Why Retailers Need Negative Reviews [Q&A]

If you've returned a product on Amazon, you may have received an email from the particular seller asking you to contact them directly, rather than leave a negative review on their product page. Similarly, if you've left a negative review on Amazon, you may have been asked by that seller to delete your review in place of a full refund. This is because merchants believe that negative reviews have a negative impact on their sales. The truth is, however, that negative reviews can do the opposite - they can actually increase conversion.

In fact, 82 percent of shoppers are actively seeking out negative reviews, because they help them make more informed decisions. They can serve as a baseline (like what's the worst-case scenario?), can give them context for product use and can show them that the merchants aren't shying away from honest feedback. To understand why retailers need negative reviews, Website Magazine caught up with Danny Harris, VP Content Operations at PowerReviews to get his take on the important subject. 


Reviews are of course an expectation these days, but are there some practices that retailers are doing when it comes to their reviews that are doing more harm than good?


PowerReviews: One practice we see hurting brands and retailers is not properly monitoring review content. Collecting reviews is the first step, but ensuring that content is useful and informative is an essential next step. There are companies out there paying people to leave fraudulent reviews and consumers who include profanity or inappropriate language in their reviews - and this content isn't helpful for anyone. It's a poor reflection on the brand and can be potentially harmful if left unmonitored. We help our customers combat this with a multi-step moderation process that monitors for profanity, content or customer service related issues and uses technology like device fingerprinting to verify that a review comes from a verified customer.


However, many brands and retailers try to over-moderate their reviews and are hesitant to include negative reviews. This is a bad practice, because it removes authentic consumer sentiments from their site. It is unrealistic to expect every product review to be positive and consumers know that. When retailers over-moderate and remove negative reviews simply because they are negative, they hurt the overall quality of their review content and damage their reputation in the eyes of consumers.  


Why should retailers not be afraid of negative reviews?


PowerReviews: Retailers should view negative reviews as a way to build brand credibility and trust - not as something to be afraid of. Consumers are smart. They know that a product can't be all things to all people, and looking for negative reviews has become a part of the path-to-purchase for the majority of consumers. They look to negative reviews to verify the credibility of the information on a retailer's site - a product with all glowing reviews is too good to be true.


Can an optimal balance between positive and negative reviews ever be obtained?


PowerReviews: There isn't necessarily an optimal balance between positive and negative reviews, but it is important to have a mix of both. While positive ratings and reviews are ultimately the end goal for brands and retailers, it's more important to have lots of quality reviews that are representative of customer opinion, which can be both positive and negative. The good news for retailers is that the average product rating left by consumers is a 4.2, so retailers will generally have more positive reviews across the board than negative reviews.  


How can retailers turn negative reviews into actionable insights?


PowerReviews: Product reviews are arguably the best form of market research out there, because they provide authentic feedback straight from consumers actually using the products. Reviews offer valuable insight into the quality of the products and how they are received by consumers. For example, retailers can use product reviews to determine which manufacturers to work with, based on the customer reception of their products. If a clothing retailer consistently gets feedback that certain garments don't hold up well in the wash, they can alert the manufacturer and make changes to better the quality of their products. 


Can you give me a specific example of how a retailer would use PowerReviews' Measurement tool? Does it turn this qualitative data into quantitative data that can be used?


PowerReviews: The PowerReviews measurement tool allows retailers to directly measure the impact product reviews have on sales conversions. It displays the metrics that are most important to their business, helping to put hard numbers behind consumers' sentiments. This data allows retailers to formulate actionable insights directly from consumer experience with their products, enhancing their overall business strategy.  


Another example of how a retailer can take actionable insights from negative reviews is directly responding to customer feedback. One of our clients that does this well is Keurig. They make it a priority to directly respond to the negative reviews customers leave on their product listings. This practice directly engages with customers and demonstrates that Keurig is listening to consumer feedback. By taking the time to sift through each and every comment, Keurig is able to learn how to better their products and services, while also letting customers know that they're being heard.