Last week was a busy week for the user-generated content industry. The UK’s Competition and Market Authority launched the findings of its survey and have now said it is investigating a number of business for either manipulating customer reviews or using fake reviews (the BBC have interesting coverage here). Amazon also recently announced that it is introducing a new “machine learning” based review ranking system that promotes verified reviews over others (in the US only for the time being). The ranking algorithm also incorporates other factors such as newness and those voted most helpful.

The industry should welcome the CMA’s actions, and it is great to see Amazon at long last recognising the value of verified reviews, i.e. reviews that come from a confirmed purchaser. £23bn of consumer spending is influenced by customer reviews, and forward-looking brands use them to develop products and optimise their merchandising and customer service. This makes them too valuable to allow them to be tarnished by the few businesses that either openly manipulate them or whose systems are not robust enough to identify fakes.

£23bn of consumer spending is influenced by customer reviews. - Highlight to share -

Brands, retailers and websites who manipulate customer reviews or use fake reviews may be breaking the law and also face significant damage to their reputations – likely resulting in a very large own goal.

To put this into context, some years back, Reevoo ceased to do business with a high street retailer who continued to attempt to manipulate review scores. This was despite the fact that having a lower score on a product drove higher sales than the same product without any score – but that is another story. Turning away a customer is never an easy thing to do, but customer generated content is simply too valuable to allow it to be manipulated.

Brands, retailers and websites who manipulate customer reviews or use fake reviews may be breaking the law. - Highlight to share -

The key watchwords are authenticity and transparency – follow those two words and businesses wont go too far wrong. How do they play out in practice? Here are six best practice pointers to help you:

1.Always ensure the customer reviews you collect are from a verified purchaser, user or guest.

Don’t rely on software algorithms or human intervention to spot fake reviews.

2.Publish both the positive and the negative reviews.

Customers know – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

3.Don’t edit the reviews.

If a user review contains a defamatory comment, then at Reevoo we return the review to the author saying we can’t publish it unless the defamatory comment is removed.

4.Make sure you structure the review content, separating product and service related reviews.

Otherwise it’s too muddling for the next shopper and the value is lost.

5. Customise the review questionnaire to the product or service your customer has just purchased.

Generic reviews are of little value to the next shopper.

6.Engage with your reviewers.

Not just with standard marketing department spiel, but genuinely show you care and have listened and taken your customers’ feedback onboard.

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The Government cracks down on fake reviews - are you safe?