Should Product Managers Worry About Online Product Reviews?

Do online reviews of products really matter?
Do online reviews of products really matter?
Image Credit: Gayla Baer-Taylor

In this digital age in which we are living, we create our product using our product development definition and then our customers can purchase our products and then go home and write a review of it. This review can be posted online. This means that what one of your customers says can be seen by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other potential customers. How big of a deal is this? Clearly if people are taking the time to read reviews of products before they make a purchase, it could be a big deal. However, do these online reviews really matter?

The Power Of Online Reviews

Product managers want to know: do online consumer reviews really matter? It turns out that the answer is yes, but in ways that might surprise a lot of product managers. For example, a moderately worded four-star review can sometimes be more persuasive than a five-star rave about a product. Potential customers pay more attention to reviews that are written using mobile devices. And talking about previous purchasing mistakes that they made makes a reviewer seem more trustworthy.

These are some of the conclusions from recent research on consumer reviews. As more and more shoppers choose to block online advertisements and tune out companies’ messages, they are increasingly starting to rely on reviews to help them make buying decisions. This can have a big impact on products’ bottom lines. Studies have shown that an increase of a single star in an overall rating on review site boosts a restaurant’s revenue by 5% to 9%. Product managers need to realize that they doesn’t realize the value of online reviews and word-of-mouth, they are not understanding how to do business in a digital world.

How To Maximize The Value Of Online Reviews

What product managers want to know is what customers are looking for with online reviews, what makes them trust a particular review, and what makes them pull out the credit card and place an order. Interestingly enough, when it comes to online reviews a 4 is better than a 5. If a product manager is selling a product, which would they prefer: a glowing five-star review or a moderately positive four-star one? Studies have shown that the four-star review can sometimes be more persuasive. What matters in this case that most is whether the review deviates from the crowd. In a study participants were shown the most recent review for a product, which in some cases was another five-star write-up, and in others was a more moderate rating of four out of five. The moderate review persuaded 19% more people to buy. What happened was that when people saw the four-star review, they thought that the reviewer was more thoughtful and that the reviewer’s evaluation was more accurate. As a result of this, they were more likely to buy the product. Results like this would look good on anyone’s product manager resume.

Where a review comes from matters. It turns out that mobile reviews boost sales of a product. People are more likely to buy a product after reading reviews written using a mobile device. In a study, participants were shown moderately positive hotel reviews with identical text, the only difference between them being that some reviews were marked as having been written “via mobile.” Those potential customers who saw the reviews written on mobile devices were more likely to consider staying at the hotel than those who read the desktop reviews. Why was this? The reason was that people thought it took more effort to write a strong review on a mobile device. When something is seen as more effortful, they typically are seen as being higher quality. In this case it increased the perceived credibility of the review.

When it comes to online reviews, mistakes increase trust. It turns out that people will pay the most attention to reviewers who admit that they’ve made mistakes when buying similar products in the past. What this signals is that because you’ve made the mistake, now you’re motivated to not make yet another one. A mistake motivates a customer to learn more about the category, and to invest the time and resources to do that. An experiment was done that involved showing people reviews of candy, and then offering them either a box of candy or a payment of $1. Only 22% of the people involved chose the candy over the money when reading reviews that made no mention of mistakes in previous purchases, but for those reading reviews that did mention mistakes, that number jumped to 35%.

Product managers need to find ways to turn negative reviews to their advantage. Every product manager dreads receiving a vicious, unfair one-star review. But research shows that instead of being put off by reading those harsh reviews, many customers end up empathizing with the company and being more likely to buy its products. If your product gets an unfair negative review, don’t try to hide them. Research shows that people tend to have a positive response, especially when the reviews are followed by a very personalized follow-up response from the company. This doesn’t mean that all one-star reviews are good, of course. The empathy effect will only kick in when people see a review as unfair. That tends to happen in situations when the reviewer is complaining about something outside the company’s control or making excessive demands.

What All Of This Means For You

What makes a potential customer turn into an actual customer? Product managers hope that the value of their product is what can motivate someone to do this. However, sometimes our products need a little bit of help. In these modern times, people who purchase our products can then go online and write a review of them. That online review can be the tipping point for others and can make them decide to make a purchase or not. What is the best way for product managers to use their product manager job description to manage their product’s online reviews?

Product managers need to understand that online reviews of their products do matter. However, all of the reviews don’t have to say that the product is the best. A good review can be more valuable than a great review. A thoughtful good review can have more impact on potential customers. Reviews that are created on mobile devices can have more of an impact because people view them as requiring more effort to create. If the reviewer admits to making mistakes in the past when buying this type of product, the review will carry more weight. A negative review of a product is not necessarily bad. People may view it as being unfair and it may cause them to think more highly of the product.

Product managers need to understand that in the day and age that we are living in, online reviews of a product can have a big impact on how popular the product turns out to be. Because of this, we need to monitor the online reviews of our product and we need to take action if we see negative reviews. We also have to understand that not every review has to be saying that our product is great. Appreciating how powerful online reviews can be is an important part of being a modern product manager.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Is there anything that product managers can do to get better online reviews of their product?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So here’s an interesting challenge for you: what would you do if your business started to take off in a direction that you had not originally planned on? Would you stop what you had been doing and focus on the new direction? Or would you try to serve all of your customers no matter how they came to your business? Restaurant product managers are facing this very problem right now. They have traditionally operated restaurants where people would come to eat their food. However, in part to the pandemic, home delivery of their food changed their product development definition and has taken off and become a big part of the business. What’s a product manager to do now?