Over the course of the past year, there have been a number of online review scandals. Most recently, there was a New York regulatory crackdown on fake reviews being generated by “reputation management” firms. It’s unclear whether the publicity surrounding any of these events has eroded consumer confidence in online reviews and their authenticity.
A recent Nielsen study indicated that online reviews were among the most trusted sources of information for consumers. And numerous consumer surveys have argued that Internet users routinely consult and rely on reviews to help make purchase decisions.
However, in a contradictory set of findings (n=3,404 US adults), new survey data from Maritz Research (written up by travel news site tnooz) suggest that large numbers consumers don’t trust ratings and reviews that they see on prominent sites, such as TripAdvisor, Zagat and Yelp. Even among the most trusted sites, as many as 40 percent indicated they didn’t trust “most or all” of the content as accurate.
TripAdvisor is shown to be the most trusted among review sites, with 59 percent agreeing that “most or all” the review content and related traveler information on these sites is accurate. Note the trust difference between Google+ and Zagat (owned by Google). Also, OpenTable is more trusted than Yelp, according to this survey. I find that interesting.
In a separate finding, Maritz documented the gap between those who read and those who contributed reviews to the various sites in the chart above. While this is not part of the “trust” discussion, I suspect one reason many people may be skeptical of the authenticity of online reviews is that they don’t contribute or write reviews themselves. It would be interesting (if possible) to see if there were a relationship between having written reviews and level of trust vs. those who had not contributed online reviews.
Maritz also found that men and younger users were more likely to be skeptical of the veracity of reviews on these sites than women or older users.