In the age of identity theft, the Patriot Act, credit card fraud, spyware and Kim Kardashian’s take on the sacred vows of marriage, who can you trust? Indeed, building trust between customers and retailers is paramount – for example, you’re reading this off a screen which stands a 69% chance of being bought online, and if you bought it online, you were certain it would be delivered weren’t you? What’s more, you’re human, and you naturally trust other humans, which is why you probably read customer reviews posted online.
While the benefits of online shopping are incontestable (it’s fast, easy, anonymous, comfortable, has a greater variety and is usually cheaper) online shoppers are demanding: retailers need to have the right products at the right price, or carts are gonna get abandoned. Therefore, anything an online business can do to convince fickle browsing shoppers to stick around, should probably be done.
Research suggests that 90% of people are influenced by a positive review, and that you are 85% more likely to purchase products or services when you can find a positive review of them online. This means that it makes obvious sense for online businesses to include a review and rating widget on their websites. But then again, how do you know you can trust the reviews?
The Boston Globe reports that as many as one third of all reviews posted online could be phony. Last year in New York, for example, nineteen companies were found guilty of manipulating and fabricating online reviews. They coughed up $350,000 in penalties for their dishonesty. Meanwhile, in a telling tongue-in-cheek admission of the ultimate powerlessness of online businesses against a determined fraudster, Amazon.com has dedicated a page on its website to its favourite fake reviews (satisfaction guaranteed from the Accoutrements Horse Head Mask: “By wearing this mask, I was able to get anything and everything I needed. Plenty of hay, lots of time to run and, best of all, I no longer have to wear pants”).
It must be admitted that fake reviews offer more to companies in the hospitality industry than technology retailers. While the former speaks to the quality (or not) of a product, the latter is about the adequate processing, delivery and after sales care related to that product, as most of the time, retailers aren’t producing the good themselves. As such, there is much to be gained from positive reviews of the logistics behind an online business. Furthermore, allowing customers to comment and then acting on those comments produces a genuine conversation, which can only help promote positive, business-building relationships between customers and retailers.
Trust, of course, goes deeper than simply meeting expectations. You like our style, or you wouldn’t be reading this, would you? Also, for example, agreeing with a business’s ethical orientation or actually feeling like you have access to the company you generously give your hard-earned money to are all ways we come to put our faith in commercial enterprises. But the fact remains that if someone else says they’re great, you’re probably going to give them a go.