Person holding a phone, snapping a photo of a meal

Reviews that are labeled as being written on a mobile device are perceived as more credible.

Quick question: is it better to have several, short five-star reviews or one long, detailed four-star review?

If you guessed that five star reviews are always better, you can be forgiven for thinking that way. After all, it seems logical. But, recent research into consumer reviews has found that four star reviews can often be more influential than a five star review.

That’s just one of several lessons gleaned from research focused on consumer reviews in the last few years. If you use these findings in the correct way, they can help you market your restaurant or retail shop more effectively by encouraging the right kind of reviews. And remember: reviews can be very powerful when it comes to marketing in this digitally-driven time.

Here are some of the things researchers learned about consumer reviews recently:

Negative reviews are not always bad

Many small business owners understandably stress over the prospect of a negative review posted to Yelp or some other site. But recent research points to some surprising effects of those reviews. In particular, negative reviews that are “perceived as unfair” can lead to feelings of empathy toward the business and even inspire some consumers to buy more from the business.

What factors play a role in causing a negative review to induce empathy for the business? Researchers noted that consumers become most empathetic to a business when the reviews were “highly unfair,” when the review identifies employees and when the business responds to the negative review with its own empathy.

In other words, responding with empathy can help the business overcome the negative effects of the review.

Reviews that tell a story are more influential

In the cleverly-titled academic paper, “What Happens In Vegas Stays on TripAdvisor?”, researchers found that storytelling and other elements of a narrative seemed to boost the influence of a review.

The reach that conclusion, the researchers analyzed more than 190,000 reviews from the “Things To Do In Las Vegas” category on TripAdvisor and used reader ratings of the reviews to determine which ones seemed most influential.

The most engaging and persuasive reviews on the site included well-developed characters and events as well as retellings of dramatic events and emotional reactions.

Naturally, not all of a business’s customers are going to be great storytellers. But, it might be possible for the business to somehow prompt the customers to include more details in a review.

If your point of sale system includes a customizable receipt option, it’s possible to ask customers to not only write a review but perhaps even include a bit of ‘who, what, when, why, where and how’ in their missive.

Reviews written on phone seem more credible

How easy is it for you to write a full sentence on your phone? Ever tried? If you have, then you’d know that it’s not as simple as typing on your desktop keyboard.

Because it takes more effort, many consumers view the review is more credible, according to recent research published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

The researchers used TripAdvisor reviews that had the “via mobile” label attached to them (meaning they were written on a mobile device) and compared them with non-mobile reviews to determine how they influenced consumers’ perceptions.

The verdict? Knowing that a review was posted from a mobile device can lead consumers to have higher purchase intentions.

If you are marketing a small business, it may pay to encourage customers to post a review from their phone right from your business instead of waiting to get home. Give the customers a gentle nudge via a note on their receipt or by posting a banner or two around your location.

Four star reviews seem more genuine

Many small businesses boast about their five-star reviews but is it ever appropriate to feature a four-star review in your marketing?

New research suggests that a four-star review can be more persuasive than a five star review, especially if it appears to be more thoughtful and deviates from the default position of the other reviews.

In other words, if all of the other reviews have five-stars and only contain general exclamations like “I loved it” or “It was fantastic” they will get lost in the crowd. If a reviewer gives the business four stars but provides a detailed account of their experience with the business and explains why they took that one point off in a way that connects with other readers, it appears more genuine.

The best part? The research found that those types of reviews that deviate from the norm will attract more attention and persuade more people to buy.

Want to boost your small business marketing even more? Contact us today to learn how a point of sale system can drive more revenue to your restaurant, retail shop or grocery store.