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The 2 Review Types You Didn't Know About

Whether you’re an eCommerce merchant or an online shopper, you probably weren’t aware that there are two different kinds of reviews that are collected online. One of them could be hurting your business. The other gives potential customers an honest, accurate perception of your company or products.

What Are the Two Types of Reviews?

Online reviews fall into two general categories:

  1. Active reviews - Reviews that a company is actively asking all verified customers to give.
  2. Passive reviews - Reviews that can be submitted by anyone, as many times as they would like, without confirmation of a purchase or verified use of a product, service, or even the company.

Websites like Trustpilot and Yelp collect passive reviews. While this allows legitimate customers a place to give their feedback on a company, it also opens a company up to fake reviews or mostly negative reviews. An individual posting a passive review does not have to publicly display who they are. This makes it much easier for an angry customer (or even a competitor) to leave negative reviews about your business with no consequence to their image, but potentially big headaches for your brand. 

Active reviews, on the other hand, confirm that the reviewer has had some sort of experience with the company or product. Of course, they invite customers with both positive and negative experiences to share their feedback. Yet even so, there is a proven correlation between a higher number of real, verified reviews being collected and a higher overall star rating. 

Why Does It Matter If You Actively Collect Reviews?

1. Passive reviews are negatively skewed

How often do we go out of our way to leave a positive review after a good experience? Not often. But how often do we leave a bad review after a negative incident? It’s in our nature to share our bad experiences with anyone that cares to listen, and the Internet seems to care.

Passive reviews are a great way to vent our frustrations with a company to the world. That isn’t to say that the bad experiences should not be shared, or that all negative reviews consist of lies. It's just that this is hardly ever the full picture.

The problem is that passive review aggregations can give a false perception of a company when there are primarily negative reviews being shared or displayed. This is true, even if there are a few positive customer experiences being shared to balance the negative ones

If your company is being plagued by negative reviews, check out our guide: Six Strategies to Manage Negative Reviews.

2. Passive reviews can be fraudulent

A small company's reputation can be seriously harmed by malicious competitors that go onto websites that collect passive reviews and attack their competition with fraudulent reviews. While this is illegal, it’s not always easy to prove.

Passive review sites also open businesses up to inaccurate reviews posted by disgruntled former employees, people leaving a review for the wrong company (yes, it happens), and people we call "review trolls" who simply like to leave negative feedback on companies as a practical joke. Not that funny, right? 

3. Active reviews are accurate

It is not possible for any company to be perfect. But when speaking of the impact and accuracy of online reviews, should a company with only five total reviews and a 1.4-star rating accurately be perceived as an awful company?

This is often the case when passive reviews are collected: a low number of reviews compared to the number of actual customers the company has served; and those few reviews tend to be negatively skewed.

When active reviews are collected, the average star rating tends to be higher and much more reflective of the true quality of the brand or products, because real customers are all equally invited— and given an easy way— to share their experiences.

So, Do Passive Reviews Give an Accurate Perception of a Company’s True Reputation?

No. Since passive reviews are most often written by users with a negative experience, they tend to give a distorted picture of the quality of a company's service and products. Reviews that cover positive experiences are rare and tend to get buried in the mix.

Ultimately, there are two key takeaways regarding the two types of online reviews:

  1. If the company has a large number of ratings that are mostly positive, from a reliable third-party review source, then they are likely active reviews and provide the most accurate picture of the company.
  2. If the company has a small number of ratings that are mostly negative, then they are likely passive reviews and provide the least accurate picture of the company.

How Can an Ecommerce Business Collect Active Reviews?

The easiest, most cost effective way is to use the services of a ratings and review platform. These tech companies provide software and services that integrate directly with your website and other ecommerce and marketing vendors to send review prompts and surveys to customers and then display those ratings on your website and in other places online.

Shopper Approved is one of the few rating companies that only collect active reviews.

Why does Shopper approved only collect active reviews when other review platforms allow passive reviews?

Because for us, it’s the only option from a moral standpoint. When it comes down to it, passive reviews just aren’t giving the full picture of a company’s true reputation and the experience they provide to its customers. And the potential for deceitful passive reviews to cause damage to a company's online reputation and bottom line just isn't worth it to us.

Make sure your company is collecting active reviews to give potential customers the most accurate, honest representation of your company. Perception is reality when it comes to online reputation, and your star rating can be the deciding factor— for good or bad— as to whether consumers buy from you or your competitor.

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Shopper Approved Blog Author


Duane “DJ” Sprague is a conversion rate expert, a Certified Behavioral Design Coach by the Online Influence Institute, and a certified expert by the Behavioral Design Academy, the Mindworx Academy, and the Interaction Design Institute. As CMO of a billion-dollar national franchise, he leveraged the power of social proof and online reviews to improve SEO and accelerate growth, as he developed and managed a comprehensive online reputation management strategy that spanned nearly 200 websites. He has written for Forbes, Small Biz Daily, and several industry trade magazines, contributed to several books and university course packs, and is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as a subject matter expert. He holds a master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication and has received the 1st Place Gold Award in a global integrated marketing competition. Duane is the CMO of Shopper Approved, where he works with thousands of ecommerce websites to improve their SEO and CRO.

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