How disclaimers in online reviews affect your sales

Imagine you’re looking for some new goggles and you’re browsing online to find the perfect pair. You enter the website of a large retailer and are now intensively reading reviews, until you stumble upon a disclaimer saying: “I’ve received this product to test in exchange for my reviews.”

Would you trust the review? Would you buy the product? We conducted a research study that reveals the impact disclaimers in online reviews can have on online sales.

Incentivized reviews can mislead online shoppers

Over the years, reviews have been playing a significant role in the decision making process of consumers. For many marketing departments, this has been the main reason to include review programs in their marketing budget. But are reviews coming from these programs actually qualified to help consumers in making a purchase decision? How honest is a consumer’s opinion, if the product was given for free in exchange for a review? Review programs can help but also mislead consumers.

In order to form unbiased opinions, we believe that online reviews should not be incentivized. In our review campaigns, we simply lend the products to reviewers on a temporary basis and then reacquire the products when the job is complete. But regardless, shouldn’t consumers be made aware of the circumstances under which the reviews have been written? Authorities in the consumer market claim that the importance of online reviews calls for more transparency. Using disclaimers in online reviews could help.

How transparency can help (but isn’t easy)

Disclaimers in reviews can make online shopping more transparent for consumers. So why not always use disclaimers in reviews?

This question is answered by some of our own clients, who seem to feel uncomfortable with speaking openly about our partnership. They worry that using a disclaimer could negatively influence the customer’s purchase decision. Even if it states clearly that no incentives are given, as this is the way Stars and Stories works, consumers might still think the reviews are not ‘real’ which could eventually harm online sales.

Ironically, this is how inauthenticity in review marketing is being maintained.

We believe, by using disclaimers in reviews and being open about the circumstances under which they’ve been written, you could stimulate authenticity, reduce fake or biased reviews and ultimately contribute to a better online shopping experience. But the concerns of our clients show that we still have some obstacales to overcome.

Time to find out how disclaimers in reviews really affect online sales.

Research study supports the use of disclaimers

We enlisted Lotte Willemsen, a professor of applied sciences at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, to conduct an independent study on the effects that disclaimers have on online reviews. We sought to learn the impact that various disclaimers can have in terms of a consumer’s:

  • intention to buy;
  • attitude toward the product in general;
  • perception of the review’s usefulness;
  • perception of the review’s credibility;
  • perception of the review’s quality;
  • perception of the reviewer’s sincerity;
  • level of scepticism toward the review.

Willemsen performed seven case studies, six of which had their own unique disclaimer and one of which had no disclaimer at all.

The results showed no statistically significant differences from one case to the next. In other words, the inclusion of a detailed disclaimer does not result in diminished sales or trust.

Cool brands go transparent

So what to do with all of this knowledge? Since no negative outcomes could be detected, the results of transparent reviewing can only contribute to a greater online shopping experience. For this reason, we continue to encourage the use of disclaimers in online reviews amongst all brands. It won’t hurt your sales, it would improve your credibility and it makes you look cool.

A win-win!

In the meantime: if you have a product and you acknowledge the importance of more reviews, schedule a call with us and we are happy to explain our solutions to you.