As you might imagine one of the top questions we get from prospects, especially branded manufacturers is, “What about negative reviews?”.
We’ve covered the topic on this blog and elsewhere. Over a year ago we discovered the Ratings J-Curve across our clients which still holds true today: 80% of reviews are positive. One of our first branded manufacturers, Burpee, commented that negative reviews actually help conversion. And I’ve written an article explaining other benefits of negative reviews in iMedia.
The topic came up again in a great article from Joan Voight in adweek, titled “Negative Reviews are Really Positive”. The article reports several of our branded clients carrying reviews:
The surveys come as many brands are joining Amazon.com and review sites such as yelp.com, tripadvisor.com and consumersearch.com in offering reviews on their web sites. In May, Toshiba joined Dell and Hewlett Packard in offering online reviews “to enhance the buying experience.” Levi’s will join Fair Indigo and EMS in the apparel space, offering customer reviews by the close of 2007.
Bill Blass, formerly of Sears and Lands’ End wisely explains:
“If all reviews are good, customers question if the ratings are legitimate,” Bill Bass, CEO of Fair Indigo, told Adweek. “Not only will people ignore the reviews, but it will hurt their trust in the brand. It would be better to have no reviews at all.”
And John Lazarchik of PETCO has predicted:
“In two years customer reviews on branded sites will be more common,” said John Lazarchic, Petco’s vice president of e-commerce. “A few years after that if shoppers don’t find reviews on a site, they’ll just go shop somewhere else.”
There were interesting and useful comments on the article in Retail Wire. Here are some of the highlights:
Consumers have a significant appreciation for the reviews because right or wrong, consumers tend to trust other consumers, more than they trust the advertised message. Advice to retailers and product manufacturers:
o Don’t fight it. Reviews are a major factor in e-commerce. You will need to deal with it.
o Resist the temptation to write a review “from the company” because more times than not it comes across defensive and corporate.
o Read the reviews carefully and consider what criticisms are worthy, and take it to heart. Act accordingly. The online review process isn’t scientific but in many ways, you are benefiting from a free focus group.
o Don’t act defensively if a review knocks your product. The review might be real, or it might have been submitted by one of your haters or competitors. Let the review process take care of itself. In the end, if your product is attacked unfairly, others will come to your rescue. It happens almost all the time.
Having customer reviews or feedback on site is just plain common sense. In some of the focus groups I have held, I found that most online shoppers have done their research before making the purchase and, therefore, if they can’t find reviews of products on the store’s site, they will go elsewhere for information. The biggest concern for online retailers is keeping customers on their site until the purchase is complete. Having reviews and feedback ensures the customer stays within that particular website…
Doron Levy, president, Captus Business Consulting
Frank is right–companies need to listen to negative comments by customers. If customers are unhappy about something; especially if it appears to be widespread, then you know exactly what needs to be changed about your product to make it more attractive to customers. Research on persuasion indicates that people are more persuaded by by arguments if positive and negative points are presented. Word of mouth has always been an important part of customer decision making. Having customers post reviews is another form of word of mouth marketing. Ignoring what customers have to say about your products or trying to manipulate what customers say would be a dangerous move.
Regarding response to negative internet feedback, I think the retailer needs to respond as professionally as possible, speaking candidly and respectfully to those who criticize. It is also a great opportunity to learn; find were there is a misunderstanding of the intent or use of products and services, or gain an greater view of how the site (retailer) is doing a dis-service to the customer. I will admit that feedback is more available from online sources as the internet offer a great deal of anonymity.
In short, we don’t expect this question to go away, however I think over our nearly two years of experience serving reviews for retailers and branded manufacturers the evidence is overwhelming to suggest that negative reviews should not be feared.