When it comes to online reviews, you’ll find the old expression “don’t sweat the small stuff” applies quite well. If you’re about to make a purchase for something inexpensive or mundane you don’t care about reviews. You’ll just go ahead and buy it.

Case study: No one much cares about the online reviews of their local grocery stores. If you need groceries. You’ll just go in and buy them.

However, at the other end of this spectrum is where most of us will definitely “sweat the big stuff”. We seek out online reviews when transactions feel more significant either financially or emotionally. When this kind of reputation sensitivity comes into play we start to care, sometimes strongly, about online reviews.

Authors note: Yes, on my tombstone make sure you etch “Here lies Danno. Died tragically saving his family from a sinking battleship and coined the term Reputation Sensitivity.”

Online Reviews & Reputation Sensitivity

In the case of my first example; do you care about the reputation of your local grocery store if you need cereal? No. You just go in, buy cereal and presto! The transaction is complete and you’re looking forward to a tasty breakfast.

Now imagine you’re looking for something far more expensive than cereal. Something that has you far more emotionally invested in the outcome. A good example is finding a medical practice to serve your needs. Most likely you will care (and care a whole lot) whether the clinic you are considering is known as friendly, trustworthy and skilled.

In this case (and many others) you want to know what the marketplace is saying as assurance you are making the right choice. So unlike buying cereal, you will seek out online reviews to help you make your choice because you are sensitive to their reputation.

Makes sense right? It’s almost like we want the safety of the herd. We want to benefit from the wisdom of the marketplace. We seek safety in numbers so we don’t end up being the gazelle that gets picked off.