Have you ever bought a product based on passionate reviews from strangers that could only be described as “life changing?” These reviews may have had strong statements like “I don’t normally write reviews, but …,” or the ultimate endorsement, “I bought a backup in case they discontinue it.” Now every time you experience joy from this product, is it accompanied by a twinge of guilt because you haven’t contributed your own declaration of product loyalty?

Well you’re not alone. Powerful reviews (and lack thereof) have a very strong impact on purchase intent – product page visitors who read reviews convert 104% higher than those who do not view reviews. And reviews keep brands and retailers honest, bringing the best products to the top and uncovering those that need improvements. But not everyone who’s influenced by reviews writes them. So what motivates those who do to give their feedback?

First-timers out-review vets

Crowd mentality (someone else will do it) leads to the popular belief that most reviews come from a handful of serial reviewers who dutifully give feedback on all of their purchases. But in truth, most reviews come from first-time writers. In fact, 76% of reviews across the Bazaarvoice network come from someone who has not previously left a review on that site. There are new influencers joining this content revolution each day, so what motivates them to take the time?

We surveyed 8,827 users after they submitted a review on a major retail site to find out why shared their product experience with strangers.

Altruism inspires 87.5% of review submissions

Survey says? You’ll be pleased to know the world (wide web) is a good place. The majority of reasons respondents selected were altruistic. The most-selected reason for writing reviews was to “help others decide” (47%), followed by a sense of responsibility to return the favor because they were helped by reviews themselves (18%). Others hoped to “influence the product” (16%) and share “good insight and advice” (6.5%).

Facebook Likes are more self-serving

If you think of a favorable review as being an endorsement to strangers, then you would think someone “Liking” a brand for all of their Facebook friends to see would be the ultimate endorsement. However, 55% of people say they Like brands for a monetary incentive, such as a discount or giveaway. This may just be a reflection of how brands use reviews and Facebook differently. Reviews are a helpful, customer-facing tool on the brand site aimed to aid and encourage purchases, while Facebook pages often feature fan-baiting contests that require people to Like the page in order to access some deal. We’ve written before that the point of Facebook pages shouldn’t be just to acquire fans, but to start useful conversations around the brand, just as reviews do.

But don’t fret, there are strangers thanklessly tackling the uncertainty of e-commerce, one review at a time. The internet has got your back, just don’t forget to pay it forward.

  • http://www.realpatientratings.com/ Eva Sheie

    Ths s fascnatng! In medcne, people wrte negatve revews most often because of servce ssues specfcally related to tme — for nstance, feelng rushed, feelng gnored, or an appontment took too long. But I would expect ther postve reasons for wrtng revews to be the same as retal. Thanks for gvng me a great dea for our next data study!

  • Jon Anthony Hamilton

    I wrte postve revews only for purchases can gve 5 stars to, anythng else I feel s not somethng to brag about and I don’t want to confuse someone that s conductng research on the product. The only tmes I wrte negatve revews s when I had bad customer servce wth a product/servce. A bad product s can be remeded f the manufacturer s wllng to work wth the customer. If they don’t, then I gve a bad revew.

  • http://twitter.com/txTDM Tara DeMarco

    Would certanly be an nterestng follow-up: Why do people wrte postve revews, vs. negatve ones? Wll forward your dea to the team! Thanks for readng.

  • brian piercy

    I certanly can’t argue wth the data, but suggest that the altrusm factor s a functon of whether the revew s postve or negatve.

    I could see negatve ratngs beng descrbed as altrustc “warnngs” whle postve revews beng vewed wth a gran of salt. For example – postng a postve revew as a means of nsertng your name/profle nto a publc forum just for the thrll of seeng whether people react.

    A/B test, anyone? :-)