online sales

Are you thinking of activating an online review campaign to boost your online sales? Then you’re probably nervous as a pig in a bacon factory. You’re wondering: “Will they give me a standing ovation or will they write negative reviews?”

Believe me, you’re not the first to wonder if online reviews can hurt your reputation. It’s scary, yes. Unlike traditional advertising, there are no guarantees about the outcome of your investment. But don’t worry, there’s a positive side to negative reviews. And the other way around. Here’s why:

Too many 5-stars reviews raises the eyebrow

Remember when you searched online to buy a camera and you stumbled upon a five-star product? Did you read only the positive reviews, or did you go looking for negative reviews too? I know I did the latter. And research from PowerReviews confirms that many others do too (82%). Apparently, consumers who see only 5-star reviews become suspicious. Instead, they prefer to see more moderate reviews and even negative reviews. And they have several reasons for it:

1) Consumers want to hear both sides of the story

Scientific research shows, when consumers rate a product on a five-point scale, a mean rating of three may indicate a variance in reviewers, suggesting that both positive and negative product attributes are discussed. This builds credibility and reduces reporting bias.

2) Extreme ratings are perceived as lower quality

Online reviews are often posted by either extremely satisfied or extremely disappointed customers, which may diminish their usefulness. In addition, positive reviews are more prominent, which (1) causes a contrast effect with negative reviews, enhancing consumers attention to negative reviews, and (2) may be responsible for the fact that consumers seek out negative reviews to get assurance the company is not hiding anything.

3) Extremely positive online reviews could be dishonest and biased   

Very positive online reviews may be seen as not reliable because of consumers’ intentions. Some people just love to present themselves online as an expert. Finally, consumers also know that firms could alter or remove reviews, or stimulate positive reviews by incentivizing the writers.

What’s so interesting about this, is that everyone expects that high ratings lead to better sales results. But surprisingly, that relationship is nonlinear. Having some 5-star reviews is great, but only as long as there are also some moderate ones or even negative reviews.

By now, I know what you’re thinking: “So what is the tipping point?” That’s a fair question that I’ll answer in the next article on When do online reviews start looking as too good to be true?

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