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What is a review?
A review is a critical evaluation of a product, a performance, a publication or a service. Reviews can be done by professional reviewers or by consumers. Reviews serve to provide an overall rating, which gives people an idea of how good or bad the subject being reviewed is.
There are different types of reviews with the most popular one being user reviews. These reviews are beneficial to both the consumer and the business. User reviews are more or less online these days but businesses also make use of mainstream media to peddle their good reviews. Benefits of user reviews can be divided into two main groups; benefits to the business and benefits to the consumer.
Benefits of reviews to customers
According to an online survey conducted in 2013 to determine the effectiveness on reviews, 90% of online customers were persuaded into buying products and subscribing to services based on the positive reviews it had. 86% of the respondents said that they would be influenced into not buying the product or service if it had a negative review. It is clear that reviews play a huge part in deciding the best products for consumers. Reviews are important to the consumer in the following ways:
• Consumers understand that no company will proudly display their flaws. This is why reading the company-generated description of a brand might not give you the full scope of the product or service. Reviews act as unbiased opinions about the brand being promoted from honest consumers who feel the need to rate the product. 
• Consumers rely on reviews to learn about the promoted brand in depth. For example, if it is a product review, a prospective buyer will be able to know how well it functions, its durability and exactly what to expect from the product. This is what forms the basis of the consumer's decision to buy or not to buy.
• Reviews give the consumers a platform to point out the ways in which the product can be improved. Bad reviews are not necessarily bad press. They are simply the consumer’s way of saying how they would like the brand to be improved.
Benefits of reviews to companies
Any successful business knows just how vital customer feedback is. Reviews form a major percentage of customer feedback to companies. They offer a clear representation of how the consumers feel about the product or service being offered. 
Reviews also serve to build the reputation of a company’s brand. Alternatively, bad reviews will lead to poor business. All in all, interaction with the customers is a key when it comes to running a successful business. Here is how reviews are beneficial to companies.
1. Reviews are instrumental in customer acquisition and retention.
Companies publish positive customer reviews on their sites as a way of bringing in new customers. This is highly effective because the testimonials act as proof of the excellence of the company’s brand. When a prospective customer is looking for reassurance before procuring the company’s services, they often resort to reading the reviews of previous customers and try to base their decision on this.
The online feedback platform is important for customer retention. When an unsatisfied customer gives a negative review, the company is able to act on the specific issue in order to retain the business of that particular customer. The specificity of reviews makes it possible for companies to know how to improve their products or services to suit their customers’ needs. In the process, they get repeat business and earn the loyalty of their clients.
2. They shape the reputation of a company.
Companies rely on good reviews to strengthen their brand name and improve their image. The nature of the reviews of a company’s products or services acts as a benchmark to determine whether the brand sells or not. Consumers do not look into the technical details such as the company’s performance on the stock market in order to select their brand. It is the experiences of other consumers that help them gauge the level of quality associated with the company. 
3. Reviews educate companies.
As they say, experience is the best teacher. The raw responses from some consumers might be a bit hard to tackle because not everything can be taught in school. Reviews help the companies to learn how to tackle such responses in the best way possible. Opening the doors of customer reviews therefore enables companies to learn more about customer relations.
4. Reviews are an important marketing tool through referrals.
Most of the product reviews out there usually end with a verdict on whether purchasing the product or service is recommended. Positive reviews are crucial online marketing tools because for one, the consumer is in no way affiliated to the company (although sometimes they are offered free samples to give positive reviews) and secondly, they describe their experience so consumers know exactly what to expect. 
5. Employees get a morale boost from positive reviews.
To company employees, a good review is like a big thumbs-up from the consumers. This is a definite morale boost that improves productivity and initiates a good working atmosphere.
Some companies even accept the reviews of the employees as a method of gauging the level of morale in the workplace.
Importance of reviews in other fields
Reviews are not restricted to business only. Other types of reviews include:
• Book reviews: These evaluations are based on the personal tastes of the reviewer, usually a professional known as a critic. They touch on the creativity and/or writing styles employed in the book
• Movie reviews: Motion picture critics are a dime a dozen. They give a glimpse of what can be expected in the film and whether it will measure up to expectations.
• Bought reviews: Bought reviews happen when a company employs the services of a reviewer to offer some critique on their product. This is seen mostly in car companies and video game developers. Bought reviews tend to be a bit biased but some are independent reviews one can rely on. These are used as a marketing tool for companies who want to show how transparent they are.
Reading reviews is similar to listening to the opinions of a number of people on a particular matter before forming your own. They lessen the risk of getting disappointed by giving you a feel on what exactly you should expect.