Many of our clients here at Reevoo use quotes from real customer reviews in their marketing. It’s a nice way to emphasise the qualities that draw people to that product or service in an ‘authentic’ way.

However, we collect loads of reviews for most things – so how should you go about picking one?

Imagine you’ve just turned on Reviews for your product. The first one comes in, and it’s a sweet 10/10. Excellent! Time to incorporate their feedback into your marketing blurb. Let’s see what they said:

“It’s a good thing”

Ok, a bit brief. Can’t see it convincing any prospective customers. Maybe we’ll use the next one:

“This was an incredible tour-de-force of a thing; it enabled me to elevate myself beyond mere mortal capabilities and into a stratospheric sense of self-actualisation. I have re-imagined my worldview with this product/service as the primary motivating factor.”

Right, this one might be a bit much – it’s also going to be hell for your designers to fit on a billboard. Ours certainly struggled:

readability

We’re going to have to find a better one – and what we need here is a more efficient way of deciding how to rate them.

Luckily, we can break down our reviews by their ‘reading age’. If you look at the two examples above, you’ll see it’s not just the length of the overall review that’s different, the second one includes longer words, and more complex syntax.

Let’s break down all the millions of reviews Reevoo has collected into age brackets.

If those ages seem surprisingly low, it’s worth remembering that the UK’s most popular newspaper has a purported reading age of 8 years, and the average reading age of the population is below 16 – i.e. below the expected level for a GCSE student of 16 years old.

In any case, there’s a good spread of data to be working with in testing reading ages.

In order to measure how effective these reviews are, we’ll use ‘helpfulness’. This is a feature across our platform where people reading reviews can click a little ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ icon. This helpful ‘helpfulness’ data allows us to build a picture of what’s having an impact on customers.

If we split the reviews by reading age AND show how many people rate them as ‘helpful’, we get this:

There’s a clear trend here; higher reading ages are considered more helpful, but there’s a peak around 12-14. For context, this is roughly the reading age of an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

So we know what sort of complexity customers like to read in reviews, but do they write reviews with a similar reading age? In our fantasy scenario, how many reviews will you have to wait for to get the perfect one for that billboard?

Here’s the distribution of reviews across reading age for various products or services.

These are categories where Reevoo collects a lot of data – in the average month the total reviews we collect for cars, cottages and phones alone are about the same length as War & Peace.

The graphs show a few interesting things. Firstly, it’s clear that the variation in the categories can’t be explained by price. People writing reviews of a phone are almost as likely to put in the same care as those writing ones of a car costing 100 times the price.

Secondly, holidays have an enormous skew towards reviews with a high reading age. There’s a few obvious reasons for this: it’s more of an established behaviour in consumers with sites like TripAdvisor; the limited possibility for direct feedback whilst staying in a cottage; and we’re all rather attached to holiday memories (positive or negative), so there’s just more sentiment to communicate.

'...in the average month the total reviews we collect for cars, cottages and phones alone are about the same length as War & Peace.'

Third, in following on from our opening scenario, it’s logical to conclude that around a third of reviews are hitting that sweet spot reading age of 12-14; they’re detailed enough to interest customers, but not so much as to put them off.

Finally, it’s important to state that the reading age of the review doesn’t say anything about the writing ability of the reviewer: many customers submit reviews via mobile and it’s likely that all of them are busy people.

In this sense, the reading age of our real customer reviews might serve as an interesting proxy for how passionately someone feels about the thing they’re reviewing. Complex and longer reviews take more time and thought. In this sense, it seems obvious that holidays would inspire more thoughtful reviews than washing machines.

That said, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the thought that customers are more passionate about golf courses than sex toys.

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Readability - all about it