Customer-generated content is known as an important contributor to the purchasing process on business-to-business e-commerce sites, just as it is on business-to-consumer sites, Forrester Research Inc. says in a report released last month on ratings and reviews strategies.

But the report—“Driving Customer Engagement with B2B Ratings and Reviews,” by vice president and principal analyst for B2B e-commerce Andy Hoar, along with other Forrester analysts—advises that B2B site managers must take steps to ensure review content provides value to business buyers.

“B2B websites generally produce fewer candid reviews and a much lower number of reviews per purchase than their B2C counterparts do,” the report says. “As such, B2B digital business pros must act to improve both the substance and sheer number of reviews that they offer on their websites.”

Forrester offers several tips to make customer-generated review content timely and useful:

Keep ratings and reviews fresh, or search engines will push them down in search rankings;

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Allow customers to submit anonymous though verifiable reviews, as customer may not want competitors to know they are buying from this supplier;

Emphasize reviews written by buyers who are end-users of, and knowledgeable about, purchased products, rather than corporate purchasing managers who know little about how a product performs. “With 97% of I.T. buyers indicating that they rely on peer recommendations, ratings and reviews when it comes to buying business software, B2B sites must give special status to reviews posted by power users of a product,” the report says.

Encourage customers to comment on the validity of posted reviews. To ensure a minimum quality standard among more controversial reviews, B2B site moderators should try to activate a broad reviewer community, particularly among reviewers known to contribute helpful comments.

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