Today, user-generated content (UGC) such as ratings and reviews, questions and answers, and customer photos and videos, is absolutely essential for consumers to make educated purchasing decisions. In order for brands and retailers to be successful, they must help their consumers make smart purchasing decisions by earning and keeping their trust in online UGC. And while almost all shoppers use ratings and reviews (95%) to evaluate or learn more about products, fake reviews are affecting their ability to confidently turn to reviews as a trusted source when making product purchasing decisions.
These are the three golden rules we instruct our clients and partners to follow, to ensure they protect their business, and their bottom line, from fake reviews:
1. Be transparent about who you collect reviews from, and how you do it
Consumers, while they continue to trust reviews, are increasingly on the lookout for any signs of untrustworthy content. Typically, the behaviors that causes the most suspicion among consumers are:
- Multiple reviews with similar wording on the same product (55%)
- Review content not matching the product (49%)
- Bad grammar/spelling mistakes (36%)
- An overwhelming amount of five star/positive reviews (35%)
Consumers have a right to trust the reviews they encounter, and, moreover, businesses have a responsibility to ensure this content is legitimate. The importance of this trust is further echoed in the guidance being put out by governments and consumer agencies around the world. At Bazaarvoice, we believe that authenticity and trust in ratings and reviews is fundamental to the value they provide shoppers, brands, and retailers. We’re fully aware of the role we play in the shopping ecosystem.
There’s a variety of ways businesses can ask customers to provide a review — post-interaction emails, directly from e-commerce sites, or in a social media campaign. Additionally, brands may choose to share the reviews they collect with their retail partners so that consumers can find them anywhere they’re looking to make a purchasing decision.
Regardless of how a review is collected, brands should never ask for or incentivize positive reviews; consumers should always feel empowered to provide honest feedback. If consumers are offered a free product, promotional material (such as discounts or coupons), or a chance to win something of value in exchange for providing an unbiased review, then the review should explicitly indicate this. We recommend adding descriptors such as “this reviewer received a free product in exchange for their honest feedback” to any reviews that were collected using a promotion.
As an avid online shopper myself, I always think about what information would make a difference to me when consulting reviews, then strive to make sure those things are known to consumers. Whether it’s where the review was collected or if it was submitted by someone in exchange for a free product, consumers should have all the information at hand to make their own choices.
2. Don’t screen out negative reviews — find value in them
While some might think that negative reviews are an absolute disaster for their brand to have, they’re actually a necessity for your ratings and reviews program to thrive. In a survey we ran in 2020, over half (60%) of respondents said that negative reviews are as important as positive reviews in their decision to buy a product. The majority claimed that negative reviews contain more detailed info on product pros and cons, while 32% think that they are less likely to be fraudulent.
Just because a product isn’t a fit for one person, doesn’t mean it isn’t a fit for someone else and these more detailed reviews again aid in informed decisions.
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. We have endless stories from clients who have used the feedback from their customers ratings and reviews to help inform all parts of their businesses, from products to processes to marketing. Brands who respond to, and take action on, negative feedback will build trust and loyalty with their customers.
3. Have a zero tolerance policy for fake content
Not protecting yourself against fake reviews undoubtedly puts your business at risk. In the same survey, respondents said that fraudulent reviews from a brand’s employees (42%) and from other customers (34%) would cause them to lose trust in a brand. We also found that after losing trust in a brand, a vast majority (82%) of consumers would avoid using the brand ever again. If shoppers suspect a product to have fake reviews, 36% would not buy the product, 28% would not trust the brand, 27% would not trust the site’s other reviews, and 25% would not purchase from the website. 18% said ‘all of the above.’
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. We help protect our clients from a variety of different types of fraud. Using textual moderation and data driven, anti-fraud processes to evaluate reviews in the Bazaarvoice Network helps us to protect our clients and their shoppers.
Our biggest and best piece of advice is to ensure you have a process in place to detect fake reviews, and to not allow them to be posted on your site. Hiring a third-party ratings and reviews solution provider and moderator is a huge help for this task.
User-generated content is necessary in retail today, but a reputation for fake reviews will damage your brand as well as your bottom line. Brands and retailers need to continuously proactively work to combat fake reviews by ensuring they have the right processes in place to protect themselves and their shoppers. When shoppers can turn to ratings and reviews as sources of truth, it helps them to feel confident in purchasing from your company.