Online consumer reviews usually positive

06 October 2009

NEW YORK: Online consumer reviews are typically skewed towards the positive end of the spectrum, contrasting with commonly-held perceptions that most of the feedback about brands on the internet is negative in character.

Bazaarvoice, which provides product review software for companies including Dell, Macy's and Procter & Gamble, has reported that the average score for a consumer web review of a product or service is 4.3 out of 5 in the US.

There are some variations between different markets, according to Bazaarvoice, with internet users in the UK delivering an even higher total than their counterparts in the US, at 4.4 points.

Amazon, the online retail pioneer, has pegged the figure at a similar level in its home market, with its own ceo, Jeff Bezos, one user who has given a variety of products on its portal the highest possible score of five stars.

Russell Dicker, senior manager of community at Amazon, argued that more extreme opinions tend to lead people to post their comments online.

"If you inspire passion in somebody in a good way or a bad way, that is when they want to write a review," he said.

YouTube, the video-sharing platform owned by Google, has similarly stated that the mean rating for the content hosted on its service is 4.6 stars, just 0.4 points below the maximum.

According to the Web 2.0 pioneer, many of its visitors opt to award material this status in order to "give props" to the people who produced it.

Buzzillions, which draws together consumer-generated ratings from more than 3,000 websites, has broken out figures for some particularly popular categories.

These include dog food, which boasts an average rating of 4.7 points, falling to 4.4 points for both boots and printer paper.

Andy Chen, ceo of Power Reviews, which runs Buzzillions, said "it's like gambling. Most people remember the times they win and don't realise that in aggregate they've lost money."

Research undertaken by the Keller Fey Group among 100 American shoppers on a weekly basis has also revealed that 65% of all electronic word-of-mouth is favourable, while just 8% is critical.

Ed Keller, chief executive of the research firm, argued "there is an urban myth that people are far more likely to express negatives than positives."

eBay, the online auction site, recently revised its ratings methodology, after finding the average score for its traders was 4.3 points.

From this month, the portal will assess how many reviews "sellers" receive in the one and two star categories, with anyone receiving these scores more than 4% of the time likely to be banned from the site, in order to offer what is hoped to be a more realistic picture.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by WARC staff