The Savage Power of a Customer Review

Choose your weapon.

Why do people like to write online reviews?  Why are they compelled share their experiences – even with products as mundane as pens and food containers?

Here are a couple of reasons I’ve identified:

  • People enjoy being helpful.  They want to inform others if a product lives up to or surpasses their expectations.  And, of course, they want to warn others away if they are disappointed by it.
  • Products and experiences define people.  By writing reviews, people providing a window into their personalities – even helping to define who they are by associating with specific products and experiences.  In many ways, we are what we wear, listen to, eat, and purchase.

There are many other reasons like, for example, hoping to get a recognized by a brand with a free coupon or product or even to help out friends who work at a company or have developed a product.

But regardless of the reasons why people write online reviews, they have an amazing power to change the perceptions of a product and a brand in significant ways.

Here are some statistics provided by Bert DuMars, vice president of e-business and interactive marketing for Newell Rubbermaid, at the Corporate Social Media Summit in New York a few weeks ago:

  • Consumers who read online reviews are 51 percent more likely to buy the product they are reading about
  • On average, online review readers buy 18 percent more.
  • Review readers spend 114 percent more time on a website.

Clearly, reviews are a sales driver.  Reviews help identify serious buyers from browsers.  Serious buyers research their options and reviews are a key place to find important information about products and services.

They are now a staple at most e-commerce sites and many buyers rate and review as part of the buying process.  It has become built into the online buying cycle by a growing number of consumers.  So smart companies will provide the forum on their own site – rather than have buyers post reviews elsewhere (such as on Yelp).

DuMars argued that the last review is always more helpful than the first one.  Products (and even services) evolve over time and features, functions, price, availability, etc. all change.  A product review from two years ago probably doesn’t reflect the actual product anymore.  That’s why encouraging reviews is important – to keep people talking about the product as it is.

But as DuMars noted during his presentation, customer reviews provide a lot of more than just marketing – they provide insight.

“If talk about a brand stops is that brand old and tired?” he asked.

Reviews also give a company valuable feedback.  He said that when Rubbermaid launched a food container product reviews started to pour in that the lid didn’t fit correctly on an otherwise excellent product.  His team printed out the reviews and headed down to manufacturing to share the feedback with the product engineers.  Seeing the criticism right in front of them made an impact and the engineers realize that the product needed some minor fixings.

So they did it and announced the improvements.  The product reviews immediately reflected the change – and gave thanks to Rubbermaid for making acting so quickly.

As AdAge wrote back in 2009:

“For all the ink spilled on the importance of Twitter and Facebook as feedback and customer-service channels, there’s another social-media tool marketers are increasingly finding useful, not just as an online-shopping tool but as an internal, culturally changing consumer-criticism channel: the humble product review.”

That is truer now than it was two years ago.

What about you?  Do you write customer reviews?  Why?  What compels you to do so?


Newell Rubbermaid

AdAge article on Customer Reviews

2 Responses to “The Savage Power of a Customer Review”

  1. craigmcdaniel July 7, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Recently, I have noticed many negative reviews of products and services where it is clear that the reviewer simply didn’t follow instructions. That dilutes the reliability of customer experiences and creates another issue for businesses to address to ensure a fair chance at success.

  2. Indeed. I look at reviews in aggregate. Did the majority of people like the product or service? What did they like? What didn’t they like? Outliers – savagely negative or glowing positive reviews – I generally discount.

    But you’re right, Craig, managing reviews is another challenge.

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