How Technology Could Help Restore Trust in Online Reviews

A 2015 Bright Local survey put the proportion of consumers who read online reviews for products and services as high as 92% and showed that as much as 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1 to 3 reviews.

This helps to highlight the power that online reviews have in influencing our purchasing decisions, and therefore the power that reviews have over the fortunes of a business. As any business that has experienced the result of one or more prominent bad reviews on e.g. Trip Advisor will know the negative impact on trade can be significant.

Although last year’s UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) report about online reviews and endorsements put the estimate of UK consumers who use online reviews at only 54%, it did highlight one of the major concerns for businesses that has led to a lack of trust in online opinions i.e. potentially misleading practices.

These include fake reviews being posted onto review sites, negative reviews not being published and businesses paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles without this being made clear to consumers.

A recent piece by the BBC highlighted the mixed online reviews of a Manhattan restaurant to introduce the subject of how new technology could help to cut down on misleading practices in online reviews and endorsements. This could of course benefit businesses, customers, and those who are most likely to be influenced by reviews, those who haven’t tried your product or service before.

Some of the new technology that could help to restore trust in online reviews includes:

  • ‘Twizoo’ for Twitter. This mobile app from a start-up reportedly works by weeding out paid-for and out-of-date reviews. The advantage of this app is that it takes into account a reviewer’s full social media profile and their tweets over time, and allocates a quality score.
  • This means that it is much more difficult for fake reviews to be posted from recently set up accounts, or for friends and family of the business to influence reviews. This quality based system also reduces the clout that tweets have after a period of 3 months. This reduces the ability of dishonest tweets to have a lasting effect on the business, plus it gives a more accurate picture of the service that potential users can expect at the current time.
  • Yelp – secret source code. This secret algorithm at Yelp reportedly weeds out overly enthusiastic 5 star reviews.
  • Amazon – multiple measures. As well as constantly reviewing its own readers’ star rated reviewing system, Amazon reportedly favours reviews by standard rather than discounted paying customers as a way of improving review quality. It is also reported to have brought lawsuits against over 1,000 defendants for reviews abuse.
  • The Walt Disney World Wristband. This wristband system gathers information about wearer and what services they have actually used at Walt Disney World to match against the reviews.

What Could These Mean For Your Business?

The wider adoption of quality based systems like these could quite simply provide more of level playing field for businesses and could help to protect you from some of the more obvious, frustrating and damaging reviews that you may have received as a result of potentially misleading practices.

These systems may also make it more difficult for some businesses to unfairly influence reviews in their favour.