Consumer Journey & Brand Image in Relation to Reviews & Star Ratings

By Shaan Khan

Our consumer journeys start with navigating through a network of marketing. We are directed by advertisements, sponsorships, billboards, word of mouth, etc. Each direction of communication leads us to a product or service. Before we make a purchase, we all land at one final destination––the reviews and star ratings.

It’s why Amazon includes the user reviews at the far bottom of the product pages––we start by scrolling through the media, facts, descriptions and marketing but always end up at the reviews to make an informed decision.

Why Do Reviews & Star Ratings Matter Most to Us Consumers?

From a study conducted by Yotpo (2015) on 6623 products, they discovered from the millions of purchases and reviews made that 94% of purchases were for products with an average rating of 4-stars and above. In result, a snowball effect was found where 94% of reviews were also written for products with a 4-star rating or higher.

The significant disparity in purchases between high-rated and low-rated products shows how much society gravitates to reviews & ratings. We also feel inclined to join in when the product is being celebrated so openly by the masses––highlighting a level of respect the consumer has for the product, service and/or brand.

But how is an astounding number of high ratings and reviews achieved? From creating a quality product/service or investing heavily into marketing/PR?

Unescapable Review/Rating Culture

The need for ratings & reviews has off-shooted the rise of review businesses. Companies and individuals create websites, post articles and film videos for social media such as TikTok & YouTube to create review content. Consumers are more likely to seek multiple sources of independent reviews and ratings before purchasing.

With reviewers receiving followers and getting paid via ads and sponsorships for their content creation online, it’s led reviewers to form communities and earn the status as ‘trusted reviewers’ or ‘influencers’––this line of communicators are a driving force of influence for consumers when deciding to make a purchase.

To understand the degree of influence users and trusted reviewers have with their content creation over high-budget marketing and brand legacy is to analyse a recent controversy.

Disney 

In the past decade, media powerhouse Disney has acquired a rich list of entertainment franchise licenses, such as Marvel and Star Wars. Prior to the internet age, the Disney brand was powerful thanks to iconic movies throughout the 1900s and its established tv channels and theme parks worldwide. The consumer journey for Disney products back then was simple––you get excited over a Disney trailer and get ready to book tickets for the movie.

Today, the company’s success leads Disney to easily grab the masses’ attention and can pump out more content than ever before. However, there is more room for error when so much entertainment is being created.

Disney films & series such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and The Little Mermaid (2023) have received backlash throughout social media with an onslaught of memes that become memorable to users and shape our perception of the company. Here is a timeline of the consumer journey in relation to one of Disney’s controversies:

  • Consumer watches a Disney trailer on YouTube and then scrolls down to see user’s reacting negatively in the comment section.
  • Opens Twitter to find popular influencers and trusted reviewers being critical of the trailer and amassing thousands of likes & retweets per post.
  • In the following days, the negative comments fuel creative artwork and media production from independent individuals who post on websites such as Reddit and are used as memes where people celebrate and share.

Some influencers will paint their own narratives on the trailer, such as attaching political rhetoric behind their critique of the Disney content, which other people will rehash to spread the message. The consumer journey now is shaped by influencers and user reviews, bringing them to question their political stances and morality when deciding on consuming/acquiring a product.

How Impactful are Influencers in Review & Rating Culture?

Looking back at the infamous event Blizzcon 2018, gaming publisher Blizzard announced their latest video game in development, Diablo Immortal. The internet became flooded with negative reactions to the announcement from loyal fans of the Diablo series, which would fill the feeds of consumers who contemplate playing the upcoming Diablo game.

However, once Diablo Immortal released on mobile platforms, the ratings & reviews for the game told a different story. Upholding a 4.5/5 rating on the App Store and 3.8/5 rating on Google Play with a combined total of around 1 million reviews.

The game was a success in the mobile market, where influencers were unable to deter the masses’ influence, which now sways consumers to play the game since those user reviews exist on the store page––the final place of information consumers receive about the product.

How Brands Navigate Review/Rating Culture to Impact the Consumer Journey

Brands first must recognise that we consumers favour our independence and freedom of expression when interacting with a product. To stop trying to control the uncontrollable through censorship since reviews and ratings can be posted on multiple platforms that brands can’t exercise authority over.

What consumers cherish is brand’s engagement with us that are humanising. Using reviews & ratings as a means of striking discourse with a community to help make future improvements with their products. Brands should be creating community posts that highlight their adherence to consumer critiques. 

Take video games like No Man’s Sky and Fallout 76 for example; both games were flooded with negative reviews & ratings on release. Over time the developers listened to the feedback by updating their games and building better communication with their communities. In return, both games have managed to now secure mostly positive ratings & reviews.

Surrounding a product should be a welcoming service with solid customer support, email confirmations, friendly messages and quality assurance. There should be public documentation on the team’s behind products that highlight their backgrounds, passions and efforts. This level of brand personability will be factored in when consumers make reviews & ratings––which spread to other consumers.

Once establishing yourself as a consumer-friendly brand, then encourage reviews & ratings due to their intrinsic importance in sales. A great example is when visiting restaurants or takeaways, friendly staff members sometimes ask customers to leave a review on apps such as Just Eat. 

The Just Eat app is a catalogue of local food places where consumers are spoilt for options and typically make decisions based on the reviews & ratings.

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