Today, Ed Hill, Senior Vice President EMEA at Bazaarvoice discusses how to generate quality user-generated content – reviews and feedback – on marketplaces without falling foul of their fake review policies.
Marketplace user-generated content
It is no secret that the retail sector has seen a seismic shift in consumer purchasing behaviour thanks to the pandemic. After months of reduced access to physical stores, consumers grew accustomed to using online retail to meet their needs. Now, in 2023, even steadfast physical retail shoppers have succumbed and have formed new habits buying online.
Couple this new-found reliance on online retail with the cost-of-living crisis that is hitting countries across the world, retailers now find themselves in a position where consumers have never relied more on other customers for guidance on their purchase decisions – with online user-generated content (UGC) – such as ratings, reviews, customer photos – playing a vital part in informing them on which brands to buy from and trust.
In this world where consumers rely on the experiences of other customers to evaluate and learn about the products they are choosing from; it is vital that retailers cut out misinformation and accept the responsibility that they have to protect their customers from fake reviews.
But why are fake reviews such a problem for consumers?
As consumers continue to embrace online retail more than ever before, the size of the financial gain for brands who use fake reviews to sell products only increases. Therefore, the seriousness of fake content cannot be underestimated. In the past few years alone in the UK, the significance of fake online reviews was revealed when the Competition Market Authority (CMA) launched an investigation into review practices to protect consumers from the damage seen from fake or misleading reviews.
Fake reviews can have a huge impact on the purchasing decisions of consumers and ultimately, the way that the consumer views the retailer if things go wrong. With consumers far more likely to take their anger to retailers than the brands themselves if they feel manipulated by inauthentic content. Consumers have now become wiser to manipulation techniques and are on the lookout for red flags such as multiple reviews with similar wording, or an unrealistic number of five star and positive reviews. In fact, our research shows that 54% of consumers internationally won’t buy a product if they suspect it has fake reviews.
The line in incentivising user-generated content
While there are several ways to ask customers for feedback, the first step should always be to make sure that customers feel empowered to provide it honestly.
Yes, steps such as post-interaction emails, or social media campaigns, should be considered to boost GCC if needed, but retailers should never put pressure on customers for positive reviews. The urge to ask for positive ratings or incentivise them should be avoided at all costs, and if you do choose to go down that route, it should be made explicitly clear that anything offered – such as a free product, discount, or chance to win – are in no way dependant on giving biased feedback.
Authentic UGC is crucial when it comes to building customer confidence and elevating trust. So, maintaining the authenticity of content is crucial. Consumers will want to see the good and the bad and may even consider negative reviews as essential to their decision-making process as they weigh up the pros AND the cons of a product – so much so that in our research, we found that 71% of our consumers feel negative reviews are as important as positive reviews in their purchasing decisions. As such, retailers should never feel that they should hide negative reviews or attempt to balance them with fraudulent ones. Brands too, will only want to work with retailers that are going to instil trust in their customer base.
Why retailers and customers are on the same side
It takes years to build a reputation of trustworthiness for a business, but it only takes a few moments – or a few bad decisions – to tear it all down. This is a huge factor in why retailers must prioritise responsivity and honesty as part of their core values. Genuine customer content – even if the feedback is bad – plays such a big part in helping to develop authenticity, and as a result, it is crucial that inauthentic UGC is cut out right away.
If retailers do not have robust measures in place to detect and cut out fake content, they will soon pay the price the hard way. With this increasing reliance on UGC in mind, there is opportunity for forward-thinking and innovative retailers to lead from the front and ask what kinds of robust standards can be implemented across the industry.
While truly authentic UGC is aided by working with a partner that has the required fraud detection technologies and processes in place to protect the business and consumer, there are a few steps retailers can take on their own: firstly, the business should be transparent about who they are collecting feedback from and how they do it, secondly, they should not screen out negative reviews, and thirdly, they should make their stance of zero tolerance on fake content clear.
The need for real user-generates content, such as reviews, photos, and images, is apparent. It not only benefits the consumer, but also the business in the long run. And as such, both retailers, the brands that they work with, and consumers, have something to gain. Alongside a great customer service experience, an active community including engagement on reviews posted is one of the most reassuring signs for potential and return customers. Consumers are only getting better at spotting fake reviews, so if retailers want to truly start creating longer-lasting relationships with their customers, they have to establish policies and make catching inauthentic user-generated content a key business priority today.