A safer place to trade

How well can you really trust your customer reviews?


What’s the first thing you do when you’re booking a holiday cottage or buying a car? Checking the opinions of other customers has become the first response for shoppers looking to validate their potential purchase.

A 2015 report from the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) estimated that £23 billion a year of UK consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews. Additionally, according to the eTailing Group, 89 per cent of people say reviews influence their purchasing decision. Customer reviews are not only big business, they’re powerful for retailers too.

The problem is that not all reviews are created equal. In 2015 online retailer Amazon took more than 1,000 fake reviewers to court. According to research from Yelp.com, 25 per cent of online reviews are fake.

Fake reviews can be hugely damaging to business. They can erode the trust between business and consumer, and they can undermine brands.

The CMA report raised concerns about the potential for reviews and endorsements to mislead consumers and distort buying decisions. It identified instances of businesses writing or commissioning fake positive reviews about themselves to boost their ratings on review sites, businesses writing or commissioning fake negative reviews about competitors, and review sites cherry-picking positive reviews or suppressing negative reviews they collect and display, without making it clear to readers they are presenting a selection of reviews only.

To improve the trustworthiness and credibility of reviews, organisations are increasingly turning to specialist review sites such as Feefo to collect feedback from reviewers who can be verified as genuine customers

Some of these practices breach the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the UK Advertising Codes, not to mention losing trade and trust.

Businesses are spending thousands of pounds and valuable manpower trying to stop fake reviews by setting up fraud detection, deleting reviews that look suspicious and shying away from allowing unmoderated feedback.

Earlier this year a Glasgow restaurant hit the headlines when the manager began leaving lengthy responses to what he considered unfair or even inaccurate reviews on TripAdvisor.

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While it’s great that businesses are going to such lengths to ensure their reviews are genuine, there is an easier solution.

To improve the trustworthiness and credibility of reviews, organisations are increasingly turning to specialist review sites such as Feefo to collect feedback from reviewers who can be verified as genuine customers.

At Feefo, there is no room for fake reviews because it operates by invitation only. This means that only customers who have made a purchase from a retailer are invited to leave a review. Based on the eBay model, the invite-only feature has been key to the success of Feefo. Ensuring all reviews are genuine provides authenticity that other review companies are unable to guarantee.

It’s a simple process whereby the customer is asked to rate the supplier both for service and product, along with additional comments, such as whether the product exceeded expectation and why. Customers can also add associated content such as pictures and videos.

Each review can be matched with a transaction, ruling out the threat of any fake reviews – unless, that is, someone is so intent on leaving a negative review they bulk-buy the product, and you’d almost have to congratulate them for their efforts and for upping your sales in the process.

On open platforms, anyone can leave a review, whether they’re customers or not. This opens up businesses to the threat of fake reviews, leaving them vulnerable to artificial negativity which can ultimately have a significant impact on their brand reputation as well as their bottom line.

Feefo takes the validity and reliability of its reviews so seriously it’s even on the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) Committee for Online Reviews, helping to establish the first global set of standards and accreditations in the online review space.

The business benefits are clear – because Feefo is a Google licensed partner its reviews can appear as star ratings within Google’s organic and paid listings. This means that when someone searches in Google for brand and non-brand related terms, your listing will appear alongside a star rating and the number of reviews collected. This can be clicked and the customer can see all the reviews that have been supplied to Google.

The search engine giant says the addition of star ratings can increase click through rate (CTR) – the rate at which someone clicks on your listing through to a webpage – by an average of 17 per cent.

Reviews improve search engine optimisation and pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. How often have you heard the expression “rich, unique content”? Google simply can’t get enough of it. Integrated reviews and feedback contribute heavily towards this, providing, as they do, something more than the generic product description common to competitors.

Moreover, 85 per cent of consumers investigate companies and products online before buying, with many simply searching the product or service name plus the word “review”. Within just two weeks, online travel company Expedia noticed a 4,000 per cent increase in review visibility on Google and a 20 per cent increase in AdWords CTR.

They can improve social media marketing too. Allowing customers to leave reviews encourages them to share on social media, which in turn increases user engagement as well as referral traffic to your website. Allowing unmoderated feedback demonstrates that you believe in your business and care about your customers, and you have nothing to hide.

Importantly, these benefits can have a dramatic impact on your bottom line. For example, Monarch Airlines added their Feefo service rating below the basket summary on their website. This, they report, contributed to a 3.01 per cent uplift in revenue per visitor and a 2.94 per cent increase in all flight bookings.

Additionally, feedback can improve business performance, simply by enabling companies to identify and rectify areas of improvement.

This marked effect on operations allows retailers greater insight into product trends and feedback, resolving issues fast. Chris Rucker, founder of The White Company, says: “It has made a profound impact to our operational focus, our service delivery experience and the way in which we measure our own performance internally.

“We use Feefo every single day. It gives us an immediate and direct insight into how our products are performing, and how our customers feel about customer service. It enables us to further understand and focus on the issues that truly matter to our customers.”

It’s not just for online purchases either. Feefo also offers a bricks-and-mortar solution, called Feefo places. With 42 per cent of people checking reviews on their smartphones while shopping in-store according to SessionM, there is a growing need for an omnichannel solution to cater for today’s shopping habits.

At its core, Feefo has a simple idea – to make the internet a safer place to trade.

Matt Eames, Feefo’s chief commercial officer, says: “It starts with ensuring that only genuine customers are invited to leave reviews. If I can go to an open review website where I can post a review about any business or any product in the world, then that immediately leaves that website open to abuse.

“Neither businesses nor consumers can benefit by that. Our invite-only platform ensures all reviews are genuine, which businesses can leverage to improve both sales and business operations.”