The Psychology of Online Reviews
From that all-important first impression to 'holes in the cheese', get inside the mind of your shoppers.
We are thrilled when we get positive reviews - it's a reaffirmation that the investment we've made in the customer's experience has been worthwhile. But correspondingly when we get negative reviews, that's why it can feel so personally wounding.
Yet to truly exploit reviews, it is essential to look at all of them - whether they're good or bad. To do this, we need to understand shopping psychology, to see the reviews through our customers' eyes so we can strategize accordingly.
The Customer's Journey
Imagine the shopper browsing to your site and the typical questions they might ask themselves:
"What do people think of these guys?"
It's that instant snapshot of a company's service that a shopper latches on to immediately - the overall rating for the company and its products. That all-important score is what fuels the success of online review platforms - from Metacritic through to Amazon's product ratings. Consumers want to know at a glance how a company measures up before deciding to proceed any further.
"Where are the holes in the cheese?"
The shopper begins to read reviews, looking for your strengths and weaknesses - and wanting to know if there are any recurring issues with your company or its product/services.
"Is the company doing anything about the holes?"
If there are holes, the shopper will want reassurance that if something does go wrong, you deal with the situation quickly, efficiently and transparently. According to the Trust Economy Report, a negative review dealt with correctly can actually boost confidence in a company, not harm it - 15% of online shoppers surveyed said that they are more likely to do business with a company which responded to a negative review and dealt with it successfully.
"Are they slow to respond to negative feedback?"
When it comes to shopping psychology, even a single negative review seemingly ignored by a company spells trouble in the mind of the shopper. It is essential that companies deal with negative feedback within 24 hours - the quicker, the better - to ensure that bad reviews don't sit and fester, waiting for shoppers to come across them.
"Why are there so many positive reviews?"
It's not something you would think is a problem, but eConsultancy reports that "68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don't see anything negative at all". Consumers expect to see a mix of reviews - companies are run by humans after all - and not having any negative feedback could actually work against a company's credibility.
"Can I drill down further before making my final purchasing decision?"
Because of the lurid headlines surrounding fake reviews and companies trying to game the system, shoppers have become increasingly suspicious, even if they are growing more dependent on reviews.
So ensure your online review platform allows the shopper to check the posting history of all reviewers to see how many times they have posted in the past - in other words, each poster has an easy-to-verify track record - and most importantly, whether the reviewer is a confirmed purchaser. If they've not actually bought the product, how on earth can they write a genuine review?
Transparency is king in the shopper's eyes - they want to feel that the wool is not being pulled over their eyes. Do this by:
- Featuring the overall rating of your business that shoppers can see as soon as they come to your site.
- Facing up to negative reviews - shoppers are far more suspicious of companies that draw no criticism whatsoever.
- Dealing with criticism quickly and openly - this can offer reassurance to a potential customer.
- Allowing shoppers to drill down into the reviews, uncovering posters' track records and whether they have actually purchased the item they have reviewed.
To find out more about how reviews can boost your business, download the eGuide: The Power of Online Reviews: a Business Owner's Guide
Follow Jan Vels Jensen on Twitter