Monday, April 20, 2015

Building Trust One Review at a Time

By Vinay Bhagat, Founder & CEO, TrustRadius

As user reviews spread to business software, how do you know what to trust? What safeguards are business review sites taking to ensure that their content is legitimate and representative of reality? Trust and fraud prevention has been an issue for consumer review sites since inception, but the stakes for business software reviews are much higher. The consequences for a bad software decision are generally far more severe than a bad meal or hotel stay. Software is expensive to purchase and implement, you often sign long-term contracts, and it’s painful to switch. Additionally, the number of people who can review a business software product is typically far fewer than those who can review a hotel or restaurant, so each review carries more weight.

Louis Columbus, a consultant and influential writer about enterprise software in his article for “Why Completely Trusting Enterprise Software Review Sites Is a Bad Idea” wrote, “Enterprise software selection decisions have a direct impact on future financial performance. Choosing the right enterprise software can strengthen customer relationships and streamline production. From having been involved in many software selection projects over the last twenty years, one resoundingly clear lesson I've learned is: when you marry the application you marry the vendor. That’s why putting blind trust into these review sites is a bad idea. These sites need greater transparency and a more proven track record to earn and keep trust.”

Trust is not just important to buyers, it’s also critical for vendors, as they determine, where to send their prospects for reliable insights, and their customers to review them. Enterprise Social Media Management vendor Sprinklr recently wrote, Many sites now aspire to be the credible advisor to companies about to invest millions or tens of millions in a solution. But with so many review sites to choose from, how do you know which one to trust? How do you know which provides truly unbiased, well-researched, useful reviews that will help you make the best decision for your business?” Sprinklr has decided to concentrate its review program efforts on our site. It defined five criteria based upon which they made their choice, which they articulate in their post.

How we put the “Trust” in TrustRadius

I conceived the idea for TrustRadius, an in-depth peer review site for business software, at my last company after seeing teams really struggle to find good intelligence to inform software purchase decisions. In some cases we picked the wrong product. In other cases, we went down the wrong implementation path, and in other instances, we under estimated the staffing requirements for a product. Talking to others, I realized that we were not unique. They too shared the same frustrations with finding good intelligence. In some cases the lack of information actually caused them to take no action. What ultimately pushed me to start TrustRadius was a search to buy a high-end coffee machine for my wife. I discovered a few specialist review sites and was blown away with the detailed user reviews which described in detail facets like the reliability and maintenance requirements of each appliance. I thought it was crazy that this level of insight was available for a home appliance, but not for an expensive piece of business software.

From day one, our mission has been to help professionals make smart, confident software decisions through accessing candid insights from peers in the form of product ratings, in-depth reviews, comparisons, and research reports that our research team writes based upon reviews. We picked the name “TrustRadius” very intentionally. We’re striving to become the most trusted source to help professionals make business software decisions. We do that through increasing the “radius” or network of people that software buyers can trust. We’ve worked really hard to engineer trust into our site and business model.  Here are the steps we’ve taken thus far:

1. A Fair Open Directory

Historically software review sites have charged products to be listed or required an advertising or lead generation agreement to be in place, i.e. they are “pay to play”. Some display products on their site according to how many leads they sell to them. On TrustRadius, any product can be listed or reviewed free of charge. The default listing order of products in categories is based upon review count, and users can re-sort by average rating and product name.

2. Screening for Fraud & Bias

Preventing illegitimate user reviews is a challenge for all review sites. TrustRadius rejects 3-5% of submissions and employs the following screening methods:

  • Every reviewer/rater is required to authenticate via their LinkedIn account and each profile and review checked by a member of our research team to assess legitimacy. The LinkedIn authentication also allows us to provide “social proof” as to the identity of the reviewer to our audience. If that person wishes to remain anonymous – which 22% of people do – you can still see their demographics and rest assured that we’ve checked their legitimacy. You can also see what other products they’ve rated and reviewed.
  • We reject reviews/ratings from fake LinkedIn profiles and from vendors attempting to rate or review their own product or a competitors’. We also reject reviews from parties closely associated to a vendor e.g. development partners.
  • If a consultant who primarily works with one product writes a review, we strive to ensure that the review is balanced and of real value to our community. We also describe their relationship to the product in the review summary.

3. Ensuring Representativeness

When getting a review program off the ground, it’s common for vendors to cherry pick advocates to review them. This phenomenon is amplified if using a customer advocacy platform. While these reviews are legitimate, they clearly skew positive, whereas prospective customers want to see a range of opinions representative of overall client sentiment. They also want to see a sufficient number of data points for confidence. We recommend that vendors reach beyond their core advocates and embrace transparency. Buyers are smart enough to see through ratings and reviews that are overly positive and if that’s all they see, they’ll hunt elsewhere for additional feedback. The Journal of Marketing conducted a study of book reviews and sales on Amazon.com and wrote the following:

“While the star ratings themselves didn’t influence sales, the variability in star ratings positively influenced sales. In other words, if a visitor sees nothing but 5 star reviews, they get suspicious.”

“Including some negative reviews to show a wider range of opinions may actually boost conversions.

 “In short, while a plethora of negative reviews is going to sink your product, a collection of excessively happy customer reviews will have your visitors crying “Fake!”

“This is on Amazon, a trusted brand where the default assumption is that the customer reviews are real. This skepticism can only get worse if the user reviews are on a platform they’ve never seen before.

TrustRadius strives to ensure representativeness by soliciting reviews and ratings independently of vendors, as well as encouraging vendors to drive participation across their customer base. Each month, the 140,000 people visiting our site are encouraged to share their sentiment on the products they utilize and we reach out to thousands of product users outside our community to encourage them to share their opinions. To date, 86.4% of the reviews/ratings on our site have been sourced independently of vendors. 

4. Refreshing Reviews

Software changes quickly and it’s essential to have the latest perspective. Since most business software products do not add customers at the same pace as hotels or restaurants serve guests, you cannot just rely on new customer reviews to keep insights fresh. TrustRadius enables reviewers to update their existing reviews, and engages them to drive them to do so on a regular basis.

5. In-depth Insights

Business software selections are complex. A likelihood to recommend rating is a gage of overall sentiment, but insufficient to understand how well a software product will suit a particular use case. TrustRadius collects multiple category-specific product ratings, and asks thoughtful questions to unearth rich insights. The average review on our site is over 400 words. This approach not only leads to really useful information, but also gives information seekers more confidence in the opinions being expressed.

6. Intelligent, Transparent Analysis

The TrustRadius Research team publishes analyses called TrustMaps™ and Buyer’s Guides that are derived from user reviews and ratings as well as conversations with independent market experts and vendors. We are transparent in our methodology - the axis for our charts are clearly defined and the number of data points included presented. We also strive to be intelligent about how products are compared. For example, in many categories certain products are targeted towards large enterprises, and others towards SMBs, so we segment our analysis and use data points pertaining to customers within that segment.

In conclusion, as user reviews continue to play an increasingly important role in the business software purchasing process, buyers are well served to be discriminating and seek out trustworthy sources. Look for factors like review depth, recency, social proof about reviewers, evidence of how reviews are collected, and for intelligent analysis. By extension, vendors should move beyond trying to have a superficial presence on multiple sites and instead consolidate their efforts in venues of quality, where your sales team can proactively send buyers with confidence that they will get reliable and rich insights to help make the right decisions. Doing so will defray the need for traditional reference management programs. Yes transparency can be scary, but the reality is that negative aspects of your product and service are being discussed somewhere, either in person or in private online forums, so it’s better to know if that feedback is being shared and work to correct it through service and product improvements. You always have the chance to respond to critiques or praise through comments.

Customer experience is the new marketing, and high quality reviews are the new megaphone to get the word out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TrustRadius Reveals Top Rated Social Media Management Software for Enterprises

Austin, Texas, January 28th, 2015 - TrustRadius, the leading community for professionals to share candid insights about business software, today announced the release of its TrustMap™ for Enterprise Social Media Management software, which ranks products based on end-user “likelihood to recommend” ratings and frequency of evaluation by enterprises.

Unveiled in TrustRadius’ new Buyer’s Guide to Enterprise Social Media Management Software, the TrustMap™ helps software buyers quickly locate the products most highly rated and evaluated by their peers.

The Buyer’s Guide includes a detailed review of products by use case, and a distillation of 400+ authenticated end-user reviews across 23 social media management products used within enterprises. 

Because social media management software requirements vary depending on use case, the guide explores the three major ways enterprises are leveraging social media: customer care, social intelligence and marketing, along with the software features and products that support them.

The guide also includes in-depth cases studies of how Comcast, British Telecommunications and Groupon are using social media management software for enterprise-level social media programs.

“Since we launched our first Buyer’s Guide to Social Media Management Software in November 2013, companies have matured in their use of social media technology,” said Vinay Bhagat, CEO of TrustRadius. “Social media programs are now enterprise-wide and no longer confined to marketing. While we are focusing on the needs of mid-to-large enterprises in this guide, it also provides useful insights for smaller companies who are advanced in their use of social media.” 

Jay Baer, President, Convince & Convert agrees: “As the Social Media Management software space continues growing in size and complexity, you need a way to keep score and make sense of it all. The new Buyer's Guide from TrustRadius is indispensable in this regard.”

Monday, December 8, 2014

TrustRadius Reveals Top Rated Business Intelligence Software

Austin Texas, Dec 9th, 2014 - TrustRadius, the leading community for professionals to share candid insights about business software, today announced the release of its TrustMaps™ for Business Intelligence software, which rank products based on user ratings and evaluation frequency within two distinct segments: Full-Stack and Data Discovery & Visualization.

Unveiled in its first Buyer’s Guide to Business Intelligence Software, the TrustMaps™ quickly help software buyers locate the solutions most highly rated and adopted by their direct peer group and therefore most closely aligned to their needs.

Each TrustMap™ depicts BI products on two dimensions – likelihood to recommend ratings by users and the product evaluation frequency on TrustRadius, as measured by unique page views. All 530 in-depth reviews and ratings come from authenticated users of BI tools on TrustRadius.com.

Because success is not solely contingent on software selection, the guide includes a discussion of key factors for achieving success with BI software, drawn from interviews with highly regarded independent BI experts.

“The BI technology landscape is in the midst of change and upheaval: Traditional on-premise full-stack tools are being challenged by cloud full stack solutions, and easier to use and deploy discovery and visualization tools” said Vinay Bhagat, CEO of TrustRadius. “Our Business Intelligence TrustMaps™ provide business analysts with a pragmatic approach to identify the best-fit solutions based on product segment, user satisfaction and evaluation frequency on TrustRadius.”

Dr. Barry Devlin, Principal, 9sight Consulting agrees: "Evaluating BI products is always a challenge, given their number and variety. Qualified user reviews and perspectives, such as those offered by TrustRadius in its Buyer's Guide, provide a highly useful and independent approach to narrowing the choices available and understanding where to probe particular vendors."

Best Full-Stack BI Software
Based on user ratings and product evaluation frequency, the Top Rated Full-Stack BI products in order of user rating are:

SiSense is somewhat different from the other tools; it might best be considered a full-stack ‘big data’ product since it has been designed to handle large volumes of data efficiently and quickly.

Pentaho and Jaspersoft, two open source BI tools are also rated highly.

Based on user ratings and product evaluation frequency, the Top Rated Data Discovery and Visualization BI products are:

Tableau stands out as the highest rated product in this category, but all of these products are very highly rated and the differences between the user ratings are nominal.

The popular product, Qlikview is also highly rated, but fell below the median rating for the Data Discovery and Visualization segment, which in aggregate achieves higher user ratings than the Full Stack segment.

Additional Insights on BI Software Market

The Buyer’s Guide to Business Intelligence Software is free and available here: www.trustradius.com/guides/bi

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How I Used TrustRadius to Switch to Salesforce

This story is based on an interview with TrustRadius member, Al Schoneman. Al is Director of Marketing at Power Analytics Corporation.  He joined TrustRadius a year ago and wrote an in-depth review of WordPress and Pardot.  

Al Schoneman is the marketing director at Power Analytics Corporation, a company that creates, markets and supports software used to design and develop power systems. However, Al was struggling earlier this year to pinpoint the right software combination for Power Analytics' needs.

"I had some real frustration evaluating marketing automation solutions," Al said. "We were looking at some pretty big development costs to integrate our marketing automation with our CRM system."

Al is active in LinkedIn groups for marketers and also in several software user groups.  A member of one pointed him toward TrustRadius to source a more objective and comprehensive overview of the products he was considering. 

The company had just begun to use Pardot for marketing automation, and Al's boss strongly believed they should stick with their current CRM, Oracle, because he thought it worked better with their finance software and other packages. Through TrustRadius reviews, Al learned that probably wasn't quite right.

"The fact that the reviews are user written made the content invaluable to us," he said. "I couldn't find anyone on TrustRadius who had used Oracle CRM with much of anything else."

When Al finished his analysis, Power Analytics wound up migrating to Salesforce, a choice that proved better suited to the size and scope of their business. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

New Chart Compares Feature Availability Across 9 A/B Testing Software Products

Last month we published our first ever Buyer's Guide to A/B Testing Software, which ranked and explored the strengths and weaknesses of several A/B testing software products, based on end-user reviews on TrustRadius.

We're following up with another useful tool for companies looking to choose the right A/B testing software: A feature comparison chart, which you can download here.


Salesforce Wave Makes a Splash in the $14B Business Intelligence Space

Perspective from Alan Cooke, Research Director, TrustRadius

Salesforce announced its entry into Business Intelligence (BI) software market at Dreamforce in October with the launch of Salesforce Analytics Cloud, also known as Salesforce Wave. At TrustRadius, we pride ourselves on sharing the end-user perspective. In the case of Wave, it’s been impossible to track down any beta users, so we’re offering our own perspectives and those of market participants we interviewed.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Top 10 Fastest Growing A/B Testing Software Products

A/B Testing is an emerging but rapidly growing software category.

Our August 2014 Conversion Rate Optimization Survey, indicated that 48 percent of companies plan to spend more on A/B testing tools this coming year. It has also attracted a fair amount of investment capital. Optimizely has raised $88 million including a $57 million round this May. Monetate has raised $46 million, and Maxymiser has raised $15m.

A/B Testing software is also a rapidly growing category on TrustRadius. Page views for A/B Testing software products – a measure for how many people are running evaluations – grew 30 percent from Q2 to Q3.