Why reviews are a tricky business

Not too long ago, I was at a meetup session and overheard this gentleman who claimed to be an expert seller on the popular online marketplace Qoo10. Without any experience in selling merchandise on the platform, I was curious as to what the common tips for selling were, especially when multiple sellers were listing the same type of products. There were several tips shared, but the one that really caught my attention was the use (or misuse) of reviews.

88% have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision

It should come as no surprise that many consumers refer to reviews on products and services before actual purchases are made. According to a research report done by Zendesk, 88% of consumers have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision. That’s a really high percentage, considering how wary consumers are growing towards the authenticity of online reviews. That’s right, consumers are getting more aware of fake reviews circulating the internet.

Fake Reviews

The first type is where companies pay for positive reviews, or simply write the reviews themselves. As you can expect, these reviews will sing endless praises of the company, product, or service.

Fake reviews are not exactly a new thing though. For years now, people have been saying that up to 20% of reviews on Yelp are fake. There are even articles out there to tell consumers how to spot fake reviews on Amazon.

The second type is the sabotage kind, where companies write fake negative reviews on their competitors to gain an edge. Not only is this practice unethical in the business world, it is also illegal (at least in many parts of the world).

Alibaba sues shatui.com
Photo credit: alizila.com

The issue of fake reviews has gotten serious in the recent years. Just last year, China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba sued Shatui.com for 2.16 million yuan, allegedly over the latter linking merchants with people willing to falsify purchases and publish fake positive reviews.

Consumer Assessment of Reviews

After all the discussion and noise on authenticity of reviews, consumers are becoming more diligent in their assessment of reviews. Consumers now want to see the entire picture, where both positive and negative points are weighed against each other. Besides that, consumers are also agreeable that not all negative experiences are applicable to them.

Not only do consumers now notice if there are no bad reviews, they also look for bad reviews before searching for the positive ones. According to a Reevoo insight research, 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 95% suspect censorship or fake reviews when there are no bad scores.

When consumers do find bad reviews, they look out for how the company reacts to the negative score. Social commerce statistics provided by BazaarVoice shows that 71% of consumers change their perception of the brand based on the way the brand responds to a review.

Reviews Still As Relevant

At the end of the day, reviews still play an important role in many aspects of building trust. User generated content (also known as UGC) is a proven concept on how reviews can be used the right way. UGC can be seen on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, where real shoppers post their usage of purchased products online.

The reputation system is an invaluable tool for the AirBnB community, and it’s heavily used – more than 75% of trips are voluntarily reviewed.

A truly amazing example of how reviews build trust for a community is AirBnB. Beyond user profile pages and their verified identification methods, reviews play a vital part in creating trust between hosts and guests. In this article, it is further explained that reviews do not benefit the individuals who post them, but for future guests and hosts of the community in terms of better matching.

In conclusion, it is not about how bad the review scene is, but the steps to take to handle reviews well as a company or brand. Brands should in fact look at ways to capitalise on the power of UGC, and build the right image for themselves.

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