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Between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service, according to a Lightspeed Research study.

The study also finds that the majority of consumers used the internet for some kind of product research before making a purchase online or offline in the last six months. Just 13% of respondents didn't use the internet as part of the purchase process. 

The research did use an online panel, so the results will be slightly skewed towards web users, but the report contains some interesting stats nonetheless...

Research activities

The research found that price comparison was the most popular research activity for UK consumers, but also highlights the power of reviews, with 61% reading online reviews of products and services. 

Types of online research

The importance of online reviews

The significance of reviews varies depending on the product type. For example, in the case of personal technology items like MP3 Players and digital cameras, 64% would read product reviews online, while 38% would look for reviews of the retailer they are considering buying the item from. 

If purchasing a car, 55% would read review of makes and models online, while 34% would look for others' opinions about car dealers. 

Where do consumers look for reviews? 

72% said they looked for product reviews on shopping websites, which highlights the importance of reviews for retailers, 70% head for a search engine to find reviews.

47% look for reviews on company websites, and 43% on price comparison sites.  

Which reviews are most reliable?

Shoppers find the opinions of other consumers most trustworthy when conducting product research online.

64% said they trusted product reviews from other consumers, 28% were neutral, while just 8% find them to be unreliable. 

Next came reviews from Which?, trusted by 60% of respondents, followed by professional reviewers (58%) and friends and family (51%). 

Which reviews do shoppers trust?

Which types of reviews are most important? 

69% believe it is important that a product has good reviews from other consumers, while opinions from friends and family, professional reviewers and Which? were important for 57%.

How many bad reviews does it take to deter consumers?

This is an interesting one. Between one and three bad reviews will deter the majority (67%) of consumers from purchasing a particular product or service. 

The tolerance of bad reviews varies depending on age groups. For example, 28% of the 45-54 age group and 33% of 55-64 year olds would be deterred after reading two bad reviews, compared with just 10% of 18 to 24s. 

I think the context is important here though. When researching products online, I look for a general consensus which you can get when there are a decent number of product reviews. 

For example, this digital camera on Amazon has three (very) negative reviews, but these reviewers are in the minority, since there are 29 positive reviews, and a very healthy average score.

Would the three bad reviews be enough to deter buyers? Perhaps, but the fact that these reviews are placed in context by Amazon means they may not be so off-putting, and also make the positive reviews more credible.

Graham Charlton

Published 12 April, 2011 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (13)

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Tim Watson

Tim Watson, Email Marketing Consultant at Zettasphere

Hello Graham, I agree with your thought about context. I look at number of reviews as well as how many poor ones.

To me 3 bad reviews in 5 is very different from 3 bad in 30.

It looks like the survey didn't put this in context and thus it does't tell the full story.

To be fair, it is at least a starting point on research into consumer opinion and use of reviews and rating. Thanks for sharing.

about 5 years ago

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Digby

Great article, would be great to have even more detail on the varying levels of negative reviews e.g. how detrimental 3 star reviews are.

I agree with the Tim's point, I think after the number of reviews reaches a high enough figure users are looking at a seller % rating (ebay, amazon etc).

about 5 years ago

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Danielle Pinnington, Managing Director, Shoppercentric

We’d agree with Graham that context is important. In our experience, one good word of mouth review can outweigh a number of poor online reviews.

about 5 years ago

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Kat Matfield

Tim is quite right: context is king.

At Reevoo we've done a huge amount of user testing to examine consumer shopping behaviour around reviews. It's very clear from this that consumers look at reviews in context and focus more on the ratio of bad reviews to good than the simple numbers.

There's a growing body of evidence that negative reviews are actually an asset: users distrust the entire body of reviews if there's not a single negative review. Quite simply, it suggests there's censorship going on. And if consumers don't trust your reviews, you won't see any of the sales/conversion/brand benefits they can bring.

about 5 years ago

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Tyler Crowley

Great article, and very much in line with the research we did leading up to launching Skweal which directly aims at helping businesses keep negative reviews from ending up online.

Very well done.

about 5 years ago

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Richard Hamer

I would be interested to see the opinions for restaurant reviews, as it seems you can post whatever you wish on TripAdvisor.
Clients of mine have had allegations of mass food poisoning, cockroaches and dead mice in takeaways.

about 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Richard, interesting question. I'd imagine one report of food poisoning would equal at least 5 bad Amazon reviews;)

about 5 years ago

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Bonnie Murphy

Great article and follow up points. One thing found interesting was stats that point to trusting online reviews from "other consumers" over friends and family opinions. Was question presented or interrpreted that the friends/family were also owners / patrons of product/service?

Word-of-mouth is key in marketing today and trusted relationships whether friends/family or B2C is trending. With that being the case I am fascinated with your findings and wonder why...

At any rate, thank you for yet another great contribution!

Bonnie

about 5 years ago

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William King

Bad reviews can cast everlasting effect on the reader's mind. As the customers are very anxious about the product they want to purchase, but at the same time they are very selective can not take any kind of risk. And once they read a bad review they just can not put it off their mind, and always hesitate to buy thing from such market. In the same time it also depends on the ration of good and bad. 20% bad is acceptable more than this will reduce your customers

about 5 years ago

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Sarah Drinkwater

Really interesting piece - I'm Qype's UK Community Manager, a site where users review places and services worldwide, and we've found that often users don't trust a place with only five star reviews - perhaps because it makes the listing look false? They much prefer a place with even one or two less positive reviews.

And of course, there are so many shades within a 'bad' or 'good' review; I think I'd be put off any hotel that was thought to be dirty, but a bar that perhaps was a little shabby for some reviewers might be just right for me.

almost 5 years ago

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Regin out

What I feel is that customers get confused by reading various reviews, both positive and negative, and in the end it is their hidden behavioral push which manifests into a final decision.

almost 5 years ago

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Camille Forte, Digital Marketing Expert at Camille Forte

over 1 year ago

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Brian R, Editor at Independent

Would be interested to see how customer photos (attached to a review) influence the decision making process... Any data to support this?

12 months ago

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