There's no denying that ratings and reviews have become an essential part of the path to purchase and the authenticity of those reviews is of the utmost importance.
Along with Northwestern University, we recently looked at how reviews left by verified buyers differ from those left by anonymous shoppers and how each ultimately impacts sales.
Further proving the importance of review authenticity, the study found that reviews from verified buyers -- shoppers that purchase a product online and then submit a product review through a post-purchase email -- have a positive impact on purchase likelihood due to their tendency to be more positive than reviews from anonymous consumers. Reviews from verified buyers have a higher average star rating (4.34 stars) as compared to those from anonymous reviewers, which average 3.89 stars.
Reviews coming from anonymous consumers are difficult to track because they come from people who navigated to a retail site and left a review without being prompted. These reviews often stem from purchases made in-store or when a product was received as a gift, but because the review isn't tied to a direct transaction, there's no way to guarantee its validity.
In light of the high value consumers place on authenticity, what can you do to preserve the credibility of reviews on your website and ensure they have a positive impact on sales?
Highlight reviews from verified buyers
While the findings of this study point to the great importance of reviews from verified buyers, it's also valuable to continue to collect content from those anonymous consumers as well. The more product feedback you have, the better. But in the spirit of authenticity, it's essential to be transparent about the source of your reviews. If you don't already, use a "Verified Buyer" badge so consumers know when a review is written by another shopper that is guaranteed to have used and tested out the product.
Implement a post-purchase email strategy
Since most shoppers don't choose to write a review on their own, send a series of post-purchase emails to gather that feedback. Also, consider leveraging your loyalty or rewards program to link in-store purchases with customer email addresses you've already collected and sending those customers post-purchase emails as well.
Make these emails simple and personalized with a clear call-to-action to write a review. The reviews generated from these post purchase emails will help you build credibility by capturing the opinions of people who have actually experienced a product, while also driving sales with positive feedback.
Offer incentives to encourage reviews
More than half of consumers who aren't writing reviews cite needing motivation to do so. Incentivize shoppers to write reviews by using a sweepstakes, coupon codes for free shipping or discounts. Since incentives are offered to verified buyers in post purchase emails, you're likely to collect reviews with more positive sentiment.
With incentivized reviews, it's still key to keep authenticity top-of-mind, so if possible, indicate when a customer received a sample or other incentive for writing a review.
Eliminate fake reviews
Allowing reviews to be submitted by anonymous consumers opens up the possibility of receiving fake reviews. As mentioned before, authenticity is what makes reviews so powerful, so it's important to ensure review content is fraud-free. Ask your ratings and reviews provider about their fraud detection technology and what measures have been put in place to ensure your content's authenticity.
Access the "Self Motivated Versus Prompted Reviews" study from PowerReviews and Northwestern University.