How Reviews Influence Sales (Positive and Negative)

Unsur­pris­ingly, this brief ana­lys­is of how reviews influ­ence sales on Amazon equates quite well with my pur­chas­ing beha­viour; I would­n’t feel com­fort­able buy­ing a product with 100% pos­it­ive reviews unless I knew per­son­ally that it was awe­some. And a product with less than 15 reviews or so? For­get about it.

[A] hand­ful of bad reviews, it seems, are worth hav­ing. “No one trusts all pos­it­ive reviews,” [John McAt­eer, Google’s retail industry dir­ect­or,] says. So a small pro­por­tion of neg­at­ive comments—“just enough to acknow­ledge that the product could­n’t be perfect“—can actu­ally make an item more attract­ive to pro­spect­ive buy­ers.

The sheer volume of reviews makes far more dif­fer­ence, accord­ing to Google’s ana­lys­is of clicks and sales refer­rals. “Single digits did­n’t seem to move the needle at all,” says Mr McAt­eer. “It wasn’t enough to get people com­fort­able with mak­ing that pur­chase decision.” But after about 20 reviews of a product are pos­ted, “We start to see more reviews—it starts to accel­er­ate.”

2 thoughts on “How Reviews Influence Sales (Positive and Negative)

  1. John

    When buy­ing tech­no­logy products, I def­in­itely look at the neg­at­ive reviews first. I can gen­er­ally tell pretty quickly if the review­er is know­ledgable and if so wheth­er his prob­lems might apply to my inten­ded use. The pos­it­ive reviews usu­ally aren’t spe­cif­ic enough (“works great!” “just what I expec­ted!”) to be use­ful.

    I behave sim­il­arly when buy­ing non­fic­tion online, although I find it’s much more likely that the pos­it­ive reviews have use­ful con­tent. I have usu­ally become inter­ested in a title because of an out­side recom­mend­a­tion from an online source whom I trust.

    Reviews of fic­tion I find almost use­less. How­ever, I don’t read much fic­tion any­way.

  2. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    Hi John,

    I’m very sim­il­ar: when brows­ing for tech­no­logy products I invari­ably look only at the neg­at­ive com­ments. Like you, I find the pos­it­ive com­ments to be non-spe­cif­ic and some­times pre­ma­ture. As an example, when shop­ping for an extern­al HDD recently the major­ity of neg­at­ive com­ments men­tioned how the drive was fail­ing after a few months—most pos­it­ive reviews were writ­ten with­in days of the pur­chase, com­ment­ing on how quiet and fast it was.

    Sim­il­arly, I also usu­ally get intro­duced to my non­fic­tion read­ing from out­side recom­mend­a­tions (online and off­line friends who have sim­il­ar tastes). How­ever, I have lately been using anoth­er tac­tic: pick­ing one or two of the most inter­est­ing sound­ing books from the ref­er­ence sec­tion of the book I just fin­ished. So far, it’s work­ing a charm!

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