A new research study from Bazaarvoice has revealed that Australian consumers are increasingly concerned about fake user-generated content (UGC), including reviews, ratings, and images. A significant 78% of shoppers expressed anxiety over fraudulent reviews, prompting a call for both governmental (64%) and brand (60%) intervention to ensure content authenticity.
The study, which surveyed over 1,000 Australian shoppers, 8,000 international consumers, and 415 brands (including 52 Australian brands), found that 32% of Australians have been victims of fraudulent content while shopping online. However, while shopper concerns loom large, 98% of surveyed brands expressed confidence in their current strategies and tools for identifying and preventing fraudulent or counterfeit content. Among these, half stated they were very or extremely confident.
Kate Musgrove, APAC Managing Director at Bazaarvoice, commented on the study, stating, "Fake user-generated content, such as reviews, ratings and images, has become more prevalent over recent years and more notably Australian consumers have cottoned onto this and are expecting both brands and the government to do more to combat this issue. The data from this research proves that Aussie businesses need to be doing everything they can to keep their UGC completely authentic."
Despite brand confidence, Australian consumers remain sceptical. Only 73% of respondents believed that websites are doing a decent job at blocking fraudulent content, with over a quarter (28%) thinking that they are doing poorly. There is also a distrust of influencer content, with only 22% of Aussie consumers exhibiting confidence in this area.
The study also highlighted the importance of trust indicators or symbols in online shopping. Half of the consumers preferred either a dedicated site page or content marker to ensure authenticity and 59% would find a trust symbol reassuring. Predictions for 2024 point towards an increased prominence of such trust signals, as Musgrove adds, "Brands and retailers who cannot prove that their UGC is authentic and trustworthy will lose out on sales as consumers will be happy to look somewhere they trust more."
Interestingly, even though all surveyed Australian shoppers buy online at least once a month, only 23% of brands and retailers make use of fraud detection software for transactional fraud. However, 97% of businesses do highlight the importance of maintaining online content authenticity, showing a disparity between their understandings of online trust and their actions to uphold it.
Andy Chakravarty, VP of Research at IDC Retail Insights, reinforces the importance of validation, noting that "Fake reviews undermine confidence in online content, dissuading shoppers and negatively impacting the online sales of brands and retailers. Validating authenticity of product reviews improves the customer experience, giving shoppers peace of mind as they make informed purchasing decisions."
Zarina Lam Stanford, CMO at Bazaarvoice, frames the study's findings as a direct imperative for brands to "ensure that their customers trust the content they consume online. If shoppers can't trust UGC, it loses all of its value, and companies will lose out on sales."