There have been two clear signs this week that the enterprise peer review market is evolving. The war for inventory is over, but there’s a new battlefront – focused on transparency. 

TrustRadius today launches a new vendor initiative, called TRUE (Transparent, responsive, unbiased, ethical), where vendors pledge not to cherry-pick reviews or attempt to game the system (addressing an issue that has long been one of CEO Vinay Bhagat’s gripes about competing enterprise review sites).

And Gartner just published some new statistics related to Peer Insights, which show a staggering average rejection rate of 35% – higher than numbers it previously quoted, and a full 10 percentage points higher than the average across rival sites.

The focus is shifting

Together, these moves confirm that the leading enterprise review sites have shifted their focus from the headlong race to accumulate reviews inventory in favor of concentrating on getting to the truth. The imperative appears to be to persuade vendors not to filter or cherry-pick the reviews they are driving to third-party sites.

It wasn’t really sustainable to keep increasing inventory, either. G2, Gartner and TrustRadius all have several hundred thousand enterprise reviews, while IT Central Station CEO Russell Rothstein has always maintained that enterprise peer reviews is NOT a numbers game.

What’s more, reviews generally don’t expire – the sites all have different policies on this, but this essentially boils down to their algorithms giving lower ranking to older reviews.

After adding up to 15,000 new reviews a month in the second half of 2019, Gartner is now clearly changing tack – and will unveil the latest updates to its methodology next week. But with the rejection rate zooming to 35% – more than one in three – this is a headache for vendors working hard to drive reviews, especially in markets where there is a Customers’ Choice program currently running.

Driving greater vendor transparency

This week, TrustRadius raises the table stakes by driving vendors to commit to greater transparency in sourcing reviews. This should directly counter the often deep-held suspicion from readers that vendors are gaming the system for favorable reviews and underline that trust is fundamental to enterprise review sites’ long-term success.

TrustRadius VP of Research, Megan Headley, says this rewards vendors who commit to transparency and moves towards “rebuilding the trust” between vendors and their buyers. This comes just months after TrustRadius highlighted that the gap between enterprise buyers and vendors is wider than ever.

Headley says: “Sometimes it’s individuals creating fake profiles for gift cards. We catch those by vetting every review, but other review sites sometimes turn a blind eye to fraud, whether because they’ve cut their moderation budgets or because it’s just not a priority for them. But more often, it’s vendors doing everything they can to get a few positive reviews to secure a good position on a quadrant.”

Among the vendors pioneering the TRUE initiative are IBM Cloud, SAP, TIBCO, Sage Intacct, AT&T Cybersecurity, Blackbaud, and AT Internet – and Headley says she’ll be satisfied if 100 vendors have signed up by the year’s end.

Our take: This is an ambitious move by TrustRadius and requires vendors to sign a no cherry-picking pledge when requesting reviews. TrustRadius has long championed the element of trust – the clue’s in the name. This makes a lot of sense for vendors because honesty is part of a long-term play for peer reviews and helps vendors avoid the genuine issue of ‘preferred reference customer’ fatigue.