Factors that drive online consumer reviews

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 15, 2008

Altruism drives the majority of online reviewers in the UK, just as it does in the US, according to a recent study by social commerce company BazaarVoice and research firm Keller Fay.

The study found that helping others to make good purchase decisions is the main motivation for UK consumers to leave online product reviews, with 94% of the 3,786 consumers surveyed saying they felt it was either "somewhat important" or "extremely important" to write reviews to help other consumers make better decisions, and 82% saying they wanted to help companies make better decisions about the products they sell.

The research mirrored findings from a similar survey carried out in the US in November 2007. Results there showed that the majority of US consumers who write online reviews are motivated to do so by goodwill and positive sentiment. The US survey (of 1,300 consumers) revealed that 90% said they felt it was somewhat or extremely important to write reviews to help others make better buying decisions, and more than 70% said they wanted to help companies improve the products they sell.

When asked about the type of feedback they leave, 86% of UK reviewers said they left positive feedback online - a close match for the US reviewers' figure of 87%. Only 11% said that their feedback was split equally between positive and negative, while an almost insignificant 3% claimed they were negative all or most of the time.

Further findings from the UK study, which questioned people who left reviews on web sites within three major retail categories, found that when asked about other key reasons for writing reviews, 89% said it was somewhat or extremely important to share their experiences with others. The top five reasons also included: helping companies make product improvements (84%), personal reliance on customer reviews (85%), and rewarding a company for good service (82%).

Relatively few people said they leave reviews to punish companies that provide bad service, as only 23% said they felt leaving feedback for this reason was somewhat or extremely important. Interestingly, the famed British sense of fair play prevails online, with just over half of the UK reviewers (52%) saying they wanted to correct what they saw as "unfair reviews" (compared to only 41% for US reviewers).

According to Sam Decker, BazaarVoice's chief marketing officer, "When we look at all of the reviews we serve for our clients, we see that 88% of UK and 81% of US reviews are positive, being given 4 or 5 stars (out of 5). Companies should embrace this phenomenon as an opportunity to collect authentic feedback from customers, as it is usually intended to help other shoppers make a confident purchase."

Finally, when asked whether they expressed opinions about purchases in other ways, word of mouth (WOM) was the most popular method, as almost half (49%) said that they had told friends and family about their experiences. While 29% said they didn't express their views in any other way, the remaining respondents said they got in touch with companies directly, blogged about their experiences, or left reviews on third-party web sites instead.

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