Recently, PowerReviews partnered with Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center to understand how reviews vary depending on whether they’re written by verified buyers or anonymous consumers. In the case of verified buyers, a shopper makes a purchase online, then receives an email from the brand requesting a review. Reviews from verified buyers can be tied back to a transaction. In the case of anonymous consumers, however, a consumer navigates to a brand or retailer website without prompting and writes a review. Since these types of reviews aren’t tied to a specific transaction, there’s no way to determine if the reviewer actually purchased the product.
Reviews from Verified Buyers are More Positive
The biggest insight from this research is that reviews from verified buyers are significantly more positive than reviews written by anonymous consumers. The average star rating for reviews from verified buyers is 4.34, compared to an average star rating of 3.89 for reviews written by anonymous consumers. In addition, reviews from verified buyers boast a larger percentage of 5-star ratings, while reviews from anonymous consumers have a larger percentage of 1-star ratings. And, reviews from verified buyers have 6.5% more product “pros” and 50% fewer product “cons.”
This is consistent with a theory that users who write reviews without prompting are likely to have extreme (often more negative) opinions.
4 Recommendations for Brands and Retailers for Preserving the Credibility of Reviews
What can brands and retailers do to preserve the credibility of reviews — regardless of who they’re written by? Here are four practical recommendations.
- Eliminate Fake Reviews: Allowing reviews to be submitted via the web opens retailers up to the possibility of receiving fraudulent reviews. And fake reviews can tarnish the trust you’ve built with your consumers. That’s why it’s key to have measures in place so review content remains authentic and fraud-free. For example, all content submitted on the PowerReviews platform passes through our advanced technology to ensure the content is fraud-free and free of innuendo and profanity. Then, the content is reviewed by our team of human moderators before being displayed on the client’s website.
- Be Transparent About Who Writes Reviews: Though it’s unclear whether consumers place more trust in reviews from verified buyers, it’s important to be transparent about the source of reviews. Ask your ratings and reviews provider if they allow you to use a Verified Buyer badge so future shoppers can better understand who wrote each review. That way, shoppers will have the information they need to make their own decisions.
- Implement a Post Purchase Email Program: If you aren’t already, be sure to send a post purchase email to each shopper reminding him or her to review the products he or she has recently purchased. Reviews from verified buyers not only build credibility for retailers by capturing the opinions of customers who’ve actually used the product but also help drive sales with consistently positive sentiment.
- Provide Incentives to Attract a Better User Sample: The more reviews you have, the more representative the insights you glean from them. However, PowerReviews research found that while most consumers use reviews, only 42% write them. And more than half of consumers who aren’t writing reviews cited needing motivation to do so. Test different incentives in your post purchase emails, like a sweepstakes, coupon codes for free shipping or discounts, or by leveraging an existing loyalty or rewards program. Again, transparency is key. Ask your reviews software partner if they allow you to indicate whether a reviewer received a sample or other incentive for writing a review so future shoppers have a clear picture of who wrote each review.
Curious what else we learned about the differences between reviews written by verified buyers and anonymous consumers? Download the full study today.