Trustpilot lets customers do the marketing

“Trustpilot is a place where consumers can voice their opinions, and simultaneously help businesses grow.”

Sheraz Bhatti, Content Marketing Manager of Trustpilot, was describing a business he joined in 2014, and which has been active in the States since 2013. Trustpilot, however, was founded in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2007, by CEO Peter Mühlmann, and now has customers in 65 countries, and around 500 employees in the States and Australia as well as Europe. I caught up with Bhatti at ClickZ Live in New York this week.

The concept behind Trustpilot is disarmingly simple. Essentially, it’s an online database featuring (currently) some 19 million customer reviews of 120,000 companies worldwide. It posts around 700 thousand new reviews per month. What kinds of companies? “We’re very spread out,” said Bhatti, mentioning finance, software, e-commerce and retail, travel, and self-storage. The businesses are the source of Trustpilot’s revenue.

For a Trustpilot customer, the experience is primarily about reputation management. “Businesses come aboard,” said Bhatti, “and proactively invite customer reviews.” The reviews help the Trustpilot community make informed purchase decisions; they drive online traffic to business websites; and they improve the conversation about business offerings. Reviews turn into ratings: Trustpilot stars, arrived at by an algorithm featuring some Bayesian secret sauce.

I had questions about all this. First, how does Trustpilot source all these reviews without rewarding consumers? Bhatti was clear that no incentives are currently offered; it’s an open community aimed at improving everyone’s commerce experience. Is it possible to get a bad review on Trustpilot? Absolutely, said Bhatti (and you can easily find them). But this is in line with founder Mühlmann’s vision, Bhatti said, which is that “he wants the best businesses to win.”

Businesses get to participate in the community, whether by thanking consumers for good reviews or responding to bad ones. Any business with a URL can get reviewed (users can search for businesses they want to write about, exactly as they do with Yelp!), and users can only review the same company once–although they can update a review later.

Obviously, one challenge Trustpilot faces (as do Yelp!, Amazon, and any website hosting consumer-sourced reviews) is weeding out the shills and the trolls. Users can flag suspect reviews and runs a Compliance Team to impose a zero tolerance policy on “gaming the system.”

Beyond reputation management, one big hook for marketers is the possibility of using Trustpilot reviews in campaigns and for re-targeting purposes. Case studies suggest that businesses can benefit from Trustpilot reviews by various KPIs, including click-throughs, conversion rates, and revenue growth, as well as perception of quality. For example, an online transcription service, Rev.com, replaced a flawed proprietary customer review process with verifiable Trustpilot reviews, allowing it to incorporate Google seller ratings in AdWord ads, and leading to a 5-12 percent increase in click-through rates, and improved conversions.

What’s down the road for Trustpoint? “I’m just excited that Trustpilot can start being a household name in the US,” Bhatti said.

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