Shoppers aren’t fooled by ratings & reviews that are inorganic. Resorting to professionally written product reviews or ones that are incentivized cheapens your brand, leaves you vulnerable to competition and is unsustainable.

Many product, marketing and business leaders who operate brands that sell products to third-party retailers or through marketplaces simply don’t understand how to generate consistent and authentic customer reviews. Others simply don’t want to invest the time to implement systematic methods to generate ratings & reviews on a consistent basis.

So to satisfy their retailers, upper-management or ownership, they pay a company to seed their products to pre-qualified reviewers and wipes their hands clean. These leaders convince themselves that they have done their part in generating ratings & reviews when in fact their efforts end up having the opposite effect of what they intended.

Here we’ll explain why non-organic reviews cheapen your brand and value proportion, make you vulnerable to competitors and are unsustainable for your business.

1. Don’t cheapen your brand or hurt your value proposition

When you outsource reviews to a company paying or incentivizing people who aren’t your customers to review your product, you cheapen your brand. According to best practices and common sense, when you use this method you are supposed to indicate at the bottom of the review that the reviewer has been incentivized or paid in exchange of the review. The message this sends to shoppers that are interested in your product and brand is that that your brand is not popular enough to have customers that genuinely want to review your products. Even if those best practices are ignored, the tone and quality of the review will likely come off as stale. This is covered in our concept of authenticity, one of the 3 pillars of effective reviews covered here. Remember when you were young and you really wanted to hang out with a kid in your class, but that kid didn’t want to hang out with you. You would never have wanted your parent to incentivize or pay your classmate to hang out with you because that it would have felt forced and inauthentic. That’s the same dynamic at play when trying to convince sophisticated shoppers that your products are well-reviewed even though they’re not. Ultimately, it cheapens your brand and value proposition.

2. Don’t fall behind competitors

While you’re focused on essentially buying reviews, your competition is focused on organically generating them. While you’re temporarily plugging holes in your ratings & reviews performance, your competition is building their brand through consumer-generated content at a foundational level. You can’t get back that time. Even worse, your competition is cleverly turning each of their customers into evangelists for their products and brand while you’re wasting away each converted customer by receiving nothing from them that will propel your brand forward. Each organic review you receive is not only free, it’s authentic marketing that stays with your products and brand for their lifetimes. When you miss out on the opportunity to capture your customers’ thoughts, you never get that time or content back.

Here is a useful analogy. In the early 2000s, Toys R Us the then-leaders in toys, gaming consoles and more made a strategic decision to not invest in ecommerce and outsourced its ecommerce fulfillment to Amazon. 15 years later, Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy, Amazon became the leader among toy retailers and other retailers picked up big market share.

What seemed convenient at the time for Toys R Us ended up being a major reason for its downfall. By not owning its own ecommerce operations, it emboldened competitors and became vulnerable to the changing times.

Generating your own ratings & reviews gives you independence as a brand since that is content you end up owning. It also gives you valuable insight written by actual customers for you to not only leverage to build sales, but also to rely on to improve and invent new products.

After having spent 5 years mastering how to gather and syndicate ratings & reviews and how to leverage them to transform our business, it is baffling why product, marketing and business leaders would choose to pay for essentially what amount to fake reviews and fake insight.

If you ever need to relaunch a collection at a new retailer or marketplace, or directly on your own channel, you can launch with loads of reviews that provide an immediate lift to sales and in many instances can be the reason why new retailers would want to include your products in their assortments.

3. Don’t build something unsustainable

When you build something that is unsustainable, you’ll always be throwing money at it to work. If your ratings & reviews strategy is built on paying for non-customers to write reviews, you will never gather the volume or reviews you need to stand out, nor will you ever generate the authentic reviews you need to make an impression on shoppers.

These pre-qualified review programs cost money, and depending on your product category, those costs will add up fast. Basically, to have a pre-qualified reviewer review your products, you need to pay an agency or firm that facilitates the product seeding. You need to pay for the product you’re giving away. And, you need to pay for shipping. If you sell expensive products, like toasters, tires, and jewelry and/or heavy or large products, like luggage, furniture or surfboards, these programs end up costing a fortune.

Even worse, you end up having to feed the beast. After a few weeks, the freshness of your reviews runs out and you need to revamp your reviews with newer ones to ensure that your recency, one of the three pillars of effective reviews that we cover here, remains high.

Gathering reviews that are 100% organic and consumer-generated is vital to the growth of your business and is completely achievable regardless of your industry, brand or product mix. All you need is the right strategy, method and tactics to execute properly.