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Black Friday – Do Your Homework, Check the Reviews Twice

by Jenny Sussin  |  November 15, 2012  |  3 Comments

The holiday shopping season is upon us with Black Friday descending upon the US next week. In a blaze of glory we wake up at 4 am and run to the mall to get a discount on a TV and some sweaters at 40% off.

While you develop your plan of attack, and I literally mean plan of attack for getting in and out of stores at the pre-dawn hours, odds are you’ll check out some product reviews and determine which products you should look  to get the most bang for your buck. This will ring especially true for those of us who will wait for Cyber Monday to do some online shopping, avoiding physical lines that wrap around city blocks.

See as we’ve discussed before, more than 30% of consumers consult online product and service reviews before making a purchasing decision and as we’ve discussed before a lot of their reviews are fake, false, bologna, spam, disingenuous – get the picture? After doing some initial research on this topic, my colleague (Ed Thompson) and I decided we were going to dig a bit deeper and find out what review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia and OpenTable are doing to protect our, the consumers’, best interest and provide us with the most honest, accurate reviews possible. These guys aren’t the only ones trying to address the issue of fake reviews. Social software vendors like Bazaarvoice, Reevoo, Trustpilot and Yotpo work with popular consumer brands who host reviews on their own sites, like, to thwart phonies from posting reviews. We’ll get deeper into the muck in our formal written research set to publish over the next few months, but in the meantime here is what you need to know about how these sites and vendors who have your best interest at heart (we hope) are working to be sure the reviews you see come from real peers and not marketers.

There are two main ways to go about this:

1. With the help of text and sentiment analytic algorithms

2. With the help of humans: employees and the site audience

Both the automated and human detection look at things similar to what we as the consumer would look at to see if a review is fake and it goes deeper than the intuitive “one of these things is not like the other“:

  • Has the reviewer ever posted to our site before?
  • What other types of product has the reviewer looked at?
  • Is the review overly extreme – positive or negative?
  • When looking at a series of reviews: were they posted almost simultaneously? Back-to-back-to-back?
  • How similar are the reviews to one another? Are they specifically mentioning the same criteria?

But this is all stuff you can look up online. You don’t need my blog to tell you this. What I want to do is return a sense of decency and calm to my jaded audience (who is jaded because I have asked them to question all that surrounds them on social media.)

I want to tell you who you can trust this time. You can trust people you have a personal relationship with. For example, many review vendors and review sites are asking members to create an ID using their social profile. Take a look at which companies or products your Facebook friends endorse. Ask them about the endorsement. Take the review site’s methodology into account. Anyone can contribute to Yelp or TripAdvisor, giving those sites a larger sampling of reviews to pull the average of. But OpenTable, Expedia and Reevoo require you’ve made a reservation for a service or purchased a product from a business before you are asked for a review. There will be less reviews but the reviews which are there were written by people who’ve actually purchased the product or invested in the service.

Nothing is foolproof. Rival hotels could book a night at one anothers’ establishments for the privilege of posting a negative review, but this more costly approach is a deterrent as compared to the quick login and seamless post on a free review site. TripAdvisor and Yelp are doing their due diligence to prevent fake reviews from ruining their good name and personally, I know I look at those sites before making a purchase. The advice I’m giving is to take an average. Look at multiple sites. We’re not using dial up anymore, it’ll only take a few seconds.

Don’t let this be an accident versus a prank:

Criticize my grammar. I can take it.

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Category: ecommerce  marketing  product-reviews  social-crm  social-media  

Tags: black-friday  business  buyer-beware  customer  cyber-monday  deals  ecommerce  facebook  marketing  product  ratings  reviews  socbiz  social-crm  social-media  socialcrm  

Jenny Sussin
Managing VP
7 years with Gartner
8 years IT industry

Jenny Sussin is a Managing Vice President for CX and Sales Research. Read Full Bio

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