Today’s multi-platform marketplace allows consumers to share feedback; providing brands and retailers with unprecedented access to insights and precious consumer information, and marking the beginning of the most networked dialogue of information sharing between businesses and consumers in the history of retail.
As the volume of this feedback grows, it’s becoming trickier for consumers to decipher fact from fiction and identify legitimate customer reviews, and for businesses to be educated around the benefits of displaying and interacting with both positive and negative feedback.
While it’s never easy encountering criticism, when it comes to building and nurturing customer relationships and protecting a brand’s reputation, transparency is key.
Any effort to conceal lower-rated reviews will jeopardise relationships with customers, as they have a fundamental right to trust the content they encounter.
The backlash of such efforts to a company’s reputation is evident, as we’ve seen from accusations that Sarah Beeny presenter of Property Ladder, has been hiding bad reviews on her property website Tepilo, earlier in the year.
Furthermore, only last week Airbnb was accused of blocking unfavourable reviews of properties by guests who chose to leave early rather than endure another night in sub-standard accommodation.
Contrary to business sense, brands still fear negative customer feedback; they consider it a threat to their image and reputation. This is because they simply cannot see the value behind displaying and engaging with negative content, and treat these as insights and opportunities to improve their offering.
However, embracing the negativity and using it as a way to improve and engage with customers will lead to a better informed, loyal and trusting customer base, in the long term.
Consumers like to know that their voice matters and deleting a negative review or comment is not the way to demonstrate your value to your customer base.
Authenticity is fundamental to the value of reviews, and companies must recognise this
Quite often, brands and retailers tend to underestimate how much people want to talk about their products or services. Shop Direct, the UK multi-brand retailer ran 100 AB testing experiments in one month, as part of their work with Bazaarvoice and removed 50% of reviews from their website, which impacted conversion globally by 1.7%, showcasing the significance of online reviews.
In fact, reviews are the main source consumers consult before making a purchase decision and hugely influence buying intent and audience opinion.
Building on ‘bad’ reviews
From a business’ perspective, hiding negative reviews is a missed opportunity. Displaying and actively addressing a negative review not only shows commitment to the customers’ needs, but also a willingness to learn and improve.
Responsive brands are seen by shoppers as caring and trustworthy, which results in them having a higher regard for their products or services. In fact, bad reviews are one of the most effective conversion tools, according to Bazaarvoice’s Conversation Index Vol6; we have found that a brand engaging with a review made 41% of consumers think the brand “really cares about consumers,” and 35 per cent thought the brand “has great customer service.”
Perhaps more importantly, the intent of purchase would double when a consumer sees a brand’s reply to negative feedback, with consumers seeing a brand openly responding to a negative review being 186 per cent more likely to purchase than those who didn’t.
According to Bazaarvoice research, more than half of consumers in the US and UK believe companies remove negative reviews and that one or more of the reviews they read online is fake.
Therefore, sharing authentic content is central to building customers’ trust, particularly with today’s growing informed and connected consumers.
Manipulating reviews violates the most basic ethical practices a company can hold, falsely affecting consumers’ purchase decisions and damaging the company’s reputation.
Moreover, posting fabricated content can violate false advertising laws, which could result in legal proceedings for the business owner, a fine from the government, or possibly even prosecution for violating trade regulations.
As part of demonstrating their commitment to authentic consumer feedback, brands and retailers should consider displaying a trust mark along with reviews, a visual representation of their authenticity policy and underlying processes, which helps ensure the integrity of consumer reviews displayed.
This would be a signpost helping reassure consumers that review content is safeguarded by sophisticated fraud detection technology and industry-leading best practices, which can lead 47% of consumers to be more “trusting of reviews”.
You need to engage in conversations
Brands and retailers seeking to improve their reputation, while staying ahead of the curve in a competitive landscape, can no longer overlook the importance and impact of engaging in consumer conversations, whether positive or negative, being transparent in their communications, and leveraging authentic consumer feedback.
Tracking and analysing this feedback is vital for research and development.
Data can be transformed into valuable insights that can drive business decisions and provide context around customers, products and services, from highlighting supply chain efficiencies to guiding product development.
Authenticity is fundamental to the value of reviews, and companies must recognise this and do everything within their power to ensure that all feedback is genuine. Borrowing from our mission statement, the way to positively impact the ecosystem is to challenge the online status quo by focusing on ‘one authentic conversation at a time.’