The Authenticity of Peer Reviews


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The numbers vary but it is clear people trust peer-reviews. The overwhelming percentage of shoppers say they are influenced by online reviews by people who have already bought and used a product.
Now, nearly a third of shoppers are expressing concern about the authenticity of review programs managed by retailers. I suspect that there are two big reasons for this concern. First, commercial enterprises are not highly trusted by the buying public and those who do not deliberately earn customer trust will continue to get tarred by this brush.
Second, a number of companies have been publicly busted for writing their own review or for hiring shills. Even a few bad apples can ruin the whole barrel.
One solution is for retailers to rely on review aggregated by an independent third party. That is, if it is a third party who’s reputation and value is dependent on the authenticity of reviews.
A second solution is to reduce the emphasis on the star system. Reviewers should be encouraged to describe their customer experience and provide context for their positive and negative comments. This is not as convenient as putting a row if stars next to a product but it is potentially much more meaningful to both potential buyers and vendors.
Here’s my review of my experience using peer-reviews to book hotel room in Washington, DC. I started my online search using price and convenience (location) as the primary considerations. I quickly narrowed the search to three properties. One was a name brand and I had no concerns about the quality of the hotel. It was, however, just outside my budget.
The other two were independent properties with middling stars rating. One had two peer-reviews and the other none. Both reviews were only 2.5 out of 5. Both reviewers said the hotel was thread worn but clean. One talked about the close proximity to the Metro and the coffee houses around DuPont Circle. The other mentioned the numerous restaurants and friendly ambience nearby.
The last two qualitative statements did it for me. I wanted a clear place to sleep but was especially interested in the coffee houses (where I often work) and restaurant scene (a passion).

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


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