Editor’s note: Pat Osorio is co-founder and chief revenue officer of insights and technology firm Birdie, Palo Alto, Calif.

In today’s world, it’s almost impossible to imagine buying anything without checking at least a few reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor or Amazon. As shoppers, we have come to trust user reviews as the most reliable and influential source of information when considering a purchase. In that regard, we’ve finally caught up with brands.

Consumer reviews concepts with bubble people review comments and smartphone rating or feedback.

Brands don’t look to promotional materials when evaluating the market, they check with the actual consumers – qualitative and quantitative interviews, CRM records and the very same user reviews and ratings you and I check before making a purchase. Whatever the form, consumer feedback has always been an indispensable resource to the business decision-making process. 

It is becoming apparent that user reviews and ratings drive the consumer purchase journey: according to Spiegel, 95% of consumers will not complete a transaction without reading at least a few reviews about it. Add to it that, per Harvard Business Review, every star improvement in a product generates an average of 9% more revenue. It’s no wonder reviews are important to manufacturers and retailers. 

Even so, companies are still struggling to create a process that really leverages user reviews to focus on measuring and improving (or changing) aspects of their product or buying experience to improve overall consumer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). And that makes sense because it’s not easy to do so. 

User reviews and NPS measurement

NPS is one of the most used ways to measure consumer sentiment. The approach is pretty straightforward and powerful at the same time. It can be used to measure satisfaction, and also be used as a proxy for retention.  

Using user reviews to measure NPS can be even more powerful for a few reasons. First, reviews are a spontaneous source of feedback, which normally means they are a closer perception of reality. Second, they are also a rich source of feedback, having details related to key product attributes and other elements of the buying journey that were relevant according to consumers’ expectations.

Finally, user reviews are a well-known source of research and validation for other consumers, with 84% of consumers trusting other reviews as much as personal recommendations. That means they have probably the strongest correlation with a real promoter score than anything else, making measuring them almost essential to understanding the impact of a dissatisfied customer on sales. Using user reviews as an ongoing and important way of measuring NPS is necessary. But is that enough?

Analyzing consumer reviews

Even though measuring NPS using user reviews proves to be key for any consumer-facing company, this should be just the beginning. While the NPS is measured with a simple score from 1 to 10, reviews have an important qualitative offering: the content written by each consumer. 

When writing reviews, your audience is telling you exactly what attributes – from the product, service and buying experience – make them love, hate or feel neutral about your products and brand. They are also giving signals of other hidden elements relevant to them, and tying it to a rating. This helps brands discover the importance of each aspect to overall satisfaction. And that means a lot.

What can you learn from analyzing user reviews?

  1. Keywords that better explain your product. Is there a specific way consumers talk about a feature or your overall product? These words may explain your product in a more user-friendly way.
  2. Discover audiences. Is there a specific niche that acts more positively toward your product? You can target that profile with acquisition campaigns – and mention them in your product description.
  3. Innovative ways clients are using your products. Discover ways of exploring new markets with the same products, or even create new products for specific uses mentioned by real consumers.
  4. Key consumer issues. As you find opportunities, you will also discover common issues faced by consumers, whether it’s with a product or service. Prioritize solutions by measuring how big an issue is based on how many times it appears and how much it affects satisfaction. 
  5. Areas of doubt. In some cases, these issues have simple fixes, such as explaining a function better or adding a Q&A session to a product.

Beyond NPS

Now that we know the benefits of analyzing consumer reviews, it’s time to propose an approach to it. This framework involves five steps: identify attributes, extract keywords, weight ratings, correlate data and extract the insights.

First, identify the key attributes consumers talk about in their reviews and how they relate to your business. These attributes are normally related to the product (product attributes), the usage of the product (Jobs to be done: What are people doing with the product? What is the problem they are solving with it?), any interaction with brand representatives (customer service, warranty, stores, etc.) and the overall buying experience in the e-commerce store (from product description to delivery). 

Once you identify the attributes, find the keywords in each review that relate to them. This step takes time as you may see new reviews every day. 

The third and fourth steps are related to correlating the NPS (measured on a scale from 1 to 10) to the ratings (measured on a scale from 1 to 5) and then connecting that evaluation to each of the identified attributes. That is not a simple task, especially considering that some reviews have both positive and negative feelings toward elements of the experience, even though they have a single rating. Ideally, you weight each attribute’s sentiment against the ratings, but that would require an automated model.

The final step is to analyze the results. Which attributes commonly appear in the five-star ratings? Which attributes are turning consumers into detractors? Is there a specific retailer or audience that has a different pattern from the rest? Is there a trending attribute that you never explored, or a correlation between growth in sales and a specific attribute? 

This is not a simple framework, but it will allow you to constantly monitor what consumers are saying, which you can then turn into a well-known KPI. Using both allows you to quickly learn, react, solve problems and leverage opportunities.