Next week, the PowerReviews team will be participating in the 2016 Adobe Summit, a three day digital marketing conference held in Las Vegas. The Adobe Summit provides attendees with the opportunity to learn about strategies, trends, and tools for better connecting with customers while networking with other digital marketing professionals. This year’s agenda is impressive, with keynotes, breakout sessions, and hands-on labs being delivered by some of the industry’s top leaders.

Stop By Our Booth in the Community Pavilion
Are you attending the Adobe Summit next week? If so, I hope you’ll take the time to connect with PowerReviews. We’ll be at booth #308 in the Community Pavilion to discuss your business’ challenges and the return on investment you can experience by partnering with PowerReviews.

In addition, in true Las Vegas style, booth visitors will have the chance to win big. Stop by to spin the wheel to win great prizes from some PowerReviews clients, including Jelly Belly, Crocs, LUSH, SkinnyPop and Toys “R” Us.

The Community Pavilion will be open:

  • Tuesday, March 22 from 11:30am – 8:30pm
  • Wednesday, March 23 from 12:30pm – 5:00pm
  • Thursday, March 24 from 10:30am – 3:30pm

I hope to see you next week in Las Vegas!

One of the best parts of my job at PowerReviews is sitting down with our customers to learn about the challenges and opportunities they face each day. Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to chat with Ken Bausch, Vice President of Global Digital Marketing at World Kitchen. World Kitchen may not be a name you’re familiar with, but you probably recognize the company’s iconic kitchen brands, like Pyrex, Corelle, Corningware, and Chicago Cutlery.

Ken and I chatted about how ratings and reviews and Q&A drive traffic and sales and help brands and retailers identify ways to improve the consumer experience. Here are three takeaways from our conversation.

Reviews are Key for Sales
Consumers trust the reviews of other consumers. And reviews are an incredibly important part of the purchase journey, helping shoppers determine the products that best fit their needs.

Q&A Can Help Identify Missing Content
When World Kitchen first turned on Q&A on their site, they received a high volume of questions. World Kitchen identified common themes in questions — such as inquiries about product dimensions — and used this as an opportunity to add additional content on product details pages that provides customers with the information they need to make a purchase.

Syndication Amplifies the Impact of Reviews
In addition to collecting reviews, World Kitchen also syndicates these reviews to about a dozen retailers in the U.S. and Canada. World Kitchen has found the syndication process to be very simple, yet incredibly impactful.

Want to hear what else Ken had to say? Watch the full interview.

 

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the CMO Argyle Executive Forum in Chicago, an event that brings together CMOs and marketing leaders from various industries to discuss strategies and best practices in a discussion-based format.

I engaged in some great conversations and heard from some of today’s top marketing executives. But one presentation that really stuck with me was a session called “Data Capital” from Jeff Gallagher, Group Vice President of Big Data at Oracle. Jeff started off his presentation with these thought provoking statistics:

  • Uber is the world’s largest taxi company, but owns no vehicles
  • Facebook is the world’s most popular media owner, but creates no content
  • Alibaba, one of the world’s largest retailers, has no inventory
  • Airbnb is the world’s largest provider of accommodations, but owns no real estate

The Transparency Economy: Made Possible by Ratings and Reviews
None of the companies I mentioned above sell a “product” in the traditional sense, yet each and every one is growing quickly, thanks, in large part, to data. For many of these companies, a large amount of that data is being generated by ratings and reviews. In fact, I’d argue that ratings and reviews are the biggest reason some of these companies have managed to survive — and thrive.

Think about it for a minute. Would you book a room on Airbnb without first reading the reviews from previous travelers? Would you get in an Uber driver’s car if she had a low rating? I know I wouldn’t.

Ratings and reviews promote accountability and trust which drives traffic and conversions. The provider — for example, the person renting out his home through Airbnb — is held accountable for providing a good experience for visitors. If he doesn’t, he’ll get negative reviews, which will make future travelers think twice before booking. And the consumer looking for a place to stay on Airbnb reads the reviews of previous travelers to build confidence before making a purchase. 

Ten years ago, it was unheard of to stay in a stranger’s house while on vacation or to get in a stranger’s car so they could give you a ride to the airport. But today, both of these practices are commonplace thanks to ratings and reviews.

The Latest Crackdown by the UK CMA Urges Brands and Retailers to Clean Up Their Act

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been keeping a watchful eye on online reviews. Last year, the organization launched a thorough review of the online reviews and endorsements industry in the UK. But they didn’t stop there. Last month, the CMA called out five websites for shady review practices like censoring negative reviews, publishing fake reviews, and failing to mark paid endorsements as such. The organization also issued a warning that more enforcements for online review breaches are coming in 2016.

Consumers trust reviews as the authentic voice of the customer. That’s why it’s crucial for brands and retailers to ensure they’re preserving the credibility of reviews. Unethical review practices not only tarnish the trust you’ve built with consumers, they also put you at risk of breaking the law.

Read on for three best practices for preserving the authenticity and credibility of reviews.

Don’t Delete Negative Reviews
Every once in awhile, you’re bound to get a negative review or two. While you certainly don’t want to aim for negative reviews, allowing them on your site brings authenticity to your review content and helps you build trust with shoppers. Plus, our research with Northwestern University found that the occasional negative review can actually have a positive impact on your bottom line. The probability of a product being purchased peaks when its average star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. After the average star rating surpasses 4.5, purchase probability declines because consumers perceive perfect ratings as too good to be true.

Be Transparent About Who’s Writing Reviews
Providing incentives, such as entrance into a sweepstakes or a coupon code for free shipping, is a great way to increase your review volume. In fact, a sweepstakes is proven to increase review generation by up to 100%. But when it comes to incentives, it’s key to be transparent. Ask your ratings and reviews provider if they allow you to indicate whether a reviewer received some type of incentive in exchange for writing a review.

Prevent Fake Reviews
If the recent CMA rulings have taught us anything, it’s that fake reviews can damage the trust you’ve worked hard to earn. That’s why it’s important to have measures in place to ensure your reviews are authentic and fraud-free. At PowerReviews, we use advanced fraud technology to prevent fraudulent reviews, slander, and foul language. Then, each piece of content is reviewed by a member of our human moderation team before the content goes live on a brand or retailer’s site. But we never make changes to the reviews themselves. Shoppers’ voice are heard as they are.

Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to ensure you’re abiding by ethical best practices. Consumers trust reviews because of their authenticity, and it’s the responsibility of brands and retailers to ensure they’re providing authentic, transparent content that consumers can trust. Brands and retailers who choose not to heed the CMA’s warnings risk losing customers — and breaking the law.

Jennifer Szostek

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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.”

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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