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Online Trends

Published September 4th 2020

Review Analysis: What Drives First Time and Rare Reviewers?

What makes first time and rare reviewers want to leave a review? We used our Consumer Research platform to investigate.

We recently learned that demand for online shopping has skyrocketed because of the pandemic, with little end in sight.

That makes one thing even more important than ever for both consumers and businesses – online reviews. For businesses, more 4 and 5 star reviews mean healthier profits, while consumers rely on reviews to make an informed purchase.

This got us thinking about the nature of reviews and what drives people to leave them. Specifically, what inspires people leaving reviews for the first time, or those who claim to ‘never review’ but make an exception?

We found that from January 1 2017 to July 31 2020 there were 66k mentions from people who said they never review items, and 148k mentions of first time reviews. Let’s dive into what those reviews looked like.

First time reviewers were on the fence

First time reviewers left a divided set of reviews. Sentiment analysis revealed first-time-reviewer posts were 50% negative and 50% positive, leaving reviews either out of love or hate.

When we looked at emotion-categorized reviews, we found that the posts were really varied. 47% of emotion-categorized reviews was angry, followed by 29% joyful and 11% fearful that a product wouldn’t live up to their expectations.

First time positive reviews from consumers in the last 18 months included keywords like:

  • Good – 45k mentions
  • Great – 37k mentions
  • Love – 23k mentions
  • Works well – 20k mentions
  • Feel – 24k mentions

While negative first time reviewers included key words like:

  • Bad – 19k mentions
  • Smell – 15k mentions
  • Customer care – 9k mentions
  • Issue  – 8k mentions
  • Disappointed – 7k mentions

Consumers want quality products and good customer care when things went wrong. Smell and feel were also important qualities that first time reviewers took into consideration.

“I never leave a review, but…” reviewers tended to have positive feedback

Consumers who wrote that they ‘never’ wrote reviews actually left overwhelmingly positive reviews. Sentiment analysis showed that 72% of these reviews are positive, compared to just 28% negative.

The most common positive keywords were:

  • Great – 16k mentions
  • Good – 13k mentions
  • Love – 8k mentions
  • Recommend – 7k mentions
  • Amazing – 6k mentions

Meanwhile, negative keywords were much lower in volume and focused on price and service:

  • Bad – 8k mentions
  • Money – 8k mentions
  • Feel – 7k mentions
  • Service – 7k mentions
  • Worth – 6k  mentions


Our Consumer Research platform found that for both first time reviewers and ‘never’ reviewers, there was one clear seasonal trend.

January was a peak month for businesses to receive reviews from these groups. This influx of reviews tended to be about holiday gifts, given or received.

The value of rare reviewers

In our recent blog by BrightLocal’s Stephanie Newton, we learned about the importance of businesses generating as many reviews as possible over time:

“While consumers will read multiple reviews before trusting a brand, timing is also crucial. Almost half of consumers will only pay attention to reviews left within the last two weeks.

Convincing people who don’t feel naturally inclined to leave reviews, like those we studied above, has several benefits.

  • People who rarely or ‘never’ leave reviews tend to leave positive ones. Encouraging new reviewers to leave their input could boost your star rating.
  • Encouraging them on an ongoing basis means your prospects will have plenty of new reviews to take into account when making a purchase decision.

And while first time reviewers express strong opinions (which could be negative), their feedback adds to the wider pool which, with the right tools, can be analyzed to find key pain points and features people love. With Brandwatch Reviews and Consumer Research, this kind of research is easy.

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