Are syndicated product reviews good for retailers?

Discussion
Source: rei.com
Apr 26, 2018
Tom Ryan

Review syndication, where brands basically share user-generated reviews with their retail partners, has apparently become fairly common and is promising to help retailers compete with the expansive review sections found on Amazon.com.

As an example, a USA Today article exploring the practice noted how a review first penned on thenorthface.com was also placed on rei.com and nordstrom.com. According to PowerReviews, one of the leading aggregators of reviews, retailers receive 58 percent of their review content from syndication.

For retailers, improving the number of reviews and the quantity of reviewed products provides consumers with more confidence to make a purchase. The same study found the average consumer reads seven reviews before trusting a business — up from six a year ago. PowerReviews’ research finds shoppers saying they’ll turn to a search engine (45 percent), Amazon (40 percent) or another brand or retailer (20 percent) if there aren’t enough reviews.

For brands, more reviews can boost sell-through on third-party sites. Brands generally pay an access fee and/or a co-op fee to merchants to support review syndication.

The three main aggregators and distributors of reviews — BazaarVoice, TurnTo and PowerReviews — claim to make it clear to consumers that the reviews first appeared elsewhere. A review of a Lego product on Walmart.com, for example, includes a tag reading, “Written by a customer while visiting shop.LEGO.com”

The reviews are also unedited, nor censored, brands are prohibited from submitting only favorable reviews.

One potential downside is that consumers don’t always know their review is being dispersed to other websites. Technically, reviewers agree to the terms in posting the initial review, but many don’t read the fine print.

In a blog entry, Jarod Karns, a digital marketing consultant, believes using syndicated reviews “looks fake,” particularly if consumers find duplicates across the internet.

But Bazaarvoice’s just-released Shopper Experience Index finds growth of visual content and mobile shopping making consumer-generated content (CGC) a more valuable part of the shopping experience. With more than 50 percent of product display page views now occurring on mobile devices, the study finds CGC becoming a more critical influencer of in-store sales.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see review syndication helping retailers even the playing field with Amazon? Do you have any qualms around retailers running reviews first posted on their brand partner websites?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s a far better investment to cultivate user reviews that are genuine to the site selling the merchandise and format them in a meaningful way."
"It’s concerning to see the idea that one particularly good review is picked out to appear on multiple sites. Consumers will smell the BS..."
"In a world of “alternative facts” and similar issues, how can anyone not be cynical about what they read online or anywhere?"

Join the Discussion!

14 Comments on "Are syndicated product reviews good for retailers?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
Guest

Trust of reviews has been a concern since they became part of the marketer’s tool chest, and syndicated authorship is no different. The notion that negative reviews are not curated is for the naive, although these may be directed for internal use in product or message refinement. Reviews do matter in the customer journey since they compel deeper examination and fuel our “buyer bewared-ness.”

Max Goldberg
Guest

Amazon tags reviews to let customers know that a reviewer has actually purchased the product in question. Syndicated reviews offer too much wiggle room. If retailers and brands want products to be reviewed, they should directly solicit them from consumers. If consumers don’t want to write reviews, perhaps retailers and brands should first ask themselves why, before accepting syndicated reviews.

Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

Reviews are very relevant for the consumer as long as they are authentic. Six out of 10 consumers look to Google first for reviews.

Retail brands have an issue with getting reviews for their products on every site they sell on. It is very difficult to manage because review generation takes a lot of effort. Determining which site to put their effort toward is difficult and costly. It is near impossible to have a system to reach out to buyers for reviews on every site.

Review services like BazaarVoice and TrustPilot are great tools for brands to streamline this process and obtain and syndicate reviews across all selling platforms.

These reviews, if obtained correctly and are authentic have tremendous value in syndication. I do not agree that they appear fake. Having been operating e-commerce brands since the late ’90s, my experience tells me the customer appreciates making it easy to find reviews of your brand.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

In a world of “alternative facts” and similar issues, how can anyone not be cynical about what they read online or anywhere? Soon will come the day when AI addresses this challenge by verifying each review, but retailers and brands need to institute policies and processes that prove they can be trusted in the meantime.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust
Shared reviews are a lazy way to build merchant identity and customer experience. Product reviews is an area that I do a large amount of research on professionally and use more extensively than most personally. Reviews are a useful tool for consumers but are fraught with many issues. Dare I say Amazon is not immune at all. First, a small number of people don’t understand which end of five stars is negative or positive, skewing a product score by getting that wrong. Others enjoy a product but have a packaging/delivery/vendor issue that they impose negatively on the product rating. Still, others give very positive reviews upon receiving or barely using an item, with no real knowledge about its durability or long-term viability. All of those issues (and more) reduce the utility of reviews for shoppers that seek them out as a purchase decision tool — only exacerbated when they have little time to read reviews in-depth, like in-store. Shared reviews carry with them all of these problems and the feel of inauthenticity. Shoppers that detect… Read more »
Christopher Jordan
Guest

Yes, but only under certain conditions.

For large retailers, when we’re talking about reviews for multinational brands, there’s no reason not to opt into syndication. I see this as an evolution of the GS1 model of sharing data points that are non-competitive — or in other words, have become commoditized over time. In some segments, signs point to reviews being headed in this direction. I think we’ll continue to see this with other data points.

Now, for independent retailers or large retailers with a very focused consumer segment (or those that carry a curated set of independent brands) it’s a bad idea as reviews are a competitive advantage. Paraphrased, they have a special set of customers, with a special set of products, and the review data would be a proprietary advantage to them.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

In so many ways this makes sense. After all, a product review is valid regardless of where it was submitted.

That said, consumers will be quite sensitive to any sense that the reviews are curated while they are syndicated. It’s concerning to see the idea that one particularly good review is picked out to appear on multiple sites. Consumers will smell the BS and it can backfire.

The other risk here is that product reviews will offer no insight into how that retailer handles things. One of the things I look for in reviews are comments on what happens if there’s a problem — wrong size, defective product, etc.

All-in-all I think it’s a good idea IF the retailer and manufacturer continue to ensure they are honest reviews and avoid filtering out negatives. Sadly, that’s a big risk.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

If a company isn’t set up to accumulate original reviews and they find themselves with a high bounce rate on product pages where users should be converting, but instead might be leaving to do further research, then taking a look at syndicated reviews is worth a shot.

My company used BazaarVoice for a bit, but we came across issues with reviews that were specific to the original outlet purchased from and out of context on our sites which was a contributing factor to dropping that partnership.

I will say that I do not think a company should ever use syndicated reviews acquired from third parties on their own site when selling their own products.

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

It is true that reviews, assuming they are authentic, are good for the brand. The only concern I have here is that many times reviews are read to help the consumer not only get a review of the product but also to help them determine whether to buy from a particular brand. Syndicated reviews might skew the outcome and leave some consumers very unhappy with their choices. Unless, of course, the syndicated reviews are clearly marked. For my 2 cents.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I think aggregating real reviews is a good thing. Creating awareness of product sentiment across many sites/outlets builds confidence in the shopping journey.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

As long as they’re legitimate reviews, and they pertain just to the product, I certainly don’t see anything wrong with the practice (and don’t know why anyone would) … it seems much like a theatre posting reviews alongside its movie posters.

Will it “level the playing field”? No, but everything helps.

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

Shoppers want to see comprehensive reviews before making an online purchase and syndicated reviews can help retailers provide this. Are these reviews always trusted as genuine by shoppers? Maybe not, but it’s certainly better than having none or just a few. Amazon’s sales volume is unheard of. So of course they are able to amass hundreds to thousands of reviews. For all other retailers, the best current solution is to syndicate in order to stay competitive.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
On the surface, this makes sense from the retailer’s point of view — there’s no question customers want to see product reviews. The product is the same regardless of where it is sold so a review of it will be equally meaningful no matter which site it is placed in. However, what happens when the review includes information about the buying experience with the retailer itself? This will vary from retailer to retailer. How will each retailer weight such reviews against the ones not including such info — which will surface to the top of the review stack? These issues are meaningful to most shoppers. Similarly, how are negative reviews handled? Are they curated away and made invisible? This too will matter to most shoppers. Shoppers need to believe the authenticity of the reviews for both positive and negative ones. Many shoppers look at the relative weighting of positive vs negative reviews as well, and it seems to me this aspect may be lost if the retailer uses syndicated reviews. Shoppers will become more and… Read more »
Kevin Simonson
Guest

Review as UGC is a fascinating trend. Yotpo is another vendor we’ve chatted with a few times, they’re doing some very cool work in this space around sentiment analysis of review content.

Also, I just wanted to take the 30,000 foot view for a moment.

In e-commerce, reviews are everything. You can’t drive sales (on Amazon, specifically) unless you have reviews. And that can be a real challenge for companies whose price point is above average for what they’re selling. It’s the number one obstacle any seller has to overcome before selling on Amazon. Brands need to get them quickly, ubiquitously and, most importantly, ethically.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s a far better investment to cultivate user reviews that are genuine to the site selling the merchandise and format them in a meaningful way."
"It’s concerning to see the idea that one particularly good review is picked out to appear on multiple sites. Consumers will smell the BS..."
"In a world of “alternative facts” and similar issues, how can anyone not be cynical about what they read online or anywhere?"

Take Our Instant Poll

Do you give a thumbs up or down to retailers running syndicated product reviews?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...