Reviews Analyses Vs. Surveys

Feb 09, 2022
Reviews Analyses Vs. Surveys

Reviews Analyses May be a Better Option Than Surveys for Certain Business Questions


Market research is a basic component for growing any business. Unmet needs, growing market share, or assessing the consumer experience are all important to make sure a brand thrives in a crowded category. There are myriad ways in to answer these and other questions. Whether social listening or primary research such as focus groups, some methods are better than others – depending on the business question.

Most brands recognize the importance of user-generated content in their market research strategy, but are often unaware of how beneficial using reviews as a principal research tool can be. There’s certainly a time and place for traditional methods such as surveys. For example, a brand may need primary research on an idea such as reaction to a very specific business question, such as to a new product or to a new marketing campaign or concept.

However, in certain cases, using consumer reviews can unlock the same insights–or better!

Below are four reasons a brand might consider reviews analysis instead of surveys for their research:

1. Less Bias

One of the primary disadvantages with surveys, and why a brand might use reviews analysis instead is the inherent bias within surveys. Because survey respondents often supply socially acceptable answers instead of their unfiltered truth, or inflate more prestigious answers, it can be hard to get at the veracity of their experience from surveys. And consider this: 42% of research respondents claim to participate in surveys once a week or more. These “professional respondents” can lead to biased results.

But reviews–sometimes anonymous, mostly unprompted–are left unsolicited and without much of the bias baked into surveys. Consumers have no fear of rejection that often comes when a respondent may position their reaction or comment differently for fear of judgment.

2. Robust Quantitative Data

Another disadvantage for surveys: the sample size of even a large survey cannot compete with the sample size of reviews. Very often, due to lack of large sample sizes, survey analysis centers qualitative responses over quantitative analysis. But because reviews analysis often has huge built-in sample sizes–at 4Sight, we’ve completed projects that have over 500,000 data points–reviews analysis leads with quantitative data and broadens from there.

For us, that means we start with our drivers and WISR analysis (i.e. what is driving the positive and negative experiences for the brand, and what is the weighted impact on star rating, or WISR) before looking at Word Correlations, Sentiment Analysis, and Longitudinal reaction to a product. This isn’t to say that consumer verbatims aren’t important. In fact, because there are so many consumer reviews, the analysis is able to drill down to the most important by digging deep into the qualitative responses for themes and specific words that support the robust quantitative data. This gives the most complete picture–qualitatives that are backed up by quantitative data.

3. Less Room for Human Error

Anyone who has developed a survey knows how challenging they can be to compose correctly. There are all sorts of factors to take into account: You have to know what questions to ask to get strike a balance so that surveys don’t lead the respondent to the response you’re simply looking for. Another factor to take into account is that answers can be prejudiced by question order.

Because reviews are a ready-to-use data set, provided by consumers who have engaged directly with the product/brand, and who are leaving a review without direction, there is less risk of human error. Reviews, therefore, allow for a more holistic understanding of the consumer experience. For example, 4Sight’s drivers float to the top of the analysis not because of potentially-leading questions but because consumers are writing about their true experience with the product.

4. Cost

Research is often expensive. If a brand wants quality, actionable insights, there’s no getting around this. But the cost of using traditional survey analysis, especially if you want valuable insights, is often exorbitant, and it’s time consuming. Primary research requires a team of people to develop a survey, find survey-takers, and then input and analyze that data. Reviews are a ready-made data set, skipping the middle man, which can often save time and money.

So much of the decision for where to invest a brand’s resources comes down to what challenge are you answering, and what will provide you the most actionable insights with the least amount of wasted effort, whether that be time, money, or people. For certain questions–how to grow market share, understanding how to grow a category, accessing the landscape, understanding reaction to a new product or formula change–reviews analysis can often be the better choice for brands.

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