Consumer reviews are a powerful way to drive purchase decisions. They are particularly effective in motivating prospects that are already considering your product. However, selecting the perfect customer reviews to feature in your marketing can be difficult. You must consider how it fits into your greater marketing strategy, which to feature in various placements, and filter though (hopefully) a variety of reviews to find the ones that shine a positive light on your company or product. 

The guidance for picking the perfect customer review just became clearer with the release of the article “Leveraging User-Generated Content for Product Promotion: The Effects of Firm-Highlighted Reviews”, published in the July 2019 Journal of Information Systems Research. The researchers conducted and analyzed three studies. We’ve distilled their findings into best practices for choosing the perfect customer reviews. 

The researchers created a system called “The Overall Conceptual Model of the Effects of Firm’s Highlighting Practice”. That’s quite a mouthful, but in brief. the model outlines three elements that affect the receptiveness of a prospective customer to a selected review:

1. Message Characteristics (Review Extremity)

2. Information Context (Variance in Other Reviews)

3. Source Characteristics (Firms Reputation)

These three elements should serve as a guide when selecting customer reviews to display on your website, social, or to favorite/sponsor on review sites like TripAdvisor. 

 

Cloud City Pizza Review Graphic

 

1. Message Characteristics

This element considers the “extremity” of the review. Marketers may be inclined to select a review that shines a perfect light on the company. They may also be tempted to pick a review that aligns more specifically with their current marketing efforts, e.g. this glowing review mentions the tilapia and we’re having a special on fish this month. 

The study warns that this can alienate or dissuade consumers who are unsure of your product’s value or quality. The research suggests that “firms can alleviate consumers’ skepticism by selecting a positive but less extreme review”. This is to say, consumers are skeptical of overly perfect customer reviews. A more moderate review, perhaps even one that is slightly critical, shows the company’s authenticity and sincerity in using this type of user generated content. 

Other older studies also suggest that the first piece of marketing “stimuli” given to a user affects the way that a consumer acquires additional product information. The study cites Jarvenpaa’s 1990 study “Graphic displays in decision making.” Placing a review in a prominent position on a site is an indicator of the company’s marketing intention or persuasive message. This sort of meta-awareness makes a prospective customer less inclined to be influenced by that message.

The study may put it best, “[a] positive yet less extreme marketing message, which is relatively conservative, is found to effectively alleviate consumers’ skepticism about the message and marketer’s ulterior motives”.

 

Compton-stackhouse hotel review five stars

 

2. Information Context

Information Context considers the variety (variance) of customer responses from review to review. Again, marketers may be tempted to select the most perfect customer reviews or a handful of the best ones, but how does that look against the greater body of all reviews of a company or product?

Part of the consideration for this element is the ease of access to additional review content. Brightlocal’s 2018 consumer study found that people generally read ten reviews before feeling able to trust a business. Do you have ten reviews that, when placed together, tell a clear narrative about your product? 

The study reminds of be wary of the process of causal attribution. This is the marketing psychology rule that states “the consistency of the message with other relevant information and the credibility of the message source will heavily influence consumers’ acceptance of the message.”

There are several ways to approach selecting reviews using Information Context. Each method is dependent upon the variance among all reviews you’re considering and also all the reviews that are easily accessible to a prospect that is considering you. 

High Variance in Reviews

If there is a wide range of variety in the score and context of a review, then users who look at other reviews will be increasingly susceptible to being persuaded by those other opinions. Try to select a collection of reviews that are representative of your brand while still curating out the less friendly voices. 

Moderate Variance in Reviews

If there is a more moderate range of variety in the score and context of a review, then marketers should include a handful of perspectives from the middle-top of the pack. This isn’t to say that you should select overly-critical or negative voices. But, perhaps, choosing a perspective that is true and allows you to take ownership of a fault in a forward, authentic way. This could also be used to promote current marketing efforts. A customer complaining that the food came out too quickly after an appetizer could support lunch specials that emphasize the speed of service. An older customer complaining about younger working professionals take over the hotel bar can support targeting of that demographic. Be creative in your selection and think beyond the five star review.

Low Variance in Reviews

The path forward is much more focused with companies that have low variance in reviews. If you reviews are positive, select the best and the rest of the social proof will support your voice. If your reviews are inclined towards the negative, then perhaps this type of UGC is not the most effective tool for your immediate tactics. Cultivate trust and encourage more positive reviews from your top customers. 

Source Characteristics

Source Characteristics takes a firm’s reputation outside of individual reviews into consideration. Consumers who already have less positive opinions of a firm’s reputation will gravitate towards reviews that confirm their bias. They are also “especially sensitive to subsequent negative reviews than positive reviews”.  

The article cites the definitive 1990 article in the Journal of Consumer Research “The Effects of Advertiser Reputation and Extremity of Advertising Claim on Advertising Effectiveness.” The article, in short, says that the better a firm’s reputation the more extreme a marketing claim they can make. Firms with renowned reputations can make extreme or over-exaggerated marketing claims and people will be inclined to believe it. Conversely, consumers will be skeptical and unreceptive to marketing or advertising from organizations with negative reputations. 

The study summarizes by saying, “firms with lower reputations will benefit from highlighting a less extreme review, whereas for highly reputable firms, the difference incurred by review extremity will be less evident as these firms are in a better position to get consumers to believe in their marketing claims in general.”

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Consumer reviews are a powerful way to drive purchase decisions. Picking the perfect customer review is now more straightforward. Use the model, find great reviews, and think beyond five stars. TINT helps companies curate, own, and display reviews from sites across the web. Discover the power of social proof and learn more about how TINT engages with companies like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Foursquare, and more. Request a demo today. 

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