We’ve floored you before with the news that bad reviews can be good for business (it’s true).

But does the opposite hold true?

Can too many good reviews be bad for business? Recent research suggests that this could indeed be the case.

There are lots of reasons that bad reviews – if honest and informative – can actually be good for your bottom line. Counter-intuitive, we know, but negative feedback can improve customer satisfaction, public trust and also help improve product development.

The facts back it up: consumers spend more than five times as long on site when they interact with bad reviews. They trust the reviews they see far more and convert nearly 85% more often. Not convinced? Have a read of our ebook here.

But what about too many good reviews?

Two years worth of sales data from a major European online retailer – a total of almost 9 million page views and 631,063 purchase transactions for 2,164 different products in the electronics and furniture categories – has resulted in some fascinating research.

There seems to be one main reason for why too many good reviews can be damaging:

Why five-star reviews can backfire

One of the downsides of online retail is the high return rate. An estimated 30 percent of goods are returned in normal circumstances, but it goes up when the product has too many glowing reviews.

The experts who conducted the research thought that unrealistically good reviews could ‘raise customers’ expectations and influence them to make a purchase that, when it arrives and is tested, disappoints them more than it might have had they had the opportunity to physically examine it.’

Our findings encourage retailers to get a large review base that adequately reflects the performances of the product - Highlight to share -

This effect is, of course, more noticeable in novice buyers and with those buying cheaper goods. And that can be costly: each return costs retailers between $6 and $18.

The researchers had one piece of advice for businesses:

‘Our findings encourage retailers to get a large review base that adequately reflects the performances of the product. Retailers thus should actively stimulate customers to write a review after purchase.’

This backs up what we think. According to our research, 68% of people trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores. They don’t look at reviews in isolation; they definitely notice – and become suspicious – if there are no bad reviews.

It’s important not to underestimate your customers; they want to be informed, not brainwashed, when they’re browsing online. And if they feel like they didn’t get the right information before buying, they’ll only have one option: return to sender.

Can good reviews be bad for business?