We live and work in an age of Data Darwinism. Get great reviews, and you’ll thrive. Have a poor or nonexistent reputation, and you’ll suffer. It’s as simple as that. But if reviews are the new lifeblood of any business, shouldn’t we know who exactly is behind them? And perhaps more importantly, why do they write reviews in the first place?
Who Writes Online Reviews?
With thousands (millions?) of reviews online, there’s no end to the data we can use to find out who writes reviews. Using research from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Hubpot found that Amazon reviewers most often come from Vermont, Maine, Washington, Alaska, New Hampshire, Delaware, Colorado, California, New York, and Connecticut. You may be surprised to find out that influential reviews may not come from your home state or even represent the average consumer. Businesses that serve multiple geographical areas should be careful to optimize marketing and service for the areas that are most likely to offer feedback.
Hotel industry research is even more revealing:
- Women write more reviews than men, with 53% to mens’ 47%, and they rate higher too. The average review rating of women is 8.5, while men tend to rate around 7.8.
- Young to middle-aged adults make up 75% of the world’s reviews. They are the largest reviewing population, with 30% of reviews coming from 25 to 34 year olds, and even more, 45%, coming from 35 to 49 year olds. Adolescents rarely write reviews, representing only 3.5% of total reviews. Older adults aged 50 to 64 contribute a significant 22% of reviews, but their influence pales in comparison 25 to 49 year olds.
With this data in mind, should all businesses start specifically catering to 40 year old women in Vermont? Maybe. This is, after all, the customer who is most likely to write a positive review. But more important than knowing who writes reviews is understanding why they write them.
What Makes People Write Reviews?
What exactly do customers get out of sharing reviews? For the most part, there is no tangible reward. Though some sites may offer perks or elevated status for completing a certain number of reviews, we do not often see legitimate customers earning money or prizes for their reviews. In fact, according to marketing and communications firm Demandforce, 90% of reviews are written to “help other customers make good decisions,” not for personal gain. We see that online reviews are most often written for entirely altruistic reasons.
For many reviewers, sharing feedback offers a sense of community. Some want to feel like they’re contributing, and may even get to know other reviewers or people with similar interests. Data shows that 79% of reviewers contribute because they rely on consumer reviews and feel obligated to give back.
Others are interested in sharing their expertise and experiences. Our fragile egos need to share opinions, and 86% of reviewers do so because they simply want to share their experiences or be seen as an expert.
But more important to reviewers than community or expert status is the need to share the truth about products and services. Online reviewers report that they write reviews to reward companies for a job well done, help companies make improvements, and get companies to listen to their needs. In other words, they want to be heard not by other consumers, but by companies themselves. These may be disgruntled customers who were unable to find a resolution through more direct channels.
There are, of course, reviewers who write for less altruistic reasons. Some will write reviews because they’re compelled to by giveaways or elevated status on a reviews site after completing a certain level of feedback. Others are actually paid to write reviews, and they’re usually entirely fake. The practice of fake reviews is illegal, and was recently investigated by the New York Attorney General. Still others write reviews for products they never actually bought. They may be the employees or agents of a competitor, but most often, they are loyal customers. These customers typically write reviews for unpurchased items because they see themselves as self-appointed managers who should influence the company.
Why do people write reviews, and who is writing them? Thanks to data, we know the answer the these questions. Your online reviews are most likely to come from a 25 to 49 year old woman living in a northern state who simply wants to help other customers make good decisions. Are you doing all that you can to make her happy?