A new study shows that 80% of online customers change their mind about making a purchase after reading negative online reviews.

Back in November, 2010, I wrote a story for SocialMediaToday.com titled Why a Negative Review Can Be a Positive Experience. In my article I made reference to an article on eMarketer which reported “Customer product reviews are becoming a fixture on retail and consumer brand websites, with over 80% of retailers planning to feature them by the end of 2010. The accelerated adoption of customer reviews indicates a more enlightened approach to handling negative comments—that is, the acknowledgment that occasional negative reviews do not hurt sales. 

“…occasional negative reviews do not hurt sales.” Well, apparently negative online reviews do indeed hurt sales as a study conduced by Market analysis firm Cone Inc. found that 80% of online customers, after reading negative online reviews, are going in another direction, making alternate purchasing decisions. And this number is going up as last year only 67% of respondents indicated negative reviews directly impacted their decision to buy or not.

Conversely, and not surprisingly, 87% of consumers said a favorable review has confirmed their decision to go through with a purchase.

In regards to just how much impact a negative online review can have, one of the people behind the Cone study, Mike Hollywood (yes, that’s his name) said “Negative information is now just as powerful as positive information.” Now call me crazy, but that’s not exactly breaking news. Remember the old adage of ‘if you have a good experience you’ll tell 3 friends and if you have a bad one, you’ll tell 10?’ My numbers may be off but you get my point. A negative comment, review, experience and so on can be very damaging to a business or company. It’s how you as marketers deal with those negative comments in today’s digital-crazed, mobile phone madness world we live in is what can mitigate the effect of those negative online reviews.

Says Mr. Hollywood… “For marketers, that means that leaving your head in the sand and just letting people make negative comments isn’t working any longer. Reaching out and trying to make the consumer experience better, even if you can’t solve the problem, is important.”

This ties in precisely with what I wrote back in November and still very much rings true today:

Negative reviews can have a positive effect and here’s why…

  • They show others, be it existing customers or prospects, that you are the proverbial open book; you want to hear from EVERYONE; the good, the bad and yes, the ugly
  • A Social Media platform(s) then allows you to respond to those negative comments in public; it allows EVERYONE to see how you addressed a problem professionally, promptly and correctly (assuming you actually do all of these)
  • This in turn demonstrates your willingness to admit fault (you are human after all) which will help establish an emotional connection

Overall, there are two ways to look at all this…

1. From a consumer perspective, it’s almost a “Reader Beware” when it comes to reviews. A little cynicism may not be a bad thing when it comes to reading online reviews because like or not, there are those unscrupulous companies that will create phony reviews – positive ones of course.

2. From a company perspective, it is vitally important to allow an open-ended platform for the public to write a review on your particular product, service or ware. It’s obvious online reviews carry clout so it’s best to allow for reviews and to address those that need addressing and to NEVER create and or flood your site,, blog etc with fictional positive, glowing reviews. Trust me, the public will catch on sooner or later and then you won’t have to worry about having a Social Media presence anymore because you will be finished, literally.

What’s your opinion on online reviews as both a consumer and as a marketer/advertiser?

As a consumer, how much weight do you put on online reviews?

As a marketer or advertiser, do you monitor what’s being said about your product or client’s products and your company?

Do you try and control the conversation, filtering out negative comments?

Sources: Google Images, digitaltrends.com, mediapost.com , The Star Group, Why Marketers Need To Pay Attention To Online Reviews