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How reviews in offline advertising impact consumers and brands

Friday, May 25, 2018
Importance of reviews in offline advertising

We recently released our latest report, Ratings and Reviews in Above-The-Line Advertising, created with the help of London Research. Surveying both consumers and brands, the report covers how impactful ratings and reviews are in advertising and marketing.

The report also highlights how ratings and reviews affect consumer trust, sentiment, and even their intent to make a purchase.

To celebrate the launch of this report, we’re excited to invite you to an exclusive webinar on May 17th, 11am BST/12pm CET where Trustpilot, Gain Credit, and London Research will showcase key results and highlights from our London Research report.

Gain Credit, one of the brands featured in the report, will provide an in-depth look into how ratings and reviews have made an impact on their marketing and their company. We’ll also offer additional examples of how our clients have made the most of their ratings and reviews in above-the-line (offline) advertising.

Watch the webinar recording below:

The methodology of the research

Let's start off with the methodology for the research. It's obviously worth saying that the aim of the research was really to learn more about the impact of ratings and reviews as a general level, and also to explore awareness of Trustpilot and various elements of the Trustpilot brand. In terms of the methodology, we did two surveys. We did a survey of more than 300 Trustpilot business partners and prospects. To complement that, we also did a survey of 2,000 UK consumers. The business survey was more global, but the consumer survey, we focused here on the UK market. We also did some qualitative research in the form of interviews with brands already harnessing Trustpilot in their offline advertising.

Finally, we did some statistical analysis using our part of the bottom line analytics to really get under the skin a bit more of the consumer motivations and to understand a bit more deeply the impact of different touch points, such as rating reviews in the customer journey. Also, to get a bit more nuance about the different elements of the Trustpilot brand. For example, the logo and the stars and trust for, more about that later. To look now at the objectives of the research, which I've already covered briefly. But essentially, this was around, as I say, a general understanding of the importance of ratings and reviews in the decision making process. That's the third bullet there. Then also looking at the use and benefits of Trustpilot in offline advertising, and, also, awareness of Trustpilot. I think it's worth saying for the uninitiated, above-the-line advertising, or ATL advertising, essentially overlaps quite a lot with offline marketing, so I guess, historically, its above-the-line was distinct from below-the-line advertising, which was more things like direct mail.

Then the distinction has come to mean as well now more offline marketing as opposed to digital channels like online display or search advertising or social media. We're talking about more conventional media such as television, radio, print and billboards. Although, it should be noted that the lines are certainly blurry than actually a lot of these offline channels such as a billboard and TV, and even radio, have become more digital.

The importance of ratings and reviews

Okay, so if we look now at the first key finding of the report, and so looking at more the general research we did about the importance of ratings and reviews. What we found was that reviews and ratings, which we looked at separately as touch points, emerged as the most important sources of information when consumers are interested in buying something. When they're in buying mode, and we can see from this chart that reviews and ratings are actually at the top of the pile now in terms of how they're viewed as credible sources of information.

That's partly to do with a lack of trust generally in information on the internet, whether that's through phenomena such as fake news, or a bad reputation that some aspects of display advertising have got over the years because it's not targeted. But not to say that all this advertising is bad in any way, but there is this general lack of trust in people looking for authenticity that reviews and ratings can provide.

You can see here the percentage of UK consumers who are saying that each of these different touch points is either very important, important, and so on and so forth. Customer reviews, 40% of consumers regard these as very important. As you can see for consumer ratings, it's 38%. Then you can see in descending order the impact, or the perceived impact, that consumers think these have on their purchase decisions. It should also be noted that actually some of the other touch points, whether e-commerce sites or company websites or, as we'll see, even TV advertising can actually themselves have reviews. There is some overlap between these different touch points.

Another key finding of the UK-focused consumer research was the high awareness of Trustpilot. We saw from our consumer survey that 58% of UK consumers are aware of Trustpilot.

How are consumers engaging with reviews?

There are two or three ways that the consumers interact with the reviews. Firstly is by leaving a review themselves, and not just actually leaving a review, but we've seen in a number of reviews, customers commenting on other reviews. For example, "I wasn't sure about borrowing from you, but I came and saw some reviews, and I'm really glad that I did." That's always a good positive first to come through. Apart from collecting feedback through Trustpilot itself, we have a number of internal mechanisms for collecting customer feedback, and again, we've seen some verbatim comments in there saying, "Wasn't to sure about it at first, but actually really pleased with everything that's come through, and really glad with what I've seen and everything else."

Does your Trustpilot score help you build trust?

The next part of the findings we're presenting here is we wanted to test the hypothesis that a good Trustpilot score helped brands build trust with consumers and increases conversion rates in terms of online and offline sales. We had a couple of questions, we shall see here, as part of the consumer survey. We asked the extent to which they agreed that a good Trustpilot score made them more likely to trust the brand, and 76% either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed that that was the case.

We could also see the extent to which consumers agreed that a good Trustpilot score makes them more likely to buy from a brand, and 72% of Trustpilot aware consumers, should stress that these are consumers who were aware of Trustpilot, said that they agree a good Trustpilot score makes them more likely to buy from a brand.

We wanted to look now at a couple of the statistical models we used as part of the research. The first one is really around the role of or the impact of different touchpoints including ratings and reviews in the consumer purchasing decision making process. What we've got here is a four quadrant where we've mapped the different touchpoints against their perceived importance and the impact on likelihood to buy, which is the X axis. We've used for this, or should I say, the statistician used for this multivariate regression modeling.

The most influential touchpoints are consumer reviews and ratings. This is something clearly that is in the interest of brands to use. The next most important quadrant is the 'maintain' one, and these are channels which are regarded by consumers, relatively speaking, as very important the search engines, company websites, and e-commerce. And I should stress here that all these touchpoints can certainly play a role in the influencing the customer journey, but we wanted to establish some kind of a pecking order here. In the bottom left, we can see channels such as direct mail, TV advertising, online display. One of the conclusions of the research is that the ratings and reviews can be used actually within those channels to make them more effective. And also, that those channels in isolation should really be monitored over time to see what their impact is on the consumer decision making in terms of trust and ultimately propensity to purchase.

We found that there are things like the Trustpilot logo and Trustscore, the stars, the reviews, that ultimately directly drive trust, and it's the trust in turn which then drives propensity to buy. The elements of the Trustpilot identity, they do have an indirect or subsidiary role in actually driving buy, but it's actually earlier on in the decision making process where they come into play most importantly to really build that trust.

The research's key takeaways

One of the really key findings of the report was the missed opportunity for many brands to harness Trustpilot in their above-the-line, offline marketing and advertising, and this part of the evidence by the survey we did of Trustpilot partners and business. For website, the vast majority of Trustpilot partner's customers use the brand, but when we look at the bottom of that chart for above-the-line channels, it's only eight percent we are using, but 16% are considering using it, and then the rest or around three quarters, no plans to use. It should be pointed out, some of those Trustpilot partners don't really do much above-the-line advertising, but there's a decent chunk of them who do so, and not yet leveraging ratings and reviews.

I think one of the things from the interviews that we've seen, generally in terms of the way Trustpilot's used, is that it's been a differentiator from other brands, particularly in the offline space, but over time it's becoming more of a hygiene factor, where brands need to be visible in that respect.

At the moment, there's still only a small portion of companies, relatively speaking, using Trustpilot in offline advertising. I think over time, and there's still very much an opportunity there, it will move from being a differentiator to a hygiene factor or table stakes as some people describe it.

And the survey of businesses also, when we looked at the perceived benefits, in the blue there, portion of respondents from the business survey, describing these benefits as major. There's a good consistency with the consumer survey in the building trust, creating more customer friendly brands. I think brands about very savvy that that's where the opportunity really lies and the indirect benefits around increased revenue, which is really what it's all about. In terms of conversion online and offline, there's a really wise benefit, I think, around integrating just offline activity to have that to appear to be seamless in your marketing or advertising as a brand that it can tie up have that consistency of the ratings and reviews figure both online and offline.

People ultimately use the Trustpilot logo and the stars as a by word for quality, and it's a quick way to get that message across and then be able to deliver on other things. There is a bit more to it than just plunking the stars and the logo on the ad, but by integrating that into campaigns, it can really help power any business forward.

If you'd like to learn more about the importance of displaying trust signals both offline and online, check out the report below!

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