{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

Consumer reviews work. They have been shown to drive sales, and so now they are used by most retailers online. 

The problem is, marketers know this too, and it's no surprise that reviews are used as much as possible, particularly to improve seller ratings for PPC ads. 

Having looked into this recently, i wonder whether the sheer volumes of review gathered for some brands' seller ratings are diluting the effect and making the feedback less valuable for other customers. 

Google's seller ratings

Recently, Google decided to drop ReviewCentre from the list of review sites used to produce said seller ratings. 

I heard of this via Will Wynne, the CEO of Arena Flowers, who had previously been pointing its customers to Review Centre.

The result is that the number of reviews of Arena have dropped, and his site's ratings have dropped as a result.  

This is the explanation from Google's AdWords team: 

I understand that you are concerned about the number of reviews dropping. I would like you to know that we are no longer crawling reviews from ReviewCentre. Google is working with external merchant review sites to receive content feeds that ensure more consistent review quality on Google sites. As a result, we will no longer show reviews from certain review sites. This is probably why you are experiencing a drop in the reviews.

To have seller ratings included in ads, sites must have at least 30 unique reviews from such sites and a composite seller rating of 3.5 or over.

Google has a list of 30+ sites which are used for reviews, including Bazaarvoice, Reevoo, Shopzilla and Trustpilot. 

Will is frustrated by Google's decision, as he tended to refer customers to Review Centre due to its ease of use: 

Standard procedure for a merchant (well, one with a brain anyway) is to email customers who seem to have had a good experience and ask them to write something nice about you on the easiest site to use. That is Review Centre as it's fairly straightforward to use (my friend David Brackin mentioned that he did a test and found that customers sent to RC were four times as likely to do a write up as customers sent to Trustpilot as it's a bit of a pain to sign up).

What that means is that not only is it easier for good reviewers to write good stuff, but also for bad reviewers. So RC can really look terrible if you are bad as people really lay into you on it. I suspect that this is the reason that they've been excluded...as brands were complaining about overly negative reviews being written and impacting their stars. We don't mind as we have a good service so get good performance. 

Presumably, Google is implying that Review Centre is less trustworthy as a review source than the other 30 or so sites, but there do seem to be odd review patterns from some sites. 

Numbers of reviews

Here, the top PPC ad has almost 60,000 reviews. That's a lot, about ten times more than Interflora.

In fact, the sites in this sector seem to have more reviews than others, though this may just be the nature of the business (Will tells me it's pretty tough out there!).  

That's a lot of reviews, and I'm not surprised that Will sees something suspicious in the quantity, though I think it can be explained by the relatively aggressive techniques used to gather reviews. 

Companies like Feefo and Trustpilot are emailing customers on behalf of their retail clients very soon after purchases, and reviews can be left relatively easily using this method. 

In some cases, they are going through past transactions and emailing these customers to 'backfill' the reviews. These are not only used for PPC ads, but also on site: 

In addition, customers may buy multiple items in any given transaction, and each one can qualify for a separate review. Add to that the fact that customers can review the same product on different platforms, and one purchase of, let's say, five items can generate 10 -15 reviews. 

The process for gathering reviews

I asked Feefo about how the company gathers and uses reviews. 

How does the process for gathering reviews work?

I took some screenshots a few days ago for a presentation explaining the customer journey for Expedia customers, so I’ll use that example if you don’t mind. 

Following the completion of a purchase, the customer receives an email comparable, and when the customer clicks to leave feedback, they see the following screen:

  

The feedback is then fed through to both Feefo and the merchant:

We also publish the feed to Google, which uses this data to generate Seller Ratings.

How are you able to gather such high numbers of reviews?

Feefo has the highest response rate in the industry at present, anywhere up to 25% based on current merchants (special interest / niche organizations tend to generate higher feedback rates). Our average rate is 16%.

I saw in your discussion you were comparing to people like Amazon for example. This can be confused by Trustpilot (amongst others) offering a ‘free’ service which allows consumers to blindly leave a review on a company.

They are then able to use this as a sales technique to those companies: “Have you seen the negative feedback you are getting?” to offer enhanced levels of service and whatnot. 

This is based on consumers going out of their way to find any possible way of leaving a review, which will obviously be skewed towards those incensed by a negative experience.

If you are buying an item from Amazon for example, you are not prompted in any way to provide feedback on how good the service was, but it does have its own internal email-based system of generating specific product reviews / external seller reviews.  

Our system sends an email to all customers that have completed a purchase (from a Feefo merchant) inviting to leave feedback.

This means that the experience is fresh in their mind, and takes no longer than 15 seconds. Time commitment is a massive turn off for people bothering to leave feedback.

They have not gone out of their way at all, and simply have to tick one or two boxes (depending if they offer just service, or service and product) and write as much or as little (a written review is only required for a negative rating to explain why).   

They may in fact already be in their inbox checking the email confirmation for the product at the time of being invited to leave feedback, so the perceived exertion or commitment of doing so is lessened even more.

You can see the huge difference in companies like Expedia, who are Feefo clients, but are sometimes left feedback on the free version of Trustpilot.

The automated Feefo emails have generated tens of thousands more responses in comparison to those who went out of their normal behaviour to deliberately leave feedback on Trustpilot (which also requires Facebook login if they are not a paying Trustpilot client).

In retail for example, there is also the chance that someone might buy 2, 6 or even 10 different items in one transaction. They would be able to leave feedback on each of these.

The merchant can then generate reviews specific to individual products, as well as their general service. We offer full integration for this, so merchants can display the relevant reviews next to the products etc. 

Are purchases verified in any way?

We verify reviews by insisting on a transaction ID to correspond to all reviews left, something we believe has influenced our standing as a Google Licensed Content Partner.

A notable competitor in the reviews industry recently lost its partnership with Google, and this will be a significant impediment to the business moving forward. 

How much do you charge retailers for the service?

Prices scale depending on the size of the company and the number of transactions they complete.  

We are proud to say that we don’t punish businesses for success. So if they sign up for Feefo doing x amount of transactions, but by the end of the period they have committed to are doing x+y number of transactions, then they will still be paying the same amount.

Prices are from £99 per month, and scale up accordingly. Our highest paying customer is in the thousands. We also charge a setup fee which structures a merchant’s account to ensure they can get the most from the service.

Is there a 'risk' that, after a few hundred the numbers become meaningless, and perhaps even less credible?

It’s a difficult question to answer, as it’s somewhat subjective how to define ‘meaningless’ and would likely differ between individual consumers and how recognisable the business is.

For example, consumers are likely to require less reassurance about a business they have heard of than those they haven’t.   

I would say that there is likely a critical mass (depending on the size of the business) to which initially the number of reviews is what matters most, and after that the most recent feedback alongside the relevance (eg are there reviews specific to the product a consumer is intending to purchase?) become more important factors.  

Historic data also gains significance for the merchants themselves. An often missed aspect of reviews is the business intelligence offered directly by genuine customers.

You might be able to track how your service has improved from the previous year, or identify a particular product / aspect of your customer journey that is generating negative feedback for example. You can then use this data to improve your offering.   

Flowers seems to be a particularly competitive market, are there other sectors where the number of reviews are high?

The vast majority of our reviews are generated by retail merchants of various descriptions.

If you follow these links, you will see reviews from hundreds of thousands of customers, M and M Direct for example:

 

Retail is an obviously competitive market, with direct rivals only a click away, but we are seeing major growth with travel-based organisations and financial institutions.

How effective are seller ratings in PPC ads? Can you provide any examples?

According to Google, "On average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17% higher CTR than the same ads without ratings”. 

We are often trying to get specific numbers from clients for our marketing, and they are reluctant due to fears of providing information to competitors etc. We are often told in confidence however, that some of our merchants improve even on this statistic.

In summary

I understand the process used by firms like Feefo, and how it can gather large numbers of reviews, but I do wonder how useful they are to customers. 

At least, I'm not sure such an approach would work so well on product pages where, although the overall star rating can help, the detail and presentation of reviews can be more useful. 

Here on Kiddicare, the pros and cons, best uses etc can help customers to decide on a product: 

It seems that it's all about the seller ratings and keeping that score above 3.5, thanks to the incentive of increased CTR, more than the usefulness of the reviews themselves. 

Then again, perhaps gathering more reviews gives a fairer impression, as angry customers are more likely to make the effort to leave reviews, thus skewing the overall picture. 

What do you think? Let me know below... 

Graham Charlton

Published 22 November, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (22)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Avatar-blank-50x50

Paul Cranston

Good discussion.
DIsclaimer: I am Head of Marketing at Feefo.

You ask "but I do wonder how useful they are to customers?". We have been citing a recent Nielsen report that indicates that 70% of consumers take action in response to reading customer reviews online. Such trust is a powerful motivator.
The report is here: http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/reports/2013/global-trust-in-advertising-and-brand-messages.html

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Paul I'm not disputing the value of consumer reviews, and their effect on conversions, but I wonder about the value of collecting them in their thousands.

It seems more of an exercise of maintaining the seller rating score for PPC ads than an effort to provide something of use to customers.

Take the Kiddicare example shown in the screenshot above (another here: http://bit.ly/18do0qS). This is a detailed review which shows the characteristics of the product, pros and cons, best uses etc. It will do more to help the customer find the right product for them than 20,000 quick review ratings.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Paul Cranston

I understand.

Unlike some suppliers, Feefo insists on all customers being given the opportunity to feedback; emails are sent in response to every sale. This means that it is not just happy (or specifically selected) customers that are invited to feedback, but anyone that chooses to. The upshot of this is for large retailers with popular stock, there are going to be a lot of reviews. For a consumer, this will give a variety of responses and reasons for satisfaction or otherwise, on which decisions can be made.

Such volumes of reviews surely provide consumers with assurance of the quality of the company that they are dealing with? Knowing that Serenata Flowers has consistently received outstanding feedback (especially considering the fragile nature of many of their products) over a long period of time, reinforces the quality of service.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Dwght Zahringer

Great article. I think the main point is that reviews need validation in order to accomplish two important things: 1) businesses get valuable feedback and can work harder to make corrections or enhancements. 2) Consumers understand that specific reviews they read have accreditation, validation and understand the complete transparency the business offers, therefor showing integrity and gaining trust naturally.

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Paul I do agree that it can potentially be more democratic, but when people are potentially seeing reviews from the same purchase on different platforms, that does detract from it.

That's not necessarily Feefo's fault, and I can see it would be hard to ensure that products are only reviewed by the same person once, but mass harvesting of reviews by retailers, combined with the problem of fake reviews explored in the link below, have the potential to dilute customer trust, and the power of reviews.

http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/63822-will-the-number-of-consumer-reviews-in-ppc-ads-affect-credibility

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Paul Cranston

I need to clarify another point; the article states:
"... customers may buy multiple items in any given transaction, and each one can qualify for a separate review. Add to that the fact that customers can review the same product on different platforms, and one purchase of, let's say, five items can generate 10 -15 reviews."

While one consumer may purchase multiple products in one transaction, they are requested to leave one Service Review and then the appropriate quantities of Product Reviews. At least this is true of Feefo's service. We recommend, and most merchants choose to anyway, only send one feedback request to each customer (in other words, we tend to have exclusivity of reviews for our merchants, although some platforms allow anyone to post as already discussed). This means it is unlikely that any one consumer will rate and review a company more than once for any transaction.

As Google currently only takes Service Reviews (the performance of the company, regardless of the opinion of the product) for use in generating Seller Ratings, one consumer does not have the level influence implied above.

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Paul - I was under the impression that service + product reviews counted towards that 59K number for Serenata.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Matt Payne

Great post. I don't have a problem with too many reviews, for me it's about whether reviews are actually credible. One of the vendors I am impressed by is eKomi, they serve a customizable survey on a post-transaction page to give marketers insight into behavior & interests. The more we listen to our customers the better, right? Thanks, Graham.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Callum Mckeefery

Hi Graham,

My name is Callum Mckeefery I'm the MD at Reviews.co.uk. Your article caught my eye because it mentioned Arena Flowers.

Arena Flowers just this week signed up with Reviews.co.uk over Feefo and Trustpilot. So far seem very happy with our straight talking, quick set up, low costs and not being tied in to a lengthy contract approach.

While I agree with your article in many respects, some of the stats and information seem a very biased towards Feefo and almost sound like a advertorial. For instance who gave Feefo the accolade of having "highest response rate in the industry at present," this sounds like a very hard stat to prove (but lets try).

I think you guys should run a independent test to see out of the main merchant Review collection platforms, who actually has the highest collection rate of quality reviews. (reviews of more than just 2 words).

Get in touch if you would like to set a test up.

Callum
Reviews.co.uk

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Callum - Those words come from Feefo. This his no advertorial for Feefo, I just gave them an opportunity to explain from their perspective. I asked the same questions of Trustpilot but didn't receive a response.

The idea was to understand how such large volumes of review are generated.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Callum

@Graham

I understand that Feefo is giving you this info, I'd just hope as a respected source and journalist that you and Econsultancy.com would questions "facts" before just printing them.

It is impossible for Feefo to prove that they have the highest collection rate in the industry without actually testing or including other Google licensed review collection companies.

By publishing this in your article you are giving your readers ill-informed information which your readers then may use to make a decision on which review platform to chose.

I would be happy and willing to help you create a test so we could actually find out who out of Trustpilot, Feefo & Reviews.co.uk has the highest conversion.

Callum
Reviews.co.uk

almost 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

I've allowed Feefo to present its version and its up to our readers to decide whether to believe this. There is no implied endorsement from us. In fact, I'm sure our readers are savvy enough not to take the claims of vendors as gospel.

If everyone would like to participle I'd be happy to run a test.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Charlotte

Hi,

I work for an online retailer who currently gather reviews through Feefo, although we also encourage Review Centre and (free service) Trust Pilot reviews through separate emails to our customers.

For us, the seller rating on Google is of course very important, however one of our main focuses in encouraging customer reviews through multiple platforms is linked to the impact of negative customer feedback. We all know that if not encouraged, most people would only seek to review a company if they had a negative experience. And it seems unfair therefore, that if we don't keep up to requesting reviews for different platforms, we are likely to see an increase in the ratio of negative reviews on the free platforms because it is easy for people to go and post them there. Whereas if we continue to encourage customers to post in various places, it shows more of a true evaluation of the company, as all the customers who have had a positive experience need, is a little nudge. We have very high review ratings (96%) on Feefo across 1000's of reviews, whereas if you were to look at review centre and we hadn't requested our customers review for a few months, you would probably see 5 out of 10 negative reviews, because the ones sharing negative experiences don't need to be encouraged.

As long as we know that people are still using the platforms to help in their buying decision, we must continue to encourage our customers to place reviews there.

Thanks

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Louis Rix

Very interesting article. T remember a call with our Google AM a few weeks back and they mentioned not to rely on Review Centre for Seller ratings moving forward. This obviously set alarm bells ringing.

The only issue i'd add with Review Centre is that you can get negative reviews removed pretty easily whereas on other providers such as Feefo you can't - simple as that.

As a business you have to respond to negative reviews which makes a lot of sense and i can see why Google don't deal with RC anymore (even though it's a tad harsh for businesses using it correctly as we did). It can be open to abuse.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Guy Letts

Thanks for a very interesting post, it’s good to shed light on some of the issues behind those apparently simple yellow stars.

It is important to keep reviews in context, too. Because valuable as they are, reviews only work once. They help you win a new customer, but they don’t help you keep them and they don’t earn you word of mouth referrals. Customer service is the key to that, and in most businesses it influences a far bigger slice of revenue than new business.

That’s why, as another player in the industry (it would be good to hear from more people on the buy-side) at CustomerSure we’ve always regarded reviews as only part of the marketing and service mix. In fact some of our customers only use customer feedback internally for improvement. They don’t enter the reviews foray at all, but nevertheless get great benefits in retention, referrals and loyalty.

So however you use reviews, please make sure the content is shared with everyone in the business and that you follow up quickly whenever necessary. Don’t treat reviews as a separate marketing exercise just to win clicks. Otherwise the relationship with those new-found customers may be fleeting.

Oh, and we’d be well up for the response rate challenge too!

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Callum Mckeefery

Arena Flowers, the company mentioned at the top of the article. Have successfully collected over 110 reviews in 4 days with Reviews.co.uk.

http://www.reviews.co.uk/company-reviews/arena-flowers/15653

No set up costs or fixed term contracts.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Camping Sites

yes I think it does, I am more likely to trust a company who has 50,000 reviews compared to a company with none / very few. It shows it has a lot customers - I would however like some of the companies that feed into their Seller Rating removed - i.e. Trustpilot as you don't have to be a verified customer to leave a review and therefore I tend to try and exclude these when looking at someones seller rating before making a purchase.

Also with Googles New Trusted Stores (or whatever they are calling them in the UK), when this badge starts to appear on Adverts I think this will have the biggest impact in Customer behaviour.

I can't see the badge being rolled onto Adwords until its out of beta, but its going to be an interesting space to be in 2014.

almost 3 years ago

Chris Michael

Chris Michael, Digital Transformation Consultant and CTO at CJEM

Reviews are here to stay. Better to embrace them and work hard to get better reviews.

almost 3 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

It was only a matter of time before sites that don't include verifying the purchase were taken out of Google's approved list. Far, far too easy to leave anon reviews on.

almost 3 years ago

Adam Tudor

Adam Tudor, Senior Digital Marketing Manager at The Black Hole

It was only a matter of time before sites that don't include verifying the purchase were taken out of Google's approved list. Far, far too easy to leave anon reviews on.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Sam Barton

@Graham

I don't read your article as an an endorsement of one service over another but I would say that a like for like comparison of the various firms from a third party like yourself would make for very interesting reading.

Google has whipped the reviews market up into such a frenzy that reviews are now big business. In fact I know of one retailer who is ditching his SEO budget in favour of PPC and reviews, such is the power of Google's pursuit of ROI on clicks.

As Callum said we recently signed up to Reviews.co.uk and I have to say that we are very pleased with the process. I was particularly impressed with the cost. As a business we have to consider this when you bolt on new services and when compared to other companies mentioned above some quotes were substantially more for what I believe to be the same service.

I think a like for like comparison review of the review market would make for good reading and also help other businesses make a decision in what is evidently becoming a must have for all ecommerce businesses.

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Sam,

Maybe I'll do that then - I'll need to ask various retailers but should be possible.

over 2 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.