How User-Generated Content Empowers the e-Commerce Sphere

by Deepak Nautiyal |

How User-Generated Content Empowers the e-Commerce Sphere

User-generated content plays an undeniable role when it comes to boosting revenue

User-generated content plays an undeniable role when it comes to boosting revenue for e-commerce brands. However, the way in which this rich content should be utilized also holds high importance. This blog post will develop an overview of user-generated content and how it helps e-commerce brands gain on different fronts. User-Generated Content Definition – An … Read more

Grow your Business Substantially with an Effective UGC platform

Effective UGC platform

UGC or User Generated Content marketing, is one of the most authentic, reliable and effective marketing strategies and entails content types like photos, reviews, or even Q&A. Choosing the right user-generated content platform can be the key to business success. A UGC platform can also be understood as a Software-as-a-service(Saas) product that helps aggregate & … Read more

Annex Cloud Continues to Transform to Exceed Client Needs. Learn about the Latest Developments to Loyalty Experience Manager.

Loyalty Experience

With the launch of Loyalty Experience Manager™, we are constantly adding enhancements to our solution to continue to exceed our clients’ needs and their customers’ expectations. Take a quick look at what’s new with the Loyalty Experience Manager.

  • RFM Dashboard V3: We have released the Recency Frequency Monetary value dashboard in V3.
  • Enhancement to Leaderboard suite of APIs: With this new API, we can show users regardless of what that is (can be outside of Top 10) and the relative position of that user with respect to the top 10 users, and also 5 users each above and below this user.
  • As part of our hierarchy management functionality, members can create their own groups: The admin of the group can send an invitation to other users for joining that group. Once those users click on the CTA button in that email and opt into the program, they will be automatically added to the group.
  • Ratings & Review Solicitation Email Engine Form Builder: Last quarter we released our RRSE Solicitation Email Engine. With the previous release, we made it very easy for anyone to set up a solicitation email based on templates for even non-technical users. The one thing that was still in there was the email template set up using CKEditor which still requires a little HTML knowledge. Now we have added a form builder that builds the email template by easy drag + drop functionality. So now anyone, including non-technical users can use this engine to set up multiple emails per site in just minutes, which also includes an easy setup process for In-Mail reviews functionality.
  • Social Comments APIs and SDKs: Last quarter we released our Social Comments REST APIs. In Q4, we added more data to existing APIs and also added new APIs in this module. This makes our functionality and API very data-heavy and clients can use them for various purposes on the front end. Also, with this additional information and APIs, our iOS and Android SDKs also become much stronger to easily handle large amounts of data. Both iOS and Android have varying requirements when it comes to dynamic data compared to static data.

Click on these links for full details on this release and the release prior.

Your opinion matters!  We are always looking for feedback from our platform users. Please do not hesitate to contact us to share your needs. We publish our release notes every two weeks and share summaries of releases at least once a quarter.

Subscription Loyalty Programs Increase Customer Lifetime Value

subscription loyalty programs

Ever since Amazon announced that it has touched 100 million Prime members, there has been a lot of discussion and chatter around subscription loyalty programs. Netflix also became very interesting when the officials reported 1.96 million new subscribers the very first quarter. Why do you think 100 million subscribers have raised their hands to sign … Read more

Push your reviews to Google Product Ratings with Annex Cloud

Annex Cloud - Approved Third Party Review Aggregator

Annex Cloud recently received approval from Google and is now listed as a Product Ratings Aggregator within Google’s Product Reviews. Reviews have been a key strategy for years and now Google has created a way to syndicate website reviews and Google reviews. Why is this important? Brands, manufacturers and merchants know that potential customers are … Read more

How to Maximize Your User Generated Content Strategy

user generated content

Whether it’s photos of restaurant dishes or product reviews on Amazon; customers are evangelizing and advertising for brands all the time, for free. User generated content represents the innumerable ways in which a customer interacts with your brand. Implementing a strong user generated content strategy helps your company build credibility with existing and potential customers … Read more

The Consumer Review Fairness Act: What You Need to Know

consumer review fairness act

Genuine ratings and reviews have always played a crucial role in shaping up positive mindsets, and thus, purchase decisions of customers. As 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, it’s not puzzling to see the fear of negative reviews, which dwells in every marketer’s heart. But in an attempt to curtail the spread of negative reviews, some companies have gone the extra mile…so much so that they didn’t realize that they are violating the right of free speech. That’s currently being addressed, though, by the new Consumer Review Fairness Act.

What is Consumer Review Fairness Act (CRFA)?

The reviews are valuable assets for any businesses as they have a huge impact on consumers’ buying decisions. These reviews have a great significance in the shopping experiences of millions of shoppers; they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their family, friends or relatives. 95% of consumers look for others’ opinion online before making a purchase decision.. Reviews build a strong brand image, which significantly impact your sales. There are dedicated websites on the internet such as Yelp and TripAdvisor where customers can share their experience about products by writing positive or negative reviews.

Businesses took numerous steps to manage their customers’ after realizing its importance. Many businesses, unfortunately, in an attempt to control the spread of negative reviews have deployed contract provisions that prevent people from leaving negative reviews on any channel. If done so, businesses used to impose penalties to their customers who would leave negative reviews. .

In response to prohibit such clauses from businesses, Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 was passes into law by President Barack Obama on December 14, 2016. The act protects freedom of speech where customers have the right to express their opinions about any product or services on any online forum without companies’ interference.

According to the Consumer Review Act, customers have the right to online reviews, social media posts, upload photos and also give rating to companies depending on the quality of their services.

To put the history plainly, in an effort to keep their online reviews monotonously positive, some companies began to add “gag orders” or “non-disparagement” clauses in their contracts or terms of service agreements to silence dejected customers by punishing them if they leave negative online reviews or say bad things about them through social media channels. What was even shocking was that most of these consumers never even knew they agreed to such a policy. Many companies used to put such gag orders in the footer of a website or some vague place where you wouldn’t think to look. Naturally, almost every time, they went unnoticed and many customers became subject to a lawsuit or other fines. Some customers were even fined for just threatening to leave a bad review online. Though the list of such examples is too long, the following ones are just the templates-

  • A pet sitter sued a couple in Plano, TX, because they left a negative online Yelp review about the pet sitter’s pricing policy and how their fish bowl was cloudy (i.e., the fish were overfed) when they returned from their trip.

  • One apartment complex put a clause in their lease agreement stating that any photographs of the apartments are the property of the apartment management company and that renters would be fined/sued if they left negative reviews about the apartments online.

  • A Florida wedding vendor had a clause in their agreement that makes couples agree that they will never make or encourage any disparaging comments about their company in any form, verbal or written.

Yelp even started to post warnings on a business’s Yelp listing when they’re aware that the business owner could bring a lawsuit or fine a person if they leave a negative review about their business.

consumer alert reviews

The Consumer Review Fairness Act:

This injustice caught the attention of New Jersey Congressman Leonard Lance, Vice Chair of the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee. To protect the consumer’s basic right to post honest feedback online, on December 2, 2016, he and US House Speaker Paul Ryan signed Lance’s Consumer Review Fairness Act.

With unanimous bipartisan support, this consumer protection legislation passed both the US House and Senate. On December 15, 2016, the then president Obama signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act into law. You can view its snippet here. According to the Congressman’s Press Release:

“In the 21st century economy, it is easier than ever for consumers to make informed choices on which business or service to use by consulting websites and apps that publish crowdsourced reviews of local businesses and restaurants. Consumer reviews are a powerful informational tool because consumers place a high value on the truthful reviews of other consumers. Some businesses have become frustrated by online criticism and some have employed a questionable legal remedy known as a “non-disparagement” clause to retaliate against consumers. These [clauses] are often buried in fine print. The Consumer Review Fairness Act would void any non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts. It also would ensure companies are still able to remove false and defamatory reviews.”

The Future Impact Of The Consumer Review Fairness Act:

The Consumer Review Fairness Act voids any conditions in a form contract (like a website’s terms of use) that (1) restrict a party’s ability to leave reviews, (2) impose penalties for leaving negative reviews, or (3) transfer intellectual property rights in reviews or feedback content to the other party in the contract. The last provision is quite significant, as it disables businesses to take out any unwanted reviews without a court order by sending a takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Apart from online reviews, the Consumer Review Fairness Act also takes care of photographs, videos, and offline reviews. Besides, after the enactment of this Act, state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be empowered to enforce the new law when required, but it cannot displace state law.

Even though this is a move that demands to be welcomed by everyone who cares about the consumer rights and the US Constitution, some concerns have already begun to erupt. The Consumer Review Fairness Act is applicable in the premise of form contracts. It will not affect the acts that take place after a substantive negotiation, and it does not cover contracts between employers and their employees and independent contractors.

Moreover, under the Consumer Review Fairness Act, companies can still legally prosecute the authors of false and defamatory online reviews and they are not prohibited from removing such reviews. They simply cannot preempt consumers publicizing their actual opinions by burying non-disparagement clauses in non-negotiated form contracts, but the act doesn’t stop them from putting non-disparagement clauses as they can negotiate to have them in the agreement.

In spite of these limitations, the Consumer Review Fairness Act is an epochal move toward safeguarding the consumers’ right to say freely what they feel about products. The collateral impact will be felt upon the enhanced possibility for customers to make more informed and studious buying decisions.

The unanimous passing of this bill in both the houses suggests that there was an urgency to get rid of ploys that stifle freedom of expression. However, if you’re already transparent with your customers and stand by your products, the Consumer Review Fairness Act won’t make a difference for you. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how this law will impact the ratings and reviews policies of certain companies after  March 14, 2017, as it applies to non-disparagement clauses in effect on or after 90 days from its enactment.

How can Businesses Comply with Consumer Review Fairness Act?

The businesses should not take CRFA as a threat or view it negatively, in fact, they should capitalize on their customers’ reviews to improve their user experience, customer engagement and manage their online reputation. You can use the following workarounds to deal with false and malicious reviews, and comply with the CRFA.

Respond to Your Customers Immediately

Customers expect you to respond to their reviews within six hours of their posting. Your instant response to their reviews show that you care for them and their satisfaction is your priority. Respond to your customers politely as it is a public forum and everybody is watching you, your rude response can be detrimental to your business.

Issue a Cease and Desist Letter

If you find any of your customers review downright false and exaggerated, you can take a legal action to protect the image of your brand under expert’s guidance. This action can be taken by issuing a desist letter to your customers.

Enhance the Quality of Your Brand

Your hostile reaction to your clients’ negative reviews can be counterproductive. Take it as a feedback instead to make improvements to your products or services. Responding to their feedback will help you in the long run as it make your brand strong and curb future complaints. You can also organize surveys to discover your customers’ likings and disliking about your products. The more you improve you service; the less will be negative reviews.

Q&A: Increase Customer Engagement With Multiple Answer Sources For Authenticity

Questions and Answers

Retailers and manufacturers are adopting Questions and Answers (Q&A) software because they see a huge increase in product- and company-related questions coming from their customers. Q&A increases conversions by allowing your product experts to provide instant answers to questioning customers.  Unlike traditional customer service, Q&A provides a display of product knowledge offering instant gratification and … Read more

Soliciting Reviews: Ask and Ye Shall Receive

Soliciting Reviews

When your ecommerce or omnichannel retail brand implements a Ratings and Reviews solution, it obviously won’t be of any use unless your customers actually submit reviews. Especially since 45% of customers share negative reviews on social media, compared to 30% who share positive reviews, it’s crucial to get ahead of the curve and get satisfied … Read more

Ratings and Reviews Design: Two Thumbs Up for an Intuitive Layout

Ratings and Reviews Design

We recently wrote about which questions and prompts to provide to your customers when they write Ratings and Reviews for your ecommerce site. Once you’ve decided what sort of information they should provide, you’ll need to consider how to display it all. Because this is one of the social commerce products with the most content … Read more

Ratings and Reviews: What Information Should You Ask Your Customers to Share?

Ratings and Reviews

If you’re considering implementing a Ratings & Reviews functionality on your ecommerce website, you’ll find that there are many aspects to consider. There are so many different questions you can ask your customers, not to mention the hurdles of marketing, authentication, and re-marketing the content. However, considering that 90% of customers are influenced by online reviews, those … Read more

5 Ways to Increase Review Volume Onsite


70% of Americans say they look at reviews before they move on to make a purchase. Product ratings and reviews are becoming more and more important as shoppers start to trust these opinions more than advertisements. Conversions can increase up to 50% when product reviews jump from 1 to 10 reviews. In a study on … Read more

ACT now to develop Brand Advocacy

brand advocacy

As social commerce is quickly turning into visual commerce, brands have to act fast in order to keep up with this new generation of shoppers. More and more competitors are entering the market, testing your customers’ loyalty. In order to stand out of the crowd, brands have to ACT. ACT: authenticity, context and trust, the … Read more

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