How Negative Reviews Can Derail Purchases
Just how much sway do negative online reviews have over consumers? Do they have the power to stop a purchase in its tracks? Or do they simply inspire more research? And do consumers want to see detailed insights when reviews turn less than glowing, or has it become enough to take a quick glance at where a product or service lands in the five-star rating system before moving on to another brand?
To gain a better understanding of how online reviews influence the consumer path to purchase, Influence Central conducted an in-depth research study of more than 500 women consumers. What we found was that, overall, online reviews have a dramatic impact on the consumer purchasing journey, with 85 percent of women consumers saying they consider online reviews extremely/very important when making a purchase, and 87 percent of consumers checking reviews for both online and brick-and-mortar purchases.
Our research also highlighted new findings on consumer attitudes around negative online reviews. As consumers scroll through the increasingly vast amount of reviews found on everything from e-commerce sites to personal blogs, less-than-stellar ones can make their mark. Here are four key insights surrounding negative reviews and how they impact the purchasing journey:
- Launching a search for other viewpoints: After unearthing one less-than-glowing review online about a must-have product, consumers don't always abandon their search or look for different options. In many cases, a negative review causes consumers to dig a little deeper before making a final decision. In this case, 79 percent of consumers will seek out more reviews to gather up different perspectives and insights.
- Derailing purchases when negative reviews roll in: Negative reviews prove troubling for consumers when their numbers begin to mount, particularly when they appear on the same site. Nearly 75 percent of consumers say several very bad reviews on the same site will deter them from a purchase, up from the 64 percent who say that one negative review would cause them to buy a different product.
- Sparking a no-go decision: Today, the five-star rating system has become the gold standard for product reviews, offering consumers an easy-to-understand, at-a-glance way to make a rapid-fire decision on a purchase. But how few stars can a product have before consumers decide not to buy it? Our study revealed that if consumers rate a product below 2.9 stars (out of five), this becomes the threshold at which the purchase path ends.
- Standing out from a sea of positive reviews: Bad reviews have a particularly strong influence on purchase intent given that consumers post dramatically more positive reviews than negative ones. When it comes to posting online reviews, 82 percent of consumers post most often about positive experiences, while only 18 percent post about negative ones.
Here's the bottom line: today's consumers have grown increasingly savvy. Ninety-seven percent say they can tell almost all of the time the credibility of a posted reviewer, 90 percent say they can typically tell if a reviewer is exaggerating, and 86 percent report confidence in detecting bias. Discerning consumers seek out information from reviewers they trust - i.e., people who sound like them, who provide significant detail and who are verified purchasers.
Ultimately, what matters more than the positive or negative tone of a review is its authenticity. When reviewers craft first person, passionate recommendations and offer storytelling around real-life product usage, they give consumers something to believe in. That's the real tipping point in the conversion to purchase.
Stacy DeBroff is founder and CEO of Influence Central, a provider of social media and influencer strategies. Stacy can be reached at email@example.com.