The global business portal
Text: Mariano Anthony Davies
Trustpilot is a review platform started by a Danish university graduate in 2007. It has gained the same global status for the business sector as Trip Advisor and Booking.com have done for the travel industry.
The Founder and CEO, Peter Holten Mühlmann, writes on their website that he started Trustpilot to give all consumers a powerful voice and all companies a way to listen, respond and continually improve. He claims that the site is a transparent environment with no pre-moderation or censorship.
As a business and product review platform, Trustpilot has become a recognised place for consumer opinions about companies and their products. Today, it is a global organisation with 8 global offices, over 700 employees, and it is available to 47 different nationalities. It has become a recognised global standard.
To get to this position has been a challenging financial journey that has cost the company annual losses that have amounted to over DKK 1 billion since its 2007 launch. Although its revenues seem to increase every year, they have not been able to turn that growth into positive results. In 2020, although revenues continued to increase to DKK 542 million, their result shows a loss of DKK 146 million – explained by the CEO as a strategic focus on global growth and product development.
Trustpilot uses considerable resources to protect its platform from misuse, including a combination of fake detection technology, review monitoring algorithms, robots and over 50 highly trained experts. Although their systems work exceptionally well, they are not fool proof. They are continually looking at new preventative measures, including additional penalties and actions, that will be used against anyone trying to manipulate reviews.
All companies on Trustpilot must abide by the same rules when they use the Trustpilot platform. Most companies use the platform free of charge and a small percentage pay for additional services such as automated sending of invitations and consumer insight gathering. Whether a company is a paying customer or not has no bearing whatsoever on how reviews are treated. A consumer review (whether positive or negative) may not be edited – if it follows the platform's rules.
Trustpilot has got over 114 million individual reviews and says on its website that behind every one of them is an experience that matters. As is not unexpected, there are more negative reviews than positive as dissatisfied consumers are more likely to write a review than satisfied consumers. BBC Watchdog research has shown that the site left some wondering if the reviews on Trustpilot can always be trusted.
The problem is that as long as consumers follow the basic publishing rules, they are free to write subjectively, and collectively these consumer reviews make up the "value judgement" statistics about a company or its products. In order words, there is a danger that these reviews can be used to mean more than what could be claimed to be statistically valid. There is no guarantee of accuracy.
However, if one does not lose sight of the inevitable subjectivity level, a review platform like Trustpilot nevertheless tells you what other people think – for better or worse.
The pandemic's challenges exacerbated the financial problems facing Trustpilot with the result that ten percent of the staff were fired (approx. 80 full time positions) during 2020.
Despite these challenges, Trustpilot has always attracted capital and continues to operate with a solid capital base from its offices in Copenhagen, New York, Denver, London, Vilnius, Berlin and Melbourne.
“Review platforms make great efforts to secure review integrity. Trustpilot combines cutting edge technology with their team of Content Integrity experts. Collectively, both their technology and people use data to assess behavioural patterns.”
Securing review integrity
The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in a significant rise in the use of digital financial tools, both in banking services as well as at merchants, who saw an increase within e-commerce and mobile commerce. The rise was as high as 55% and in most countries at least 15%.
In many countries, ordering groceries online increased significantly as many more consumers began to pay digitally by card or smartphone and above all “contactless” – especially in countries such as in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), where cash has been the predominant method of payment to date.
Due to the Corona pandemic, politicians and retailers have promoted cashless and contactless payment to minimise the risk of infection. Consumers have understood that this form of payment is more hygienic than using cash and have complied. In general, the pandemic has pushed us further towards a digital era, accelerating the uptake of digital services and tools - speeding up the European transition to digital commerce.