Your online products need plenty of reviews

Harry Judd, the drummer from that popular beat combo McFly, is a brilliant dancer; we all know that because he won the TV contest, “Strictly Come Dancing” on Saturday night in front of a massive 12m viewers. Meanwhile, in other news, we all know that the French hate the English and we don’t like them either. But actually, do either of these claims prove true under scrutiny. Just because the Sunday newspapers were full of “Harry-mania” does not mean he is actually a brilliant dancer. And just because Nick Clegg had a row with the French Prime Minister doesn’t prove that our two countries are at loggerheads. Yet, if you listened to the radio, or watched TV last week you would have thought we were near to war.

It is a simple psychological phenomenon – the more you hear something, the more you read it, the more you believe it is true. You can see this happening in business folklore for instance. Almost every business meeting that discusses how a company can improve its communications trots out the well-worn statistic that 85% of all communication is non verbal. Business leaders believe that “fact” to be true; they have been taught it, heard “gurus” say it and have even been shown charts and diagrams which prove it. The problem is, the statistic is made-up. Even the person who is often quoted as producing the research which “proves” this fact has published a denial – yet, because the “fact” is so prevalent in the business world, people believe it. As an aside, try understanding anything online if communication is 85% non-verbal…! Derr..!

It seems that sheer weight of information can make us believe it. And this is an interesting sub-text in some new research on the value of comments and reviews for products and services sold online. The study, due to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research, shows that the volume of comments and reviews is an important feature in our acceptability of the brand. The more people who like it and rate it, the more likely we are to desire the product itself. In fact, the study showed that a large number of reviews and comments is important. When only a relatively small number of reviews for a product are present, we start to be more analytical – and our own pre-set preferences and thoughts come into play. But when all we see is a mass of positive reviews, we just appear to accept them as “fact”.

So the trick to selling more in an online shop is not managing reviews so you get the “balance” right, but instead to make sure you simply get lots and lots of reviews.

The same principle works on social networks too. Only recently I was quizzed about the value of “Recommendations” on LinkedIn. A quick, ad-hoc survey around the room revealed that people simply look at the number of recommendations and rarely read them. As long as someone has “loads of” recommendations on LinkedIn, they are judged to be “OK”. If they only have a few recommendations, then people start reading them.

In other words, the more people who say you are good, the better. Online, it seems, quantity, not quality, matters.

Of course, on Strictly Come Dancing it was Harry Judd’s quality that ruled the day, not the sheer number of people phoning in…!

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