Why Negative Online Reviews Cannot Really be Trusted

Research shows that more people listen to negative reviews over positive ones, despite their questionable credibility, says The New York Times. The power of reviews is inescapable. The Washington Post reports that one third of Americans use a computer or phone to buy something at least once a week, or about as often as they take out the trash. Yet another stat to consider: the Pew Research Center revealed that 82 percent of American adults say they frequently read online reviews before making new purchases, with more than two-thirds of them believing all reviews are generally accurate.

Pretty powerful stuff. It just goes to show people trust what they read. Marketing data shows that negative reviews in particular vastly impact our own buying behaviors. That being said, research that has been done on the biases and demographics of online reviewers suggests that our faith in reviews may be misguided.

The Value of Negatives

The good news is that there are many more positive reviews online than negative ones. However, the negative ones that do pop up tend to grab our attention more than positives because of their association with perceived value. Essentially, the infrequent nature of negative reviews distinguishes them from other reviews, thus causing us to pay more attention to them.

We view negative reviews as predictors of what could go wrong with a purchase, with people viewing negative reviews as more informative, and therefore more valuable, than positive ones because they tend to enhance defects — even if they are not actually more accurate.

It’s no secret that people want to feel secure in their decision-making process, which is why they often use negative reviews to understand their risk and reduce their losses. In addition, people depend on negative reviews more than positive reviews perhaps because they see them as more trustworthy.

Credibility of Reviews

Truth be told, the credibility of all reviews, even the authentic ones, is questionable. A 2016 study aimed to determine whether online reviews reflected objective quality as rated by Consumer Reports. Researchers discovered very little correlation. They suspect it’s because reviews are subjective and the small portion of the population that leaves them are not average.

They found that those who write online reviews tend to buy things in unusual sizes, make a lot of returns, be married, have a lot of children, be younger and less wealthy, and possess graduate degrees in comparison with the average consumer. Very few people write reviews, so why are we all relying on them so much?

The sentiment of reviews as well as the motivations of people who are writing the reviews can all taint neutrality. You’ll always have varying reviews because emotions are involved. That being said, most people leave reviews because they’re usually genuinely trying to help others make buying decisions.

There are a lot of variables here. But one thing that’s for sure: if you own a business, you need as many five-star reviews as you can get. That’s where Boost Reviews comes in. Get in touch today to learn how we can help. Remember, people trust reviews!

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