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The Disturbing Impact of Software Review Reliance

Updated: Jun 21, 2021

Software Review Sites can be helpful or problematic

Before the advent of online shopping, conscientious consumers made many software purchasing decisions based on research of a product or brand. The buyer leaned very heavily on the software provider for product information as well.

Of course, old school methods did affect consumer buying trends, but there was a tacit understanding that, in the case of direct advertisement, the buyer was aware that the advertiser was actively soliciting business. In this article, I discuss the psychology of online software reviews and how “Review Reliance” can be problematic.

Nonprofit Software Review Dependency

Today, the buyer is in more control than ever before. And, with the shift to online shopping years ago, we have seen a more subtle form of consumer manipulation (that may be a bit harsh but hear me out) in the form of some marketing driven “Paid by the Lead” software review sites and even software vendors. While we as a company believe peer reviews certainly have their place in the buying cycle today, it’s certainly a less-than-accurate way for those with the task of finding the best membership or top donor software to use as your only means to narrow down your options. Why do I say that? Let me explain by citing a couple of recent studies on consumer buying.

The Psychology of Buying

A study published in the Journal of Economic Psychology explains how we react to information provided to us in the form of product reviews. Interestingly, the study indicates that viewer response can be manipulated by merely changing the order in which the consumer receives reviews. The order in which customer reviews are presented affects the end judgment of the consumer. Further, the study asserts that if consumers are presented with positive reviews first, and then presented with negative reviews, a surprising thing happens. Though consumer perception is altered somewhat by the negative review, most often the positive review will be given more weight in the consumer’s mind.

Another study pertaining to the psychology of online review of software sheds further light on the way reviews affect not only the consumer, but also the reviewer. This study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, reveals that when reviewers are asked to explain their opinion in more depth by assigning emotion to the product, their opinion becomes more strongly entrenched, and they are more likely to want to retell their experience with the product later.

Problematic Issues with Software Reviews

Why is this problematic? Simply put, knowledge of this psychological phenomenon may enable a software marketer to manipulate consumer perception by merely employing various tactics. For example, changing the order of the reviews or amount of reviews posted on a product’s website. In my mind, this mental shell game demonstrates the fact that too much reliance on product reviews can lead to poor decisions when making software choices. Rather than actually helping. In fact, it can actually “cloud” the perception if everything isn’t “perfect” as well. So, why should I even bother may come to mind if everything appears to suck. Yet, we all know that software isn’t perfect, right!

Can I get an Amen?

The bottom line for both of these studies demonstrates the intrinsic subjectivity of this form of word-of-mouth advertising found on some website today. Therefore, those with the task of choosing appropriate software for non-profit organizations would do well to beware of falling prey to this subtle form of manipulation which may be found on various sites.

Use Software Reviews as One Element in the Search Process

Just to be clear, as a company we certainly do not believe that all software product reviews or websites are bad. Nor, do we believe that all software vendors “stack the deck” with paid submissions either. In fact, in the right forum such as a controlled peer based review site such as (Super site focused on Membership Software), TrustRadius, & G2 Crowd (Both more generic software) you can obtain very valuable insights on software products. For example, I believe they are great for quickly discerning what to ask a software vendor who may have some bad or good reviews.

However, feedback, chatter, comments etc. made on review sites (and in person) should be weighed in your software selection process and put in the right context. In other words, I believe it’s important to take reviews and studies with a grain of salt. Word of mouth is subjective and sometimes knowing the context of a review (attitudes, experience, expectations, what was sold etc.) tends to make every opinion a little clearer. And, that’s sometimes challenging to do in any survey, review site, or conversation with a peer.

And, buyer beware of some “paid by the lead” software advisement sites. These software review sites are simply marketing and paid advertising firms which do a wonderful job in obtaining “leads” for their participating software vendors. And, that’s fine as long as you know that going in to the process.

How Should You Review Software?

That being said, what is the course of wisdom one should take when you are tasked with the job of purchasing software? First, it is imperative to define the specific needs of your organization. What functionality are you hoping to have by purchasing this software? How will this software help you to achieve goals and objectives of your non-profit? 2nd, take those requirements and prioritize them. You won’t find everything you need, but you should strive in making the smartest choice for you.

Third, consider carefully the people who will be using the software (Member, Donors, Volunteers, Staff, Executives). How will this software impact normal business practices and processes within your particular organization? What experience will your staff need in order to use this software effectively?

The real question should always be, “What is it that my organization needs that this software can provide to help our strategic goals?” Answering questions such as these is vital to making an informed and productive purchase.

Membership Software Review Site Options: 

If you are curious, there are quite a few peer to peer review sites available for membership executives and non profits find comments on the various nonprofit technology. Here is a sampling below:

Like all advice, you need to find out where they derive their revenue. And, get an understanding of the depth in the type of software you desire and expertise of their research and data too. Quite frankly, I amazed by how many sites truly do not know where software fits. And, the errors are plentiful so be wary of any insights you find here.

No Two Organizations Are Alike 

In short, there are no two nonprofit organizations which are just alike. Even though your organization may be similar to another nonprofit (membership organization, fundraising, charity, faith-based), you bring to the table different people, processes, circumstances and infrastructure which is unique to your nonprofit. Therefore, proceed with caution as you embark on your journey to find the answer to your question, “What is the Best Membership Software, Top Donor Software, or Leader in Customer Relationship Management Software“.

If you would like help in making smarter software decisions that will work best for your non-profit, please contact us today. We help take the guesswork out of the software selection process, and ensure that the needs of your organization are met in the best possible impartial way.

Until next time, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

The best membership software can be found in asking the right questions.


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