As the shift in power between brands and consumers continues to evolve, organisations are fast looking to build advocacy and credibility through trusted, authentic content.
The mutual benefits of authentic content
While a brand’s voice across all channels is important, user-generated content such as customer reviews, blogs and social content have become an invaluable tool for consumers to make an informed choice before purchasing a product. Sharing thoughts and opinions through word of mouth is not new but it has achieved a level of visibility like never before.
Research from Nielsen finds 92 per cent of global consumers trust word of mouth recommendations, while 68 per cent trust online consumer reviews more than other advertising. It is not only feedback from peers that influences behaviour. The views of strangers online are also influential, based on the proviso they are authentic accounts of personal experiences.
This user-generated content can be used by brands and retailers online in advertising and at every customer touch point, including mobile, online and in-store, to provide consumers with useful, valuable product information. This encourages consumers to buy products and begin further conversations with the brand, increasing brand advocacy and having a positive impact on the bottom line. For this reason, user-generated content has enormous potential to positively influence purchase intent, so encouraging authentic consumer conversations should be a key consideration for any retailer or marketer.
Credibility is key
Using and managing this content effectively can be a challenge. Recent research by Bazaarvoice discovered that 71 per cent of UK shoppers look at consumer reviews before making a purchase but 70 per cent of those surveyed questioned the authenticity of these reviews.
In addition, more than half of those surveyed believe that companies remove negative reviews, with 50 per cent believing one or more of the reviews they read were fake.
The value and authenticity of consumer reviews online has been queried recently in situations such as the Italian Competition Authority’s investigation to assess alleged fake reviews on TripAdvisor. As customers understandably trust other customers above other sources of information, discovering that content is not authentic can have a negative impact on a brand’s reputation which is difficult to repair.
All of the above signifies the importance for brands and retailers of having a robust plan to ensure the authenticity of content surrounding their products across all paid and earned media channels. In doing so, businesses can protect and improve their reputation and remain transparent in communications with consumers while staying ahead of the curve in a competitive landscape.
Managing your reputation
There are a number of steps that brands and retailers can and should consider taking to ensure the authenticity of their reviews, including:
- Give consumers confidence from the start. It is absolutely critical that businesses support an environment that gives consumers the assurance that word of mouth content is genuine and unbiased. Trust marks are a simple way to boost consumer confidence on the trustworthiness of online reviews while allowing a business to affirm its dedication to authentic consumer feedback. Where everything else is equal, consumers will choose the site with a trust mark.
- Introduce fraud and spam-free technology. By implementing this technology, retailers can combat inauthentic content such as disruptive or ‘trolling’ behaviour, commercial messages, automated submissions such as bots and scripts, illegitimate or degrading content from a competitor and self-promotion. This technology can analyse the source of reviews, filter content and incorporate tools such as predictive modelling. It can also identify outliers that are likely not to have been written by a real consumer.
- Maintain the human factor. In addition to the use of technology, it is important to maintain the human factor in the monitoring process. By implementing a tool, moderated by a dedicated third-party team of analysts, this ensures that all content that does not fall within the above brackets does not slip through the cracks and can be monitored easily to determine its authenticity.
- Enable freedom of speech. Although organisations do not enjoy receiving a negative or lower-rated review from a customer, negative reviews do have their place and a warts-and-all approach builds trust. All consumer voices have the right to be heard and shoppers have a right to rely on word of mouth for making informed decisions, as most become suspicious of websites that show only favourable reviews. Instead, businesses should take steps to publicly accept the consumer’s opinion and try to offer a solution to address any issue they may have had.
- Ensure total transparency. To ensure the authenticity of reviews and all content surrounding a brand’s products online, organisations must be upfront about any incentives offered to review authors. For example, employees should not submit a review of a product or service without disclosing their relationship to the company. Similarly, incentivising consumers to review purchases without disclosing the process can also be perceived as inauthentic. This type of endorsement should always be noted alongside the review to ensure that consumers are aware of all the facts and can make an educated decision based on transparent information.
The customer is king
In an age where the customer is king, it has never been more important to take into account the authenticity of your brand’s voice across channels, while creating content that inspires meaningful conversations, shareability and a deeper connection. It is vital to ensure that user-generated content is considered trustworthy.
It is crucial that brands make every effort to found relationships with consumers based on respect and providing useful, valuable information to aid purchasing decisions. Businesses should create a consistent and authentic brand experience as this will ultimately benefit all parties and lead to a long-standing, prosperous relationship. We are all consumers, and brands should approach customer communications with this in mind. It definitely pays to be authentic.
Vice president of marketing EMEA,
T: 020 8080 1100