In e-commerce today, having consumer ratings and reviews on your website has all but become a requirement. Over half of consumers believe that it is important for brands and retailers to include consumer-generated content (CGC) like ratings, reviews, Q&A, and social media photos on their websites. Last year, businesses with CGC on their website saw a 106% lift in conversion and a 119% boost in revenue per visitor.
When it comes to customer reviews for your products, there is a lot of money on the line. Great reviews sell more products, bad reviews block purchases, and the absence of reviews raises concern. Because of this, some brands, like those in the news recently, will go to great, and illicit, lengths to purchase or fabricate positive reviews for their products.
As a CGC partner for thousands of brands and retailers, we help more than 700 million consumers view and share authentic opinions, questions, and experiences about tens of millions of products each month. It is our role to ensure that brands can authentically connect to their customers and that consumers have authentic content to inform their purchases.
With ever more ways for consumers to discover, research, and purchase products and services, it is imperative that they find content they can trust. As CGC has grown in importance, efforts to manipulate the system have grown in sophistication. Here are our three golden rules for ensuring authentic consumer-generated content.
Golden Rule #1: Do not allow fake content.
According to Nielsen, almost all consumers (92%) trust consumer-generated content more than traditional advertising and marketing. Consumers have a right to trust the CGC they encounter, and, moreover, businesses have a responsibility to ensure this content is legitimate. Fake reviews can over inflate and damage brands and trick consumers.
Companies should be aware of the possibility of fraudulent content through a variety of means, including disruptive or trolling activity, commercial messages, automated submissions (e.g. bots, programs, and scripts), illegitimate or degrading content by a competitor, and self-promotion by employees.
At Bazaarvoice, we analyze several factors of the entire review process to prevent fake reviews from being published. As part of our moderation and fraud detection processes, we don’t only look at the written review content itself, but the submission process as a whole.
Our moderators look out for certain words and language patterns in written reviews to determine authenticity, and our team also looks at the data associated with the submission. This includes, but is not limited to, submission velocity, geographic analysis, and consumer characteristics. Our moderation and fraud detection teams conduct pattern and data analysis on each specific submission against common behaviors across our entire network to identify reviews submitted abnormally.
Having both textual moderation and data driven anti-fraud processes in place helps us to ensure that all consumer-generated content comes from legitimate consumers.
Golden Rule #2: Don’t screen out negative content — find value in it.
We are firm believers that instead of trying to suppress negative comments, companies and business owners should embrace them.
Customers are used to seeing a mix of positive and negative reviews and have come to expect both when making their purchase decisions. They don’t scare away easily from a few bad reviews, so companies should think twice before deciding to remove or hide negative comments on their websites. In fact, it can be the opposite. We see products that have one or more negative reviews have higher conversion rates than those that have a perfect five-star rating and zero negative reviews.
When products or services have an abundance of overly positive reviews, consumers tend to assume that the content is fake or that negative content has been moderated out. In that scenario, suppressing negative content or providing fake reviews can actually backfire and damage a customer or retailer relationship.
In addition to giving consumers a true feel for a product or service, negative reviews are an opportunity for engaging with consumers and identifying potential product improvements. Brands who respond to and take action on negative feedback will build trust with their customers and improve future products.
“Responding to negative reviews gives us the chance to shift the way the customer feels toward us based on the way we handle their concerns. They might still share their negative experience about a product or service, but they also immediately follow with how they will always buy from us because of how well we handled the issue. We respond to reviews to get involved in a conversation with our customers.” — Bonnie Berrio, Customer Service Specialist, Boots Retail
“We started seeing a trend of customers saying in reviews that they wished our shoe boxes were taller, so they could use them to store high-heeled shoes upright. As a direct result of customer-review feedback, we started offering a tall shoe box, and it’s been a major hit from the get-go by every metric imaginable.” — Patrick Burk, Customer Content Manager, The Container Store
All reviews, negative and positive, have an important place in the online shopping experience; the entire marketplace benefits from exchanging honest feedback, and this environment should be safeguarded and protected.
Golden Rule #3: Be transparent about how you collect reviews.
There are a variety of ways that a business can ask customers to provide a review, including verbally at time of purchase, through post-interaction emails, or in a social media campaign. Regardless of how a review is collected, brands should never ask for or incentivize positive reviews. Consumers should always feel empowered to provide their honest feedback.
If consumers are offered money or promotional material (such as discounts or coupons) in exchange for providing an unbiased review, then the review should explicitly indicate this. We recommend adding descriptors to like,”This reviewer received free product in exchange for their honest feedback,” to any reviews that were collected using a promotion.
In an effort to show consumers when CGC is authentic and protected through a neutral third party, we created the Authentic Reviews Trust Mark, which many of our clients display on their product pages. When consumers see the Trust Mark, they can rest assured that the content is free from fraud, spam, edits, and alteration and sourced in a way that ensures unbiased feedback.
As technology advances, so do ways to fake consumer-generated content and falsely inflate products. At Bazaarvoice, we continue to prioritize the protection of authentic content. To better understand how we prevent fake reviews, read more about our Trust Mark and Authenticity Policy.