Study: Negative Reviews Grow More Powerful


Negative consumer reviews online are becoming increasingly important to would-be buyers, according to a new study, with 80% of consumers saying they have changed their mind about a purchase after reading a thumbs-down report.

That's up from 67% last, according to the new 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker from Cone Inc., a Boston-based public relations and marketing communications agency.

"Negative information is now just as powerful as positive information," Mike Hollywood, Cone's director of new media, tells Marketing Daily. "For marketers, that means that leaving your head in the sand and just letting people make negative comments isn't working any longer. Reaching out and trying to make the consumer experience better, even if you can't solve the problem, is important."

The good news is that word-of-mouth for positive reviews has swayed 87% of shoppers, confirming their decision to purchase. And nearly 90% say they find online channels a trustworthy source for product and service reviews.



The study also finds that the pricier the purchase, the more likely shoppers are to do extra digging, with people saying they are nearly 25% more likely to verify recommendations for high-cost purchases, such as cars, than they were in 2010. And 59% say they are more likely to research products or services online because they can easily access applications on their cell phones.

The survey, which is based on responses from just over 1,000 adults, finds that shoppers are doing homework well beyond reading user reviews and comments on e-commerce sites, and are 50% more likely now than they were last year to search for articles and blog recommendations (42% in 2011 vs. 28% in 2010).

An important trend, says Hollywood, is that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about sorting out which reviews are more important, and a credible-sounding negative review from someone willing to leave their name, for example, makes a bigger impact than a cranky anonymous consumer.

"Consumers do have the ability to sniff out who might have an ulterior motive. They are definitely giving more credence to their trustworthy sources, often valuing the opinion of bloggers and reviewers more than mainstream media," he says. "Marketers can use that to their advantage by targeting the bloggers and commenters in their industry that have, or will soon have, that level of credibility."

4 comments about "Study: Negative Reviews Grow More Powerful ".
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  1. Doug Pruden from Customer Experience Partners, August 31, 2011 at 11:09 a.m.

    Certainly consumers have evolved to the point where many do “value the opinion of bloggers and reviewers more than mainstream media”. The key point as you have noted is that at the same time it’s getting more and more important for consumers to “sniff out who might have an ulterior motive”.

    We say this in the wake of the recent study of the hospitality industry by Cornell researchers who determined that as many as 50% of reviews in that category were fraudulent (both in terms of both positive comments about the marketers own facility, and negative reviews regarding the competition). Further we read reports of popular Tweeters being paid significant sums for mentions and positive comments. And with bloggers and v-loggers accepting “support”, outright cash payments, ongoing streams of product “samples”, and advertising dollars, we wonder how in the future consumers will be able to know when conflicts of interest come to effect written comments and recommendations.

    As in some many other business matters, deciding who to trust will be the key.

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, August 31, 2011 at 12:01 p.m.

    @Doug - interesting data. Is there a place I can read about tht study?

    Amazon is one place where I always discount the majority of reviews. Part of the problem may be that the corporately backed positive reviews have such a strong smell of falsehood tht consumers run from them as fast as they can.


  3. Doug Pruden from Customer Experience Partners, August 31, 2011 at 6:13 p.m.

    Doug, I actually shouldn't have combined two different parts of the story. The Cornell team discussed the problem and studied the ability to identify fraudulent reviews. It was Adam Raphael, editor of The Good Hotel Guide, that claimed "as many as half of all reviews on TripAdvisor are written by hotel owners or their friends and family". You can read the article at

  4. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., August 31, 2011 at 8:03 p.m.

    Agree. What a dilemma! I am at the point, rather like Doug Garnett, where I read the negative Amazon reviews first, and frankly give them more weight. I don't see much of a "competitor" problem there.

    Whole thing reminds me of Ebay, where we now (I think) are at the point where both buyers and sellers are somewhat afraid of giving a negative review, with the sellers being a bit more afraid than the buyers.

    It's a problem partially because we have no way of guaranteeing "one person/one vote." Of course, we don't have that at the ballot box either, what with Citizens United.

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