Can online reviews revive consumer trust in advertising?
When’s the last time you purchased something after clicking through a digital ad? If you work in digital marketing or advertising, chances are that you haven’t in some time.
And just as marketers and ad professionals are wise to the advertising maneuvers we’ve come to expect on every platform, consumers are catching on, too.
In the first half of our deep dive into consumer sentiments towards advertising we established that, regardless of ad format or online channel, few consumers perceive ads as being trustworthy, and rarely take them into consideration for purchasing decisions.
So, if the vast majority of consumers are skeptical of ads they come across on every digital channel, is there any ad content or messaging that resonates with consumers enough to shape their purchasing decisions? And if not, how do consumers form the intention to buy?
In part two of our report recap, we’ll walk through what kinds of messaging still carry weight with consumers, and the importance of “digital word of mouth” when it’s time to make a purchasing decision.
First things first.
Is there any convincing ad content out there?
Despite the widespread skepticism around every digital marketing channel, we have some good news for marketers. As it turns out, there are some advertising techniques and messaging that are still likely to resonate with even the wariest of consumers.
According to our survey, U.S. and U.K. residents alike are motivated by ad content touting an attractive price: When asked why they purchased something from an ad, over three-quarters of respondents in each region said they were driven by a good deal.
Another compelling factor, especially for Americans, was that the ad content reminded them of a product or service they’d previously considered. While this kind of reminder can occur organically, this type of friendly reminder is usually part of a carefully engineered retargeting campaign.
But why is it that consumers respond more positively to ads that peddle a good deal, or remind them of that intriguing product or service they were considering?
We couldn’t help but notice that the two most well-received advertising techniques share a common goal: they exist to drive the completion of a purchase, rather than raise initial awareness of a product or service.
In other words, these tactic work when the consumer’s intention to buy is already there. And for many individuals, the initial intention to buy comes from the insights gained from “digital word of mouth”, or online reviews.
The most trustworthy characteristics in online reviews
According to a recent study 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from the people they know — a telling contrast to the widespread suspicion around advertising discussed above.
The results of our survey confirm that online reviews are an important part of the customer journey: More than two-thirds of respondents said they usually or regularly consulted online reviews before shelling out for a product or service.
That said, in the eyes of consumers, not all types of reviews carry the same weight.
In both the U.S. and the U.K., about 6 in 10 individuals said that the inclusion of pros and cons was a key indicator of review quality and validity. This could stem from concerns about fake reviews, and an underlying assumption that balanced reviews feel more authentic than reviews that are overly or exclusively positive.
In the same vein, reviews featuring an image were rated as important for 37% of U.K. respondents and 45% of U.S. respondents. It’s likely that consumers see images in reviews as another form of proof that a review is authentic — and that the delivered product or service indeed resembles the brand’s claims.
Ordinarily reviews aren’t considered sponsored content, but they can certainly be put to use in a paid digital campaign. In these scenarios, user generated content reviews are more effective as ad content than alternatives like ratings or curated testimonials.
Authenticity: a principle fit for any platform
Though our findings vary somewhat by gender and geography, certain themes are clear: Regardless of platform, digital advertising is met with indifference or suspicion by most consumers.
Compared to the high volume of intrusive and unsubstantiated ads consumers dodge at every touchpoint, online reviews are the antidote to the consumer trust crisis around advertising. It turns out that most shoppers proactively seek reviews before completing a purchase.
Even though our study proves that online reviews are an effective channel, we don’t recommend that brands cease advertising altogether — nor should brands focus on driving exclusively favorable reviews.
When brands can back their ad claims with social proof from online reviews, they can transcend the widespread distrust of ads discovered in our findings. You’ll notice that this kind of approach is both holistic and transparent — and that truthful brand messaging endures across channels.
If you’re ready to use your advertising strategy as an opportunity to grow brand trust and show brand trust, schedule a demo today.
We collected responses from 2,048 consumers via a survey. U.S. respondents were collected using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and U.K. respondents through Prolific. 49.6% of participants currently resided in the U.K., and 50.4% currently resided in the U.S. 86.4% of participants currently resided in England, 8.9% in Scotland, and 4.7% in Wales. 10.8% of participants resided in the East Midlands, and 7.1% in East of England. 42.6% of participants were men, and 57.4% were women.
Demographics with a sample size below 26 were excluded from the analysis; for this study, that included residents of Northern Ireland. Also, data presented in this study rely on self-reporting, which can introduce issues such as, but not limited to, selective memory and exaggeration. Statistical testing was not conducted in this study, and the research conducted was exploratory. Future research could explore reviews and purchasing behavior.
Fair Use Statement
Don’t worry, ad skeptics: We’re not buying or selling anything here. Still, we’d love to see the results of this survey shared with a wider audience. For that reason, this project’s information and images are yours to use for any noncommercial purpose. Please simply provide a link back to this page so that our team receives due credit for their work.
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Consumer Behavior and Expectations: The 2017 Holiday Shopping Report
Announcing Trustpilot’s first research report, the Consumer Behavior and Expectations: The 2017 Holiday Shopping Report. This report analyzes over 1 million global reviews and 13,000 consumer responses to help retailers understand and exceed consumer expectations this upcoming holiday season (November and December). By looking at past consumer activity from the 2015 and 2016 holiday season, we’re able to explore how consumers feel during this active shopping season and help retailers react and adapt to this behavior.
The comprehensive guide on how to build a customer feedback strategy
Your company is smart. It studies its playbook and goes over past marketing plays to be prepared for its upcoming moves. It knows that brand reputation based on customer feedback is a critical step in growing as a healthy company.
Better decisions are made for the sake of your company not only through open discussions and internal feedback, but through the feedback from surveys you send out.
Your customers aren’t ashamed to tell you just how well or poorly their interaction with you went, and by leveraging the feedback from them, you gain valuable insights that will shape your current efforts at acquisition and retention, as well as shaping the way you prospect and build your sales.
Bad reviews: why people write them, and what they expect
If you’ve ever ordered your morning coffee and felt uninspired by the request to participate in an online survey or leave a social review regarding your experience, you probably didn’t have a particularly noteworthy experience. If you’re willing to take time out of your day to leave online feedback, it’s usually because you want to warn people about a bad encounter, or to help them make a better buying decision.
In a world of viral marketing and social influence, online reviews have the power to make or break small businesses, but they aren’t the only companies paying attention. Reviews have become such a pivotal part of the buying experience for so many customers, that even tech goliaths like Apple can’t help but play an active role in responding to more critical responses.
So what compels us to leave reviews online, and what are we really hoping to achieve by contributing to the public discussion of a brand, experience, or product? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 European and North-American consumers about why they leave bad reviews, how good experiences inspire them to give feedback, and the kinds of reactions and rewards they sometimes expect to receive as a result of their critiques.
Think the online review phenomena might sometimes have ulterior motives? Read on to see what we uncovered.