Modern consumers have unprecedented power to influence purchase decisions and shape a brand's image.
With social media, we’re all just a click away from finding out everything about any given brand. Customer reviews, photos, and videos hold immense responsibility when it comes to a company’s success or failure. Collecting authentic user-generated content (UGC) is key to establishing brand credibility.
When was the last time you bought anything without reading the reviews? Whether it’s B2B or B2C, a buyer’s journey in the digital world starts way before connecting with the brand. Buyers know how to educate themselves, and reading other customers’ reviews is a vital part of that process.
Reviews shape confident buyer decisions – from discovery and research to building brand trust. They offer transparent insights into use cases, features, and the consumer experience. As a result, collecting authentic UGC for your business has become integral to survival in the digital economy.
of B2B software decision-makers surveyed globally said they use online review sites as a part of their software buying journey.
As G2's Chief Product Officer, I know user reviews are crucial to G2, and I’m passionate about improving the review process for a reliable user experience. Zarina Stanford, CMO of Bazaarvoice, also shares this dedication, so I was grateful we got to discuss the increasingly important role of trust in reviews.
Despite our different audiences and focus areas – Bazaarvoice on consumer reviews and G2 on business software and services reviews – we agree that the underlying principles apply to customer review management in both cases.
The importance of authentic customer reviews
Given the power of reviews, it’s clear that word-of-mouth marketing still stands tall and true across industries. However, collecting high-quality reviews isn’t enough. The people reading the reviews must believe in their authenticity. According to a Bazaarvoice study, 85% of customers think that negative reviews are as important as positive reviews, if not more.
Think about it. Would you trust a brand that has all 5-star reviews? A perfect score makes you question the reviewers' integrity. Whether the reviews are positive or negative, brands have a responsibility to ensure that honest customer feedback serves as the ultimate source of truth about their products and services.
Another key aspect of building trust between brands and customers is guaranteeing transparency in the review process. We make it clear who the customers are and ensure they actually experience the product in question. We’ll also tell you how the feedback was collected and how it was moderated before being published.
According to G2’s 2023 Software Buyer Behavior Report survey, among 17 different factors, transparent validation of online reviews ranks fourth when it comes to the most important feature of review sites. Based on our annual survey of global software buyers, transparency continues to rise in importance, with those who selected that feature option increasing 9 percentage points between 2021 and 2023. Clearly, transparency in reviews is not just a trend but an enduring principle.
Threats to trust and authenticity in customer’s voice
On the quest to generate trustworthy reviews, we have to acknowledge their multifaceted landscape. Several challenges emerge in the process of becoming the most valued and authentic source of information for customers.
Trust isn’t built overnight, but it can be broken that quickly. Reviews written by inauthentic sources disseminate false and biased information across domains like news, research, and online content.
Many faces of untrustworthy sources for customer reviews make themselves seen. In B2B, it could manifest in the form of a disgruntled employee or a competitor. In B2C, thanks to the rise of influencer marketing, it might arrive as paid influencers who share distorted product reviews on social media platforms. Businesses must critically evaluate their reviewers’ backgrounds and implement fact-checking mechanisms to filter out unreliable sources.
For example, to encourage impartiality, G2 never allows users to leave reviews for their current employers, former employers, or competitors. We also conduct certain checks on our end to authenticate the reviews. G2 users must use a LinkedIn account or a verified business email when leaving a review on our website.
The fastest way to undermine user trust is by letting fake reviews get on your website. Not only do they mislead buyers and harm your credibility, but they also risk financial punishment from the FTC. To combat this issue, businesses have to be transparent about their review policies and set up moderation and verification processes.
The process of review moderation and authentication doesn’t have to be sneaky or complex. G2’s review form has 40 questions, many requiring detailed answers in the context of using the software. When it takes 30 minutes instead of 3 to write a review, you can’t lie about your experience. This promotes credibility and authenticity from reviewers.
“We do authentication and moderation to know: Who is it? Who is leaving their voice? And importantly, did they actually experience the product to lend credibility and authenticity behind what they say?”
Zarina Stanford CMO, Bazaarvoice
With generative AI technology like ChatGPT becoming more accessible than ever, there’s potential for abuse. How do you maintain credibility by ensuring humans are still writing the reviews and not generative text? I think it boils down to the nature of the reviews themselves.
At G2, we work relentlessly to serve as the ultimate place for software buyers. We reject over 32% of submitted reviews for not meeting our community guidelines, out of which 5-8% are AI-generated reviews.
This isn’t to say that AI is not useful. The key is being responsible with how you approach it. As a case in point, Zarina shared how Bazaarvoice implements AI technology to generate prompts for their review writing process. In this case, AI isn’t writing the review but helping you improve customers’ answers with the right hints.
“The potential for generative AI is boundless. Incorporating AI technology is a must on the path of innovation. However, when it comes to consumers, what they choose and what they say, there is no substitute.”
Zarina Stanford CMO, Bazaarvoice
In the name of authenticity and respect for real user feedback, reviews generated by AI or bots are rejected. However, using technology such as AI writing assistants improves the readability, grammar, and spelling of review content.
The industry needs to be mindful of what we put on the internet to avoid losing customer trust in online content. If they can’t trust reviews on your website, they’ll leave and find a different space to shop.
The role of incentivization
Incentivization plays a pivotal role in shaping user reviews across industries. It encourages customer participation and generates online feedback. In B2B especially, because of the investment of time, most reviews still come with a reward.
However, we don’t want to bribe them. We strive to incentivize their time for an honest review, not just a positive one.
As Zarina likes to put it, you have to maintain the authenticity element. “I trust a paid influencer review over branded content/commercials as long as they use the product,” she shared.
The goal isn't to nudge customers to say something nice about a product; it's to get their honest opinion and make it actionable to build customer trust and prevent churn.
Brands want to compensate influencers with thousands of followers for trying their products. But there's no harm if they share an honest review with the audience. It's when influencers feel obligated to hype a brand without trying their product or refraining from sharing their real, maybe not-so-great experiences – that's where you lose trust.
“If a reviewer has a bias, they need to state it. Influencers incentivized to try a product will only be supported and trusted if they make the bias known. It’s all part of authenticity.”
Zarina Stanford CMO, Bazaarvoice
The need for review moderation
Imagine you're in the market to buy an air purifier for the first time. Naturally, you check out product reviews to narrow down your options. You find something you like, but one word keeps popping up when you read its reviews: rackety. At this point, you realize you didn’t even know that an air purifier could be noisy, but now, it's all you can think about. That's how easily reviews influence buying decisions, making moderation a critical aspect of review collection.
Platforms and brands that curate and showcase reviews have the responsibility to guarantee their accuracy. They must confirm that the reviews are reliable and truly representative of the product or service in question. Being mindful of industry guidelines and best practices for review moderation helps organizations manage online reviews as they uphold transparency, trust, and user engagement.
Moreover, moderating UGC, like product reviews, is important for complying with applicable laws and guidelines. Review platforms can prevent people from saying anything that could be offensive, obscene, or illegal, which aids in a superior customer experience.
So, while review collection is about asking for honest reviews consistently, it’s also about navigating and intervening to maintain credibility and trust in your brand.
In reviews we trust
The significance of trust and transparency in reviews can’t be overstated in a consumer-dominated economy. It’s not a need but rather a fundamental principle for creating a thriving and equitable marketplace. However, the journey to fostering customer trust is long and tricky.
Trust, once lost, doesn’t want to be found. Managing your brand in a digital world, where information is abundant but faith is scarce, requires a delicate balance of transparency, authenticity, and consistency. Your brand's reputation rests on your commitment to openness and honesty.
Ultimately, if your company prioritizes these principles, you will attract and retain more customers while contributing to a reliable online marketplace. It's a win-win situation for customers and companies like yours.
Sara Rossio is Chief Product Officer at G2, where she manages the entirety of G2's product portfolio and has a keen eye for identifying new market opportunities. Having spent over 20 years building and managing software solutions in various product leadership roles, Sara is an effective leader, developing and executing both short and long-term strategic plans that drive profitability. Prior to joining G2, she held leadership positions at NAVTEQ/Here, Gogo, and PowerReviews. Sara holds five patents, and consistently focuses on solving user problems with technology. She earned her BSBA in Marketing & International Business from Ohio State University.
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Reviews in B2B & B2C: Why Trust Matters More Than EverJoin G2’s Chief Product Officer Sara Rossio and Zarina Stanford, CMO of Bazaarvoice, to learn why authenticity in user reviews matters for B2B and B2C.https://learn.g2.com/review-trust-b2b-b2chttps://learn.g2.com/hubfs/G2CM_FI773_Learn_Article_Images-%5BTrust_In_Customer_Reviews%5D_V1b.png2023-11-01 13:30:00Z
Sara RossioSara Rossio is Chief Product Officer at G2, where she manages the entirety of G2's product portfolio and has a keen eye for identifying new market opportunities. Having spent over 20 years building and managing software solutions in various product leadership roles, Sara is an effective leader, developing and executing both short and long-term strategic plans that drive profitability. Prior to joining G2, she held leadership positions at NAVTEQ/Here, Gogo, and PowerReviews. Sara holds five patents, and consistently focuses on solving user problems with technology. She earned her BSBA in Marketing & International Business from Ohio State University.https://learn.g2.com/author/sara-rossiohttps://learn.g2.com/hubfs/g2-leadership-csuite-sarah-rossio.png
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