Next Generation Product Reviews

There’s been a lot of recent media coverage about fake online reviews. Fakespot’s recent study found that as many as 52% of reviews on huge trusted sites like Amazon, Walmart, Sephora and others are fake or unreliable. Shoppers have come to rely on reviews to make purchase decisions. They’ve been trained to aggregate information, sorting what’s helpful and what’s not, to get a general idea of a product or company. They’ve known that some reviews should be ignored, but when they have to ignore half of them and it’s not clear which half, things get really complicated.

Some companies are offering reviews by “verified reviewers.” But what does this mean? Generally nothing more than verifying an email address. Somehow, having a working email address allows a reviewer to be “verified.” It may show they aren’t a bot, but not much else. Most fake reviews are written by real people.

At Sidebar we believe reviews can be much better. First, let’s start with authentication. Reviews should only be possible by people who have actually purchased products. Then the company should demonstrate to the shopper that this is true by showing labels like “Verified Purchase” and purchase date.

Second, transparency. Shoppers should have more context about who reviewers are. Instead of companies asking a shopper to trust an anonymous reviewer called “travelforlife4,” shoppers should be able to see a reviewer’s bio with info such as first name, photo, location, age, etc. Not only does it demonstrate that the reviewer is a real person, it also gives the shopper context about who they’re listening to.

Third, choice. Shoppers should be able to choose who they ask questions. It’s nice to post a question to a community, but if a shopper has no idea who will be answering and when, value drops dramatically. If shoppers instead see a list of available reviewers to ask questions and get to choose someone they can relate to, engagement and trust jumps exponentially.

Fourth, efficiency. Shoppers have specific questions about products they need answered. Will it last in the rain, will it be good at the office, will their 3 year-old son like it? Today shoppers have to read through a ton of reviews to try to glean the information they need. Shoppers should be able to ask their question and get an answer fast.

Authentication. Transparency. Choice. Efficiency. All of these lead to increased trust, engagement, community, and conversion. And all of these are provided through Sidebar’s real-time review platform.

John Hayden