Amazon has shown customer reviews and ratings for years. Many other retailers have followed suit. So, a vital question is: What is a good online rating score for a retailer or a specific product? The results of a recent study may surprise you, since a 5.0 out of 5.0 rating is NOT the one eliciting the most customer purchases.

As reported by Retail TouchPoints:

“While every retailer pushes for perfect ratings to illustrate the effectiveness of their products, these ideal ratings may not be optimal for sales. On a scale of one to five, the likelihood of purchase peaks for products with an overall average star rating between 4.2 and 4.5, according to research from Northwestern University.”

“Above 4.5, purchase likelihood drops as the rating approaches five stars. Five-star reviews actually are often considered ‘too good to be true’ by the consumer. As counter-intuitive as that logic may seem, negative reviews can have a positive impact because they help establish trust and authenticity with the consumer.”

To download the full Northwestern University/PowerReviews study on online ratings, click the image below. NOTE: A free signup is required.


15 Replies to “The Effect of Online Ratings on Consumer Behavior”

  1. As a consumer that frequents online retailers, such as Amazon, I would have to agree with this. As I look through products, seeing a 5-star rating does often seem too good to be true. Usually I take this as a sign that not many people have reviewed this product therefore not as many people have used it. This does not necessarily mean it is a lesser product, however I feel as though that those products with more feedback are used by more consumers, which gives me a better sense of security in buying something.

  2. I would have to agree with this article. I like to see a variety of types of reviews to try and judge what the product is really like. If they are all 5 out of 5, I tend not to trust these reviews since most of them are short and don’t elaborate on the product. They’ll say things like “its great” or “love it”. Its better to see reviews in the 4’s because they’ll have a more trust worthy opinion saying what fews things are wrong while still being a pretty good product.

    1. I agree with this. People who rate things too high and are calling the product so called perfect mostly means that it is always to good to be true. People like to make there things in life look perfect because it makes their life look more perfect than it actually is. There is no such thing as perfect and should receive 5 stars. Something that has 4 stars could be just as excellent as something with 5 stars. Most people rather have the 5 stars because they think their life and opinion would be more perfect.

  3. I agree that consumers would want a more realistic rating as opposed to an actual perfect rating (5.0) because then they could get a better idea of the product. No product is perfect and defects are a common issue that comes up. Other review websites like yelp are fairly accurate of the ratings and it is very uncommon to find a perfect business so everyone can get a quick reliable idea of what that organization entails. The stride for a 5.0 is unrealistic just like how nobody can be perfect.

  4. Online rating is a good weapon for influence Consumer behavior. Consumers always review the rating online. I like review online rating because I think that this is a good way can provide me some “evidences” for helping me make a decision. However, I don’t think online rating is always reliable. So many retailers doing “shadow” things for high rate. Such as focus the customer to give them good rate or give consumers some benefit to exchange good rate. Maybe this is the reason why recently when I shop online, it is hardly to find a retailer have score under 4. I think online rating is losing its effective now. Also I think the rating system is less effectiveness now, just like what this article talking about. Maybe it is time to change the online rating system.

  5. I think online ratings play a huge role in decision making when contemplating a purchase. I personally like to find products with relatively high ratings and skim reviews to see the positive and negative aspects of the item. As mentioned in the article, I too find it a little unsettling when a product has an extremely high rating. I find it highly unlikely that many people would find a product so satisfying. I usually take this as a sign that there are not many people who reviewed the item or the ratings were fixed. I am more comfortable purchasing an item with a 4.3 rating than a 5.0 rating, as I feel the product with a 4.3 rating provides a more honest review.

  6. My personal exerience on online purchase is to find the most popular product, not the highest rated product. Many online sellers play tricks on reviews and ratings but sales volume do not lie. Take amazon for example, When I am on the page of product list, I ignore the rating stars but compare review numbers of the most relevant 10 products. Then I opened those product pages one by one from the mostly reviewed to the lestly reviewed. I believe sales reflect word of mouth better than rating.

  7. As a frequent online shopper, I always read at least a few of the comments on products before I purchase them. If the ratings usually rave about the product, I’ll google the item further so I can get more detail on how people truly feel about it. When the ratings are five stars, I usually suspect that the company’s own employees are the ones leaving these reviews on the product. If the product has a semi-decent rating, with consumers having mixed reviews, I tend to purchase the product then. I definitely agree that if the product seems to good to be true, I will not buy it.

  8. Recently, I have become more inclined to pay attention to both the ratings and reviews of products before I decide to make an online purchase. Being a frequent shopper on Amazon, I have discovered how easy they make it to access customers’ feelings regarding a specific product. I tend to turn away from both products that are rated 5 stars and products that have not been rated at all. When I see a product that is consistently rated 5 stars, it leads me to believe that the company may be playing a role in the rating. On the other hand, when I see a product that has no reviews, it leads me to believe that either the product is unpopular or that it was so disliked no one even bothered to talk about it.

  9. Many times I’ve heard that “5 star ratings are considered too good to be true,” and that is very true. I guess this means I should stop leaving 5 star reviews when I’m satisfied with a product, right? When I myself am shopping on any website, I always look at the customer reviews. If I see a high rating, I automatically assume its good–I don’t even have to read what the customer wrote! But, this is no good. This post sort of reminds me of the South Park episode that aired a few weeks ago about Yelp reviewers–although it was purely sarcastic, it had some truth to it. Now that people are so trusting of the internet, people have become more trusting in each other. For example, why do I trust some random person across the globe enough to order something from the web simply because they said it was a good product and the shipping was excellent? What value do I have of their opinion? It’s very interesting to see that people depend so highly on the reviews of others online, yet we’re still untrusting of certain races and/or ethnicities because of what the media has taught us of them. Interesting, indeed.

  10. My family loves to buy on Amazon. So reviews are extremely influential in our purchases. Personally I tend to buy products with high ratings, however I usually read the reviews before purchasing. You cannot simply buy a product based off a star scale rating. When I read detailed customer reviews of the product it gives me a much better perspective of what I am purchasing. Often times I find myself reader the very low reviews of products and then the highest reviews to see what it was that made them love or hate the product. I feel that when I read the lowest rated reviews and high rated reviews then I am able to feel confident with what I am purchasing.

  11. I agree with this post because I base a majority, if not all, of what I buy based off of ratings. Ratings help me determine how good a product is, it helps me see the good and bad weighed out by other people who have used them. If a product is rated 5 stars or no reviews at all, I’m less likely to buy it because nothing is perfect enough to be 5 stars and if no one rated it, I’m just going to assume its not a good buy because if someone really liked it, they would rate it.

  12. I think the rating system has the useful role for the customer purchasing decision. My own experience when I am shopping in Amazon looking for a intended product, there have multiple choices list showed on the page. So the rating system will help me to make the decision, I will pay attention for those have high rating star, the review could also help me get more precisely information about the product.

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