Why Your Association May Not Want Perfect Reviews

How much of an influence do product ratings and reviews have on consumer behavior? A new report provides some surprising insights.

From comment threads to Yelp, there are seemingly endless ways for customers and members to review products and services. So it makes sense that you’d want to get the highest rating possible.

But when it comes to ratings, specifically starred reviews, a little bit of imperfection can go a long way.

PowerReviews, in partnership with Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center, recently conducted a study to quantify the impact of one- to five-star reviews on sales probability. The most important finding from their research comes as a surprise.

“Simply stated, the likelihood of a product being purchased doesn’t necessarily increase as its star rating increases,” the report says.

Once a rating passes three stars, the chances that a customer will purchase something increases, but there’s an important twist. In the words of the report:

“Purchase likelihood then peaks when the average star rating of a product is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars and starts to drop as the star rating approaches a perfect 5.”

So the conclusion to be drawn from those findings is that the push for perfection leads to diminishing, sometimes counterproductive, returns. But why? Shouldn’t customers want to see that a product is universally top rated before making a purchasing decision?

The researchers concluded that, after a certain point, customers are looking for something more than perfection.

“As counterintuitive as it may seem, negative reviews have a positive impact because they help establish trust and authenticity,” the report states. “Consumers understand that a product can’t be all things to all people, and they appreciate negative reviews as an important element in their decision-making process.”

Also keep in mind that the more expensive your offerings, the more important those star ratings and reviews become — and they’re even more important when debuting new products or branding.

So think about your organization’s membership pitches as well as the testimonials about the the products, services, and events you offer. Are you presenting only idyllic experiences? Then consider allowing a bit of negativity to surface, so potential members or customers see your organization’s offerings for what they really are, warts and all.


Morgan Little

By Morgan Little

Morgan Little is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!