How much information should a consumer reveal in order to leave a review? That’s a question without a rock solid answer. At Trustpilot we believe anonymous reviews are ok, but reviews from real consumers with real names and pictures are better. So we want to encourage consumers to write fewer reviews with anonymous user profiles. Here are five reasons why we think that’s a good idea:
Good, old freedom of speech. It’s a cornerstone of democracy and built into human rights laws in most parts of this planet. On the internet everyone can do and say what they want. And so they do. However, during the first decades of online debates most people simply hid away on obscure forums or chats using only a nickname to identify themselves.
Then Facebook came and slowly all Internet users started feeling more safe when speaking out loud online. We share more information and are less concerned, when doing so. The amount of information people are willing to share is roughly doubled each year; experts refer to this phenomenon as Zuckerberg’s Law.
People now realise that it’s not dangerous to have a real online identity and it feels safer the more people are sharing with a real name and picture. That goes for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but also when people write quality reviews and evaluate shopping experiences on online review portals.
The human factor is a key reason why anonymous reviews are fading out. There’s nothing more potent than the human factor to make potential customers confident online, and review sites are no exception. People want something they can relate to – like a personal story or a personal user profile, in order to get a little background information about the person writing the review. The reason is simple: Consumers want to check that the review they read is not just written by the shop owner’s mum.
Critical consumers do a lot of research before buying, and that includes looking up the company on a review site. But it doesn’t stop here. Consumers also read between the lines when reading reviews and wonder: “Who are those people writing about the company, and how do I know they are real customers?” Again, obvious elements are real names and real faces from the reviewers – it can make all the difference when it comes to trusting information.
At Trustpilot, there are some consumers who are not interested in telling their story using their real name and picture. They all have their reasons, and it’s all right to leave an anonymous review.
However, the majority of reviewers don’t have such concerns. What they do have are opinions about a company – positive or negative. They are also aware that their personal voice is trusted among their peers on social networks.
So far, it’s been more common that companies have had to identify themselves more than their customers. Review sites like Trustpilot have worked as can openers to make companies more transparent – whether they like it or not. Today, transparent companies performing well in customer service gain obvious competitive advantages over more protective competitors.
But it takes two to tango, and transparent companies can only go half-way when dealing with an anonymous review from a customer. In order to identify weak processes it becomes difficult if a review is written by Average Joe, who leaves no indication of when and where he bought something.
The more detailed the information is, the better the chance is that companies can do something about the problems.
It could be an online shop that gets complaints from an area where their distribution is not working well. Or it could be a retail chain that gets most complaints from users in a specific shop.
At the end of the day, the amount of information that users want to give away when writing reviews is a personal decision. Overall, consumers are becoming less scared of posting with their real identity online, so rest assured: We will encourage consumers to write fewer reviews in anonymity going forward.