We’ve all asked for the opinion of a friend or family member when we’re either looking for something or are about to buy something. It’s just human nature to want to get support on our decision or be offered an alternative when we’re about to make a mistake.

When it comes to online, we do the same but a lot of us, 93% in fact, rely on online reviews as they impact our purchasing decision. Therefore, so many businesses have implemented review abilities on their website and the individual products they sell.

But what happens when the system is manipulated, either intentionally or unintentionally? And with the rise of fake reviews all over the internet is the once ‘King of Social Proof’ on the verge of losing its crown?

 

Why Reviews are so Powerful

Customer reviews are a double-sided coin for a business. In the eyes of the customer, they create credibility and offer social proof whilst allowing them to have a voice, share their experience and help create loyalty.

For the business, it gives you valuable insight into the overall experience you’re offering from being found to a delivery arriving. With this, you can find areas that might not otherwise be seen that can be improved. Your marketing efforts are massively improved because as we mentioned before, people rely on reviews and if they’re highlighted in the right way, they could improve conversion and improve search rankings.

 

The Darker Side of Customer Reviews

But as much as they can help, if something seems a little off, customers are going to pick up on it.

Any kind of manipulation of reviews is going to stand out like a sore thumb. Censorship of reviews and the purchasing of fake reviews are unethical as a starting point, but they raise concerns for those looking at them. The fake reviews situation for Amazon has become such an issue that they’re now taking legal action against fake review brokers to be able to protect their customers.

95% of consumers suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see bad scores and 30% of consumers assume online reviews are fake if there are no negative reviews.

Understandably, a business does not want to have pages and pages of bad reviews but hiding them is not going to fix the problem. Each one should be looked at as a learning experience and be used to make business improvements. They’re also an opportunity to address the concerns of your customers openly and transparently. Simply sticking them in a metaphorical box marked ‘ignore’ just creates more of the same. If you ignore the concerns of those customers, you’ll either never get another purchase or their voices will just get louder.

 

Infographic by- Invesp Conversion Rate Optimization

 

How do you avoid falling into these traps?

There are a few ways that you can do this.

 

  • Publish any genuine review – good, or bad.

34% of consumers have said that their low product ratings have not been published by eCommerce sites. You don’t want to be one of those sites doing this.

 

  • Respond to those reviews that need your input

Inevitably, things will not go right every single time. Don’t ignore the bad or less than perfect reviews. Reach out and use them as an opportunity to turn things around. Try to keep as much of the resolution in the open so that others can see what you have done to resolve it, but don’t get into arguments in the reviews section with customers. Remember they’re not a personal attack on you, they are in most cases an outlet for frustration and a request for resolution. Take it as an opportunity to create a new customer experience that blows their expectations and creates a loyal customer in the future.

 

  • Don’t purchase fake reviews.

This feels like it goes without saying but it is happening. 82% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year and 62% of consumers have experienced significant variations between online reviews and actual products received. It is a false economy and the long-term brand damage is hard to fix.

The purchasing of fake reviews takes many forms and however, it is attempted it doesn’t work. Even things like incentivising customers to leave positive reviews with the promise of winning something or getting something in return falls into this category.

 

  • Restrict reviews to only be submitted from verified purchases.

Again, this sounds like a bit of common sense but many places are not putting this into action. By using reviews from people who bought the product from you, it builds credibility for the reader. They know that the person went through the journey with you and received what it is they bought.

 

  • Use a trusted Third Party to validate the reviews and add their credibility.

As much as a person is looking for product reviews on the website itself, using a third party like Trustpilot can add weight. They’re seen as an independent outlier with nothing to gain by manipulating your review scores.

If people have doubts, they often google your business name followed by reviews. This drives them to places like Trustpilot where if you’ve been ignoring bad reviews or soliciting unauthorised good reviews it comes to light.

We as a business use Clutch. All reviews must be submitted with LinkedIn authorisation and the team at Clutch authenticate each review before publishing. Sure, we have testimonials on the website but using Clutch helps support the claims we’re making.

 

  • Extend the types of reviews you’re getting

Getting customers to support reviews with images or videos adds another layer of authenticity. It is an extra step in the process that fake reviewers are unlikely to take and if you’re selling things like clothing or furniture and don’t offer a visual commerce option in the shopping experience, it reassures people that what they think they’re buying, they’re buying.

 

Summing it all up

Customer reviews are great for your business and can have a serious impact on the number of people who choose to buy from you. And with the number of new eCommerce stores on the rise, they can be the difference when things like price and delivery options are all the same.

But you need to play the game fairly. Be open and honest with the feedback and learn from it where you can whilst keeping as much as the problem solving out in the open. We’re not suggesting you air all the dirty laundry but always responding with ‘DM us or send us an email’ offers little reassurance that the issue was ever resolved beyond moving it to another channel, simply to be ignored there.

And the final word is that if you’re asking people to leave their opinion after taking an action, be prepared that not everything is going to be a gold star glowing response. Regardless of how hard you may have worked or how much effort was put into the interaction, we all have different expectations and you’re essentially competing with their last incredible customer experience.