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.

8 Responses to “Pay it forward: Why customers write reviews”

  1. This is fascinating! In medicine, people write negative reviews most often because of service issues specifically related to time — for instance, feeling rushed, feeling ignored, or an appointment took too long. But I would expect their positive reasons for writing reviews to be the same as retail. Thanks for giving me a great idea for our next data study!

  2. Jon Anthony Hamilton

    I write positive reviews only for purchases i can give 5 stars to, anything else I feel is not something to brag about and I don’t want to confuse someone that is conducting research on the product. The only times I write negative reviews is when I had bad customer service with a product/service. A bad product is can be remedied if the manufacturer is willing to work with the customer. If they don’t, then I give a bad review.

  3. Would certainly be an interesting follow-up: Why do people write positive reviews, vs. negative ones? Will forward your idea to the team! Thanks for reading.

  4. brian piercy

    I certainly can’t argue with the data, but suggest that the altruism factor is a function of whether the review is positive or negative.

    I could see negative ratings being described as altruistic “warnings” while positive reviews being viewed with a grain of salt. For example – posting a positive review as a means of inserting your name/profile into a public forum just for the thrill of seeing whether people react.

    A/B test, anyone? :-)

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