Consumer reviews are important to online shoppers. So, are more people participating now?

Based on new research, the time-honored “90-9-1 rule” may no longer be accurate.

The 90-9-1 rule states that for every 100 people active online, one person creates content … nine people respond to created content … and 90 are merely lurkers – consuming the information but not “engaging” with it at all.

But now we have a survey by ratings and reviews platform Clutch which suggests that the ratio may be changing. The Clutch survey finds that around 20% of online shoppers have written reviews for some of their purchases.

That finding would seem to indicate that more people are now involved in content engagement than before. Still, when just one in five shoppers are writing and posting customer reviews, it continues to represent only a distinct minority of the market.

So, the big question for brands and e-commerce providers is how to encourage a greater number of people to post reviews, since such feedback is cited so often as one of the most important considerations for people who are weighing their choices when purchasing a new product or service.

A few of the ways that businesses have attempted to increase participation in customer reviews include:

  • Make the review process as efficient as possible by requesting specific feedback through star ratings.
  • Provide additional rating options on product/service performance sub-categories through quick guided questions.
  • Offering incentives such as a contest entry might also help gain more reviews, although the FTC does have regulations in place that prohibit offering explicit incentives in exchange for receiving favorable reviews.
  • Providing timely customer service – including resolving products with orders – can also increase the likelihood of garnering reviews that are positive rather than negative ones.

This last point is underscored by additional Clutch results which, when the survey asked why online shoppers write reviews, uncovered these reasons:

  • Was especially satisfied with the product or service: ~33%
  • Received an e-mail specifically requesting to leave feedback: ~23%
  • Was offered an incentive to leave feedback: ~5%
  • Was especially dissatisfied with the product or service: ~2%

For companies who might be concerned that negative feedback will be given lots of play, the 2% statistic above should come as some relief. And even if a negative review is published, the situation can often be rectified by reaching out to the reviewer and providing remedies to make things right, thereby “turning lemons into lemonade.”

After all, most consumers are pretty charitable if they sense that a company is making a good-faith effort to correct a perceived problem.

Fake online product reviews: How pervasive are they?

Fake reviewsThink about those reviews that mean so much to you when considering whether to purchase a particular product or a service …

It could be that the comments you’re reading are bogus – or at least not based on the reviewer’s first-hand experience.

An online survey of nearly 1,200 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted by marketing research firm YouGov in January 2014, found that more than one in five respondents admitted to having posted online reviews about products or services they hadn’t actually bought or used.

The percentage is somewhat higher for men (~23%) than it is for women (~17%).

Why do people post reviews or comments on products and services they haven’t tried?  Here’s what the survey respondents reported:

  • “Just felt like it”:  ~32% gave this reason
  • “Didn’t like the idea of the product”:  ~22%
  • “Didn’t like the manufacturer”:  ~19%

These stats might suggest that there are more “negative” reviews being posted online than what reflects the actual experience with the product or service.

But the YouGov survey also found that far more people leave good reviews than bad ones:

  • ~57% have left a mixed review
  • ~54% have left a good review
  • Only ~21% have ever left a bad review

What drives someone to leave a bad review?  The #1 reason is obvious … but the #2 reason might surprise you.  And the #3 reason is just mercenary:

  • ~88% want to warn others about a disappointing product or service
  • ~23% believe that venting their frustrations will leave them feeling less angry
  • ~21% are hoping to get a refund or some other monetary consideration from the company in question

The veracity of online reviews is important because the vast majority of adult consumers check them before deciding to purchase a product or service.

This YouGov survey is no different:  It found that ~79% consult reviews at least sometimes … and ~26% reported that they “always” check reviews before buying a product or service.

FakeryThe YouGov report comes hard on the heels of a Virginia lawsuit wherein a carpet cleaning service charged online review website Yelp with publishing negative reviews posted by people who had never been customers of the store.  The cleaning service claimed that the negative reviews had hurt its business.

In that case, a judge ordered Yelp to reveal the identities of the seven “anonymous” reviewers — who I’m sure never thought their “unidentified antics” would ultimately be revealed for all the world to see.

It may just be that posting a “faux” review has now become a little riskier.

People may think twice now before engaging in their little mischief.  I’m sure most of them can think of a lot better things to do than to be hauled into court for an alleged infraction like that — or at the very least, having their name brought into the legal proceedings.