Magazine article CRM Magazine

How Reliable Is That Online Review? Twenty-One Percent of Consumers Write about Products They've Never Used

Magazine article CRM Magazine

How Reliable Is That Online Review? Twenty-One Percent of Consumers Write about Products They've Never Used

Article excerpt

Online shopping has trained consumers to look for reviews on the Web before purchasing anything, even if they plan on buying the item over the phone or at a retail outlet.

According to Internet-based research firm YouGov, however, the trust many consumers place in online reviews might be somewhat misplaced. A surprising 21 percent of Americans surveyed admitted to reviewing products they hadn't ever bought or tried. Their motives differed: A third of respondents offered the nebulous explanation that they just felt like it. Others said they posted a review on behalf of someone else (23 percent), because they didn't like the idea of the product (22 percent), or because they didn't like the manufacturer or service provider (19 percent). Ten percent admitted to posting spoof reviews.

In one of the most famous spoofs, 1,916 people to date have gone on Amazon to post reviews of the Bic Cristal for Her line of pens, but many of those are widely accepted to be fakes. Reviewers praise Bic, for example, for providing an alternative to the "masculine, fast-paced pens of today" and giving women a "pen they can use all month long." Jokes like these mirror reviews from those who didn't like the idea of the product, but they're unlikely to fool a consumer.

Nonetheless, the importance of reviews cannot be overstated; they are inextricably connected to the modern shopping experience. A full 93 percent of consumers report occasionally checking product reviews before making purchases; a quarter always check reviews, and half do it sometimes, according to the research.

Naturally, no company can ever expect every review to be positive. Among legitimate reviewers who left negative comments, most frequently did so for altruistic reasons: Eighty-eight percent did so to warn others about the product or service. Others did it for more personal reasons: Twenty-one percent hoped to receive refunds or help from the company; 23 percent did so to feel less angry about their experiences. "There's something cathartic about that," says YouGov researcher Anne Gammon. "But unlike a vent with a customer service agent over the phone, those one-star online reviews live on indefinitely."

The most popular place for people to leave their reviews is Amazon, used by 42 percent of consumers. …

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