It may sound crazy at first, but having some negative online reviews helps you convert leads and get more sales.
In the past few years, Marketing 360® has been a strong advocate for ethical standards in online reviews. All too often, we saw good businesses getting damaged by cheap-shots to their reputations. It motivated us to develop Top Rated Local®, a review platform that gives an element of control to the business being reviewed.
To help businesses maintain positive review profiles, the discipline of reputation management developed. First, reputation management looked to combat the lack of balance that resulted because unhappy customers wrote most reviews. Second, reputation management sought to obscure or remove negative reviews, with the goal of making the business look as good as possible.
But fast-forward to the present day. Writing online reviews is a much more common practice, which helps balance business profiles naturally. People today are more likely to write a positive review for an offer they’re pleased with.
At the same time, consumers today are more savvy about how online reviews work. We’re all better at recognizing unfair rants, and we have an eye for authenticity. We know how to look for details and tone that suggest the review is genuine.
Which brings us to an interesting development.
Say you’re on Google to look up a local plumber. You find someone near you, and decide to skim over his reviews.
As you read, you see every review is perfect 5-stars. Nothing’s ever gone wrong, nobody has anything but praise and perfect ratings for this plumber.
You might believe you’ve found the greatest plumber on planet Earth. Or, more likely, you’d think somebody’s been tinkering with this review profile. No three or four-star reviews? Zero negative comments? Nothing ever went wrong?
Now what message is being sent? If you think this plumber gamed the system to get nothing but perfect reviews, does that mean he’s dishonest? Do you trust someone who claims to be perfect?
Today, most people don’t.
The 4.0 – 4.7 Star Rating
A number of studies confirm what we’re saying. A perfect, 5-star profile will lower your conversion rates.
First, we know having reviews – of any sort – is vital. Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center did a study that showed retailers who display online reviews see conversion rates rise by as much as 270%. Having no reviews is not an option.
Negative reviews kept the rating down, which they discovered to be a good thing. Why? Because they found that the likelihood of purchase peaks for products with average ratings between 4.0 and 4.7 on a five-star scale. 5.0 perfection works against retailers because the rating is perceived as “too good to be true.”
Perfection in a review profile is viewed with strong skepticism.
Another study done by social commerce specialists Revoo found that shoppers who take the time to interact with negative reviews spend four times longer on sites and actually have stronger buying intent. Conversion rates with those consumers were 67% higher in the study.
An additional benefit for service businesses is that if you respond to a negative review, you can showcase your customer service. For example, in this review exchange, the business motivated the customer to give them another chance – and it was successful.
Today, it’s more effective to have an authentic online reputation than a perfect one. If your service is excellent and your product high quality, you’ve already taken care of the most important factor in having a positive review profile.
These studies also noted that the best way to request reviews is with email follow-up. We can confirm this as our reputation management team uses email follow-up as a way to bolster thin review profiles.
The main takeaway here is that you don’t have to worry about the occasional slip that results in a negative review. It happens, and your prospective customers know it. That slight ding gives you street cred which – somewhat ironically – helps you convert better.
All of this is good news. Authentic review profiles that offer details about a service or product help people make better buying decisions. That’s why consumers love them.
Also, meritocracy is at work. At 4.5 star rating isn’t perfect, but it’s very good. Businesses with many positive reviews – that they earned – earn more new customers.
This makes reviews and online reputation one of the fairer types of marketing that’s ever existed.