Why Bad Customer Reviews Are Often a GOOD Thing

thumbs_downLast week we took a look at Getting More Customer Reviews of products. The post highlighted a number of statistics that show how effective product reviews submitted by customers can be in boosting sales. But what about negative reviews?

A recent CNN Money article indicates that even bad product reviews have a positive impact on sales.:

saw sales climb 23% on items that had customer reviews (even that cardigan, which garnered an average of four stars).

The old adage “Any Press is Good Press” applies to customer reviews of products on an ecommerce website.

Here are a few reasons why bad reviews can be helpful in converting more buyers and increasing profits.

Lend credibility to the website and the products

Have you ever been to an ecommerce site where all the products have only glowing reviews?

This plastic comb is a must have item. I could not live without my plain plastic comb!

As consumers, we are wary of anything that seems too good to be true. If all the reviews of all the products are only 5 stars, a red flag goes up in many shoppers’ minds about the authenticity of these reviews, and possibly the entire site. When potential buyers see a mix of reviews (or even just one or two less than stellar reviews) it shows them that the reviews are most likely genuine. Giving purchasers a “warm and fuzzy” feeling is vital for an online store to win their trust, and hopefully, their money.

Can promote upsell of better and/or more profitable items

A bad review of one item may lead buyers to choose a more expensive or more profitable item:

Review leading to an upsell opportunity

Review leading to an upsell opportunity

Someone reading the above review may be inclined to purchase the larger, more expensive snow blower, even though they had no such inkling before reading this “negative” review.

May reinforce the positives of an item

When someone posts a bad review and cites specific issues they do not like about a product, this can have the added bonus of highlighting other positives about an item that another person cares most about:

Color not liked, but overall a good product

Color not liked, but overall a good product

If the potential buyer does not care about the color but instead likes that it’s “cute” or that the review did not mention the product being flimsy, this can be a positive in their mind.

Makes your customer service shine

When someone posts a bad review, and your company can take action to correct it (slow shipping, broken on arrival, image online did not match product, specs listed were not correct, etc…), this can become a great opportunity not only to help this one customer, but more importantly, allows you to respond on the reviews page stating what was done to rectify the situation. Visitors will take notice of your pro-active customer service, which could translate into more sales. From the CNN article on bad reviews:

And even negative reviews can be beneficial. When one customer grumbled that a photo of a yarn spool misrepresented its shade of green, Hobart responded by posting a new photo. He also appended a comment to the negative review saying that the problem had been dealt with.

Can stimulate more reviewers to post reviews

A negative review can cause other customers to post a rebuttal or a positive experience with the product:

Reviewer motivated to post their experience with a product

Reviewer motivated to post their experience with a product

This person may have never submitted their review if they didn’t see other reviews that contradicted their opinion.

May lead to a lower percentage of returns

You may have the best product descriptions in the world, but customer reviews that point out flaws or problems with a product may save someone else from having the same experience, and then deciding to return the item as it did not meet their needs. Accurate, honest reviews will help customers purchase products that are right for them. Ultimately, this will have a positive impact on your store’s bottom line, as less returns = more profit.

So resist the temptation to delete or not post negative reviews. They can be more of a positive than you might think. Please share your thoughts and experiences on negative customer reviews below.

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  1. There are many studies indicating that availability of reviews on a product page increases a visitor engagement, i.e. more time spent on the page. There are even more studies that tie more time on the page to increase in conversion from visit to purchase. Your analysis of negative reviews impact is the first I have seen, however 3-3.5 stars is not exactly “negative” rating and largely depends on interpretation of the Liekert scale methodology which has very confusing application on the reviews sites. I hope it is OK to point here to my post on this subject http://piplzchoice.com/2009/10/authenticity-of-consumer-reviews/.

  2. Thanks for this awesome article! Since I plan on launching my own products soon these ideas are really helpful to me. You have a really great blog going on here.

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