Sunday, 7 December 2008


I've used this phrase - STRANGERS IN A COMMUNITY OF THE LIKEMINDED - before to describe the concept of likeminded people gathering together on websites but who are completely unaware of each other due to a lack of social and community features. Now this shouldn't be in an era of countless tools, and widgets, and open APIs. The ability for visitors to leave a review or rating is one such feature that every site should have.

One company that offers an off-the-shelf solution for this task is Bazaarvoice. They have Bazaarvoice Ratings & Reviews™ which brings customer reviews directly to your product pages, allowing customers to hear from people like them while they’re making buying decisions. Your customers can rate your products on a 5-star scale, write honest product reviews – and all the while, they’re helping you drive natural search to your site and helping you build an online community.

What I found interesting on their blog about this product was the distribution of ratings. Many marketers don't open up to reviews and ratings fearing negative feedback. But in addition to my theory that birds of a feather fly together, what Bazaarvoive have also found is that mostly positive singing birds flock together. An insight corroborated by the distribution of ratings that Bazaarvoice has aggregated together as shown in the “J” curve distribution below.

Across many clients in diverse industries the average rating is 4.3 out of 5 stars. The distribution looks like a J, where there are more 1s than 2s, but far more 4s and 5s than the lower ratings.

This is how they explain it:

Why is this? Aren’t people more likely to share their word of mouth about bad experiences? Perhaps they are more likely to share negative opinions when they have personal experiences with a company (service, sales) than the product they buy?

And perhaps customers are interested in sharing their opinion about great products they buy, because there are so many mediocre products. So there’s some satisfaction in sharing the news when we find a product we love.

We’ll learn more and share more here. But in the meantime, this “J” curve is part of the answer to the concern: “What about negative reviews?”

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