After spending millions on gift cards as rewards for people leaving reviews on Peer Insights, Gartner is opening up the program to allow vendor-funded incentives. The “Technology Provider Funded Gift Cards Program” is coming soon – probably launching along with the new Peer Insights methodology in early August.

Until now, Gartner has made funds of up to $1250 per vendor available for incentive-driven review campaigns. This has rolled up into the millions, even if you take a conservative guess that 20% of the 340,000 reviews generated so far have been rewarded with a $25 payout.

At launch, Gartner will cap the maximum amount per review category per year at $5000, which equals 200 fresh reviews. In most Peer Insights categories, any vendor adding half that number of reviews per year will stay ahead – but remember that the site is set to hide all reviews older than 12 months by default.

Although reviews do not expire, they become a lot less visible after 12 months – encouraging any vendor that has already put a lot of effort into generating reviews to keep going.

The program is part of a pledge by Gartner Peer Insights head Anatoli Olkhovets (pictured) to be more open and transparent with vendors. His group launched a blog in June and continues to provide six-monthly webinars that tell the story behind the latest methodology updates.

A deeper dive into that really high rejection rate
One of the early blog posts gets into the detail of why there’s a 35% rejection rate on submitted reviews – double that of some enterprise review site competitors and one of the biggest bugbears for vendors, who work hard to convince their customers to submit a review, only to see it rejected. The post confirms the reasons that Gartner’s PI team had already outlined to Destrier: a lot of rejections are due to low-quality content – that nobody is going to want to read – in addition to weeding out those fakes.

Gartner is also checking for plagiarism – cross-checking the text against vendors’ websites and other collateral – which underlines the importance of coaching wannabe reviewers to ensure their review is in their own words. When you’re half-way through submitting a review and running out of things to say, it’s always tempting to grab and paste a few words from an official source – but this is likely to lead to your review being rejected.

Our take

Once the vendor-funded incentives program takes off, we think it’s likely that Gartner will gently retire its own funding incentives. Although we are clear that most genuine enterprise customers are not writing their review for cash, a $25 gift card – or donation to a charity of your choice – is a much-appreciated thank you, especially as reviews, done properly, take around 25-30 minutes to complete.

Over the past months, it appears to have become generally accepted by vendors that a low-value reward of up to $25 is an acceptable incentive to thank a reviewer for taking the time to write a review. However, as highlighted in Destrier and KCG’s definitive guide, Enterprise Peer Reviews: A Playbook for Marketers, it is not OK for vendors to pay or otherwise incentivize customers directly – and, when detected, is likely to lead to a ban.

Gartner has been clever in finding a work-around by passing the costs on to vendors and providing governance by continuing to own the process and own the handing out of awards.

On the positive side, this maintains the church and state division and ensures that vendors do not directly incentivize their customers to write reviews. But on the negative side, this hands more control to Gartner and will probably widen the gap between vendors who “get it” and those still working out that peer reviews are here to stay.

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