There are lots of data about consumer reliance on reviews and the impact of reviews on purchase decisions. Surprisingly, however, there’s not a ton on review distribution or consumer motivations for writing reviews.
There’s an “anecdotal” perception in the market that most reviewers are motivated by anger or frustration and that the bulk of reviews accordingly are critical. Among the few studies I found on reviewer motivation, the bulk of research shows people are typically motivated to help others or by what might be called “constructive reasons.”
For example, a 2007 Bazaarvoice-sponsored survey of 1,300 online review writers found that 87% of reviews were positive and that reviewers were motivated to help others:
- 90% said they write reviews to help others make better buying decisions
- Roughly 70% want to help companies improve their products
- 79% write reviews in order to reward a company
- 87% of the reviews are generally positive
Above is a comparison of the distribution of reviews on Yelp from 2009, 2012 and 2014. As you can see, there has been growth at the extremes: five star reviews have grown and, to a lesser degree, so have one-star reviews. Yet the majority of reviews on Yelp are positive: 67% are either four or five stars. Only 33% are 3 stars or fewer.
This should help remove some of the fear and trembling associated with embracing online reviews, which many small business owners continue to resist.