Even negative reviews can sell, up to 82% of buyers are looking for them

Aleš Randa

2 min

You can't please everyone. Even if you have a top product, one day something won't work, taste or look good. And that's how you get a bad review. Fortunately, even negative reviews can boost sales or brand credibility.

As many as 82% of shoppers specifically look for negative reviews, don't hide them

In fact, a bad experience is quite common and people know it. If you don't have any negative reviews, up to 95% of buyers will think you're cheating. According to research, ideal reviews contain a mix of ratings between 1-5 stars, with the most desirable average rating being between 4.2 and 4.5.

The psychology of negative reviews

Why are customers so attracted to negative reviews? The psychological concept of negative bias explains it all.

According to it, the brain is much more interested in bad news than good news. In practice, this has some interesting implications:

  • We are most focused on negative events and learn the most from them
  • We give more weight to negative information when making decisions and perceive it as more truthful

The principle of negative bias directly explains why bad reviews are important to customers:

  • Customers desperately need to know the bad side of a product. Firstly, they can't help it, and secondly, it plays an important role in their purchasing decisions.
  • The negative aspects of a product will affect customers much more than the possible positive benefits.
  • Negative reviews increase brand credibility because we are more likely to perceive bad information as true.

The benefit of negative reviews can be surprisingly positive

In 2011, a popular wine critic described one brand of expensive Tuscan wine as "tasting like sweaty socks". The result? A 5% increase in orders and publicity with the world's leading media.

On average, negative reviews can bring up to 45% more sales, even when the criticism is really harsh. That's according to research from the University of Pennsylvania, which focuses on book sales. Studies by the universities of Zurich and Copenhagen have come to a similar conclusion.

What can we learn from this?

Certainly not that you build a business on negativity. For example, we know from Moz's research that just four or more negative references to your product leads to a loss of up to 70% of customers. How to respond to negative reviews? You can find out here.

The positive effect of bad reviews is only additive and works more for established, stable businesses, to which it adds depth and a realness. Think of it as the last ingredient of a truly perfect brand.

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