re·fined

A perfect 5 stars can hurt sales, so what’s the ideal score to achieve?

Every business owner hates to see negative reviews but a new study shows that having a few blotches on your, otherwise pristine, reputation might actually be good for your bottom line.

Why?

Let’s call it the “Too Good to Be True” syndrome.

Spiegel Research and PowerReviews teamed up on a project to see just how online ratings affected the sales on three different ecommerce sites. Two sites sold low price consumer products and one sold high-end gifts.

Right out of the gate, they proved a point we’ve always known: that people are more likely to buy products that have reviews than products that don’t. But here’s what incredible; a product with just 5 reviews is 270% more likely to be purchased than a product with zero reviews.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, Spiegel also noted that reviews had an even bigger impact on high-priced items vs low price items. Customers also take reviews more seriously when the product involves health and safety (baby products, weight loss products) or if the product or business is brand new.

Right now you’re thinking, I know all of this. Reviews are important, but when you open yourself up to reviews, you risk getting the bad along with the good. Is it worth it?

It is. Here’s why.

The researchers found that for most products, intent to buy increased along with the number of stars – up to a point. Once the average star count hit 4.2, intent to buy began to decline. The closer the reviews got to being perfect, the lower the intent to buy. In other words, consumers don’t believe in perfect, so they’re suspicious when they see nothing but glowing reports on a product or business.

Check out the massive drop-off in the high-end gift category. It’s enough to make a retailer sabotage their own 5-star reviews!

The research shows that 82% of customers actually look for negative reviews and spend 4 times as long on a site when they find them. This may seem like we’re living in a cynical society but it’s actually a smart way to research a product. If I’m thinking of trying a new restaurant, I’m not interested in all the happy people. I want to hear about the problems, so I can decide if it’s still a good fit for me. Not kid friendly? Good, I was hoping for a quiet, romantic evening with my husband. They don’t serve alcohol. I don’t drink, so no problem. Food was lousy? 10 other people said it was great, so I’m not worried.

The restaurant manager is probably freaking out about those 3 bad reviews, but I feel like I have a true picture of the experience and it works for me. Reservations for two, please!

This does not mean you should ignore bad reviews. When you can, address the problem publicly, even if it means apologizing when it wasn’t your fault. Future customers will appreciate the effort. Whatever you do, don’t snap back, don’t argue and don’t respond to trolls. Trust that your real customers will know a phony review when they see one.

When it comes to online reviews, perfection is overrated. What customers really want is credibility and that comes with an honest mix of opinions from those that love, like, hate and can’t decide how they feel about your product.

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