Using Reviews in Advertising: The Power of Authentic Feedback

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This is part one of a two part blog series on the power of using reviews in advertising.

Earlier this fall, Matt Moog, our CEO, was invited to speak on a panel about this topic at the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council’s (ASRC) National Advertising Division (NAD) Annual Conference in New York City. The panel explored how advertisers are finding new and creative ways to gather and use ratings and reviews as support for advertising claims. Matt — together with the panel members listed below — discussed the power of authentic feedback, as well as the legal issues of using ratings and reviews data in advertising.

  • John Feldman: Partner, Reed Smith, LLP
  • Mary K. Engle: Associate Director for Advertising Practices, Federal Trade Commission
  • Kelsey Joyce: Senior Director of Legal Affairs, T-Mobile
  • Hal Hodes: Staff Attorney, NAD

This post will focus on the power of authentic feedback, while a future post will provide tips and best practices for brands and retailers looking to integrate reviews into their advertising.

The Reliability of Reviews
At the core of the panel discussion was the topic of reliability. Do reviews accurately represent the opinions of all customers? Are reviews less reliable because the writers are self-selected? And how many reviews need to be generated in order for a claim to be representative?

Those who write reviews are self-selected; consumers opt in to write a review. But the same is true for other data collection methods that we’ve come to rely on — such as customer surveys and awards based on consumer feedback. You’re shopping for a car and you check out the list of top rated SUVs from J.D. Power and reliability reports from Consumer Reports. Both are highly respected sources of information and both are based on feedback from consumers who opt-in to complete the surveys.  Like these sources, reviews are authentic, trusted, and reliable sources of information that empower consumers to make better purchase decisions.

The Value of Reviews
Today people review nearly everything: recipes, hotels, restaurants, movies, books, mobile apps, music, experiences, just to name a few. They expect to see reviews, star ratings and increasingly images and videos. In fact, according to a Forrester report, ratings and reviews are the most impactful type of product information for consumers.

Customers not only read reviews, they trust them — sometimes even more than they trust recommendations from family and friends. In a recent study, PowerReviews found that when compared to those over the age of 60, people under 45 are 61% more likely to trust consumer reviews than the recommendations of family and friends.

When consumers write reviews, they’re not just helping other consumers make informed purchase decisions. They’re also helping brands and retailers. Smart brands and retailers are using feedback collected in reviews to adjust their offerings to ensure their customers’ needs are met with better products, services, and shopping experiences. Reviews are becoming the primary tool that consumers and businesses use to listen and learn.

The Authenticity of Reviews
People trust reviews as the true voice of other consumers. What makes them so powerful? Their authenticity. However, there’s been buzz in the media about fake reviews, which is why it’s crucial to take measures to ensure ratings and reviews are authentic.

Ideally, consumer reviews are un-edited commentary that’s been screened for fraud and moderated by a real human. All reviews submitted through the PowerReviews platform pass through a profanity filter and fraud detection technology, as well as a human moderation team. But we never edit the review content itself. Consumers’ voices are heard as they really are, which allows for a truly authentic experience for shoppers.

PowerReviews also encourages our customers to display all reviews — including the negative ones. It may seem counterintuitive, but negative reviews actually have an extremely positive impact because they help a brand establish trust and authenticity. A recent study we conducted with Northwestern University found that the ideal average star rating for a product is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. A perfect 5-star rating is seen as inauthentic and too good to be true.

Authentic reviews are a powerful tool for both consumers and businesses to listen and learn.