October 14, 2021

Is A 4.5-Star Rating Better Than 5 Stars?

Every company wants to get a perfect 5 star rating overall, but it may make more business sense to have an imperfect 4.5 star rating.

The idea sounds counterintuitive to the prevailing notion of 5-star reviews are the ideal — wouldn’t all businesses rather get online reviews that are entirely positive and full of praise? — but research suggests that imperfect scores and reviews with a 4.5 or 4 out of 5 stars rating may appeal the most to today’s consumers.

So what is the best star rating? Is a 4.5 star rating good? What are consumers’ specific criteria and how important are numerical rating scores when assessing brands based on their online reputation and reviews? 

What is the Best Star Rating? A 4.5-Star Rating is Just Right

According to online reviews statistics, 70% of people use rating filters when searching for businesses.

The most common filter applied is to see only companies with 4-star ratings and higher. If you’re not averaging at least 4 stars on the most important business review sites, you could potentially be overlooked by hundreds or thousands of potential customers.

Interestingly, only 10% of consumers use a 5-star rating filter. Most people think it’s too good to be true. 

According to research by Northwestern, purchases are most influenced by reviews with an average rating of 4.2 to 4.5 stars out of 5 — making this the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

“Consumers perceive ratings closer to a perfect 5 stars as too good to be true,” the report suggests. “As counterintuitive as it may seem, negative reviews have a positive impact because they help establish trust and authenticity. Consumers appreciate negative reviews as an important element in their decision-making process.”

Similar studies explore the impact of rating scores on revenue. Research by Womply showed that companies with a 4.0- to 4.5-star rating earn 28% more in annual revenue. 

People also look at the number of reviews displayed in a business listing to confirm the authenticity of a rating. According to a Salsify report, consumers expect an average of 112 reviews before making a decision. This means that listings with high ratings but a low number of reviews are not likely to have a significant effect on purchase probability. 

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Key Takeaways for Brands and Business Owners

These findings bring to light some of the nuances and distinctions in the way customer reviews and ratings influence purchase behavior. Here are a few important considerations companies should make as they develop and execute their online review management strategy.

Embrace Negative Feedback

Not only do critical comments on review sites and social media offer valuable insights on how your business can improve; they also give your brand reputation a necessary measure of authenticity and transparency. 

After all, consumers specifically seek negative feedback — so this should be made available to them. Maximizing the value of online reviews also demands the presence of imperfect reviews and less-than-5-star ratings. 

Instead of working to censor or delete customer feedback, your team must learn how to respond to negative reviews. This shows your company’s willingness to engage with customers; it can also attract potential new customers. According to online reviews statistics, 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.

Don’t Fake It Until You Make It

Businesses and consumers alike are wrestling with the problem of fake reviews. In their attempts to manufacture a 5-star reputation, some companies are gaming the system by posting fake positive reviews of themselves or bashing the competition on social media and business review sites.

It’s best to steer clear of these tactics. There is a healthy cynic in every consumer, and people are scrutinizing reviews more closely than ever. Inauthentic, fraudulent content on your digital properties (in the form of fake reviews) will no doubt leave you at risk of severely damaging your brand reputation. 

Analyze Your Review Data

Smart businesses look beyond numerical star ratings and pay close attention to the textual information contained in their reviews. 

Many are investing in natural language processing technology and customer experience analytics in order to understand the customer experience, as well as make data-driven decisions that improve business operations and performance. 

Remember: consumers will have varying definitions of what counts as a 5-star or 1-star brand. By analyzing in greater detail the information that comes directly from your customers, your organization can make smarter decisions that positively impact your reputation and help you grow your customer base. 

Encourage Customer Feedback and Generate New Reviews

One of the most important factors in achieving and maintaining a 4 out of 5 stars rating (and higher) is your ability to consistently generate new reviews and increase your review quantity.

Of course, there is no guarantee that customers will give a 5-star rating each time. But proactively asking for reviews can have a major impact on sales. New reviews tell others that customers recently visited your business and that their experience is indicative of the current situation at your business locations.

The Road to a 4.5 Star Rating

Does your organization really want 5-star ratings and reviews across the board? Some will say the right answer lies somewhere between yes and no, but it’s probably the wrong question to ask anyway. 

Continue to strive for five, but be okay with not reaching it. 5-star reviews and ratings are not the be-all and end-all of your company’s online reputation. Continue to focus instead on building amazing products and services, as well as on delivering superior customer experiences. And at a time when consumers value authenticity more than perfection, your business should do the same.

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