The evolution of reviews

Almost 80% of consumers are more likely to buy from you if they first hear about you from another consumer.


Sounds surprising? If you look at the evolution of reviews and the importance people place on them, it’s not. And if you look at it from a marketing point of view, there’s a lot to gain by understanding this.

The Beginnings of the Review

The origin of the review dates back, in most likelihood, to the time when people could communicate well enough to recommend one person over another for a job within the tribe. With the first tradesmen reviews would have been bound to grow in importance, especially in areas where people were likely to encounter the same tradesman more than once and interacted with others whom they could recommend him to. Back then, the review came in the form of word of mouth recommendations.

Forms of reviews

Salesmen soon realized the power of these kind of word of mouth recommendations and capitalized on them first by stating them out loud themselves and later through advertisement. A comic (yet tragic) example of this would be the old “snake oil” advertisements for “cure-all” medicines that loosely used the power of the review by stating the product had cured thousands of people. Sometimes products were also endorsed by doctors (real, or imaginary).Doctors were, and are, what we in modern day terms would label “influencers” as they are considered to know more about medicine than the average Joe. Reviews by qualified professionals is one of the most powerful forms of marketing as people are more ready to trust their statements.Another form of early influencer marketing was having an establishment labeled as a supplier to the Royal Family; making them a Royal Warrant holder. The Royal Family may not have been experts in any particular product that they bought, but people trusted their taste nonetheless. After all, they were the Royal family and would only accept the best, wouldn’t they?

These kind of endorsements by professionals and royals alike, were the birth of the modern review from influencers.

Modern Sensibilities

As advertisement became more and more popular, first through newspapers and magazines and later through radio, TV and, eventually, the internet, consumers started getting wary of statements without proof (such as some remedy having cured thousands of faceless people) and endorsements coming from people who most likely got paid to do them. An exception to this would be a person they knew got paid, but whose opinion they still trusted. For example, today various social media influencers and celebrities who have built trust with their following can endorse products they are paid to endorse as their following trust them to only endorse products and services they actually use and believe in.

Getting trusted reviews

With the rise of the internet, businesses soon started capitalizing upon reviews by featuring them directly on their websites, often together with photos of the unnamed reviewer. This worked well for a while, but soon people started realizing, once again, that some reviews were created by the companies themselves and didn’t pay much attention to them unless they were from trusted brands and people.

However, a lot of businesses don’t include famous people and brands in their clientele. So how were they to create trusted reviews?Enter review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, etc. Suddenly a review could be traced to a real person (or at the very least a profile).

These kind of reviews, as you most likely know, became so popular that people stopped using the Yellow Pages. Going to an unrated restaurant, booking a week’s vacation in an unrated hotel, or, low and behold, consulting an unrated doctor, suddenly seemed like a gamble.

A little while after review sites became popular, so did smartphones and suddenly people started checking their phone before even entering a coffee shop on the high street.

Being seen was no longer enough – one had to back up one’s visibility with reviews.

The Social Media Revolution

Not everyone using review sites to find out about a business were as keen to leave reviews themselves. For many that changed with the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. as their wish to share a positive, or negative, experience with friends and family, led to an involuntary “review” of a place. Logging into Yelp and discussing the pros and cons of a local bakery might take up time and be of no interest to them, but telling their friends about the amazing cake they just ate, on the other hand, was of great interest to them as it had a social value.

This was great news for great businesses (less great for those who weren’t appreciated by consumers) as reading a review from someone you know personally is even more convincing than reading the reviews of a few strangers on Yelp.

Why Three Star Reviews Have Come to Outdo Five Star Commercials

When brands try to sell their wares they usually create incredibly beautiful images, talk about themselves in flowery terms and create mind-blowing commercials. Yet, this is not what consumers want when the brand isn’t a five star brand. When traveling, a backpacker knows they won’t stay in a five star hotel if the budget for the night is $20. They also know that they will have a number of hostels to choose from and while they may not score more than three stars, they can, through recommendations, find the one which is the better option. The one where cockroaches and bedbugs are less likely to find them and where they may have the additional perk of great morning coffee, or high-speed wifi.

They will also want to see photos of a place before they make their pick; photos taken by non-professional photographers who are much more likely to show off the reality of a place. People have learned to be as wary of commercial photographs as they have of reviews they can’t trace. Real photos, in and of themselves, have become reviews and with the rise of virtual reality headsets, the trend of “seeing is believing” is far from over. These valuable pieces of feedback and images from from real people are also known as UGC.

How Businesses Can Capitalize on User Generated Content

Here are some quick facts for you:

The Power of the Review

The power of the review (which today includes user-generated photos, social media updates) is as strong as ever, if not stronger. And the best thing about it is that it has a lot higher ROI than traditional commercials. Yet, 43% of marketeers still say they don’t have time and they don’t know where to find quality UGC. This is why we launched Miappi – using AI we quickly find the positive UGC you are looking for, we seamlessly include it into your website, shop (on digital signage), paid advertising, or any digital touchpoint it may prove useful. Request a Demo today to get the most out of our content marketing platform.

Discover, curate and display your most valuable UGC using the Miappi content marketing platform. REQUEST A DEMO