We’ve all been there—we’re facing a big purchase, whether it be something expensive or something we’ve never bought before, and we don’t know which brand to choose. Thankfully, with the help of online reviews, we can read about the experiences other have had to help us make an informed purchasing decision. But what makes a review helpful? What makes a review great as compared to just mediocre or even terrible? A recent study conducted by ConsumerAffairs shows there are a number of qualities that comprise the anatomy of a great review.


The first component of a great review is the source of the review. Consumers want to read credible reviews that have been written by a real person with a true experience of the product. A great way companies can ensure their reviewers are human, and not robot, is by having them confirm their identity using an email address or a social media platform. An additional measure that enhances the credibility of a great review is using verified buyers. Verified buyers are consumers who have the ability to leave a review for a product only after making a purchase. Another way the source contributes to the anatomy of a great review is through using a third-party review site like ConsumerAffairs to ensure reviews are not written at the direction of the company being reviewed and are not incentivized. Our findings show reviews on a third-party review site are ranked as the most trustworthy of all online reviews.


The second component of a great review is the content of the review. In fact, 73% of survey respondents ranked review content as being very trustworthy when evaluating brand reputation, second only to opinions from family and friends. Nevertheless, we have likely all encountered a terrible review that gives no context of the product or service being reviewed. These reviews are frustrating and, in some cases, may even be ignored in our overall purchasing research. On the other hand, a great review provides a detailed explanation of the situation, specific examples, and other important and relevant context.

Below, we can see the difference in two contrasting online reviews and the impact review content makes on making an informed decision.

Screenshot 2018-04-13 21.51.44
Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 1.47.29 PM

Star Rating

The third component of a great review is the star rating. Star ratings often make the first impression of a brand for consumers. 70% of our study participants ranked star rating as “very important” or “important” in making a purchasing decision. That doesn’t mean the brand needs a perfect 5-star rating, however. Most consumers are not convinced by a perfect score and they will not discount a brand with an imperfect score if there is review content and context that explains the reasoning for the score. Similarly, brand engagement on a negative review can have a positive effect on reputation, which leads us to the last component of a great review.

Company Responses

The last component of the anatomy of a great review is responses from customer service. Engagement and showing thanks towards happy customers shows everyone that your brand is dedicated to meeting the needs of your customer base. Even if a consumer has a negative experience with a brand, using a public platform like reviews is a great way to show that you, as a brand, are willing to resolve issues. It’s okay if your brand isn’t perfect, as long as you are willing to correct the mistake and learn from the experience. Transparency in the resolution is a key factor in building trust among future consumers. Once you’ve had the chance to resolve the issue, you can ask the consumer to update their rating and content to reflect their satisfaction with your customer service and resolution.

If every online review had the four components of a great review, more consumers would be able to make informed buying decisions. Check out ConsumerAffairs.com to read reviews before your next big purchase.

// <![CDATA[ hbspt.forms.create({     portalId: '1740691',     formId: '7c271f11-8512-40c6-a1fe-4f353d2b0e3b'   }); // ]]>