Today’s online shoppers are highly intelligent, and over time have evolved into expert decision makers when it comes to the world of e-commerce. What we have gained in terms of ease and options, we have lost out in terms of personally trying out products before making a purchase. This is where reviews come in. Consumers’ trust in online reviews are at an all-time high; combined with great product copy and brand authority, reviews are a major factor in a consumer’s decision-making process. This also means that as our dependence on reviews has gone up over the last decade, so has the presence of online illegal fake reviews.

As a business, it is your responsibility to step in and protect your customers from these fake reviews and to ensure they have the best retail experience when they interact with your brand. While purchasing fake reviews may seem great in the short term, companies like TripAdvisor and Amazon have shown the long-term, disastrous consequences that fake reviews can have on your business.

92% of people shopping online between the ages of 18 – 34 have said that they have seen at least one fake review in the last year. Not only does this statistic show how prevalent illegal fake reviews are in our digital space today, but it also highlights how smart and vigilant consumers are in filtering out the fake reviews from the genuine ones. The age group used in this study is also the major demographic shopping online.

If you are selling a product or service to individuals between the ages of 18 – 34, you are selling to a generation that grew up with the internet and have developed a sense of digital ‘street smartness’ that is hard to deceive. This means the present and future of e-commerce/ involves individuals who are wary of online reviews, and are at the same time heavily influenced by digital word of mouth. This dilemma is perfect for retailers looking to provide their customers with the best shopping experience while using ethical methods.

If this isn’t enough reason for you, as a retailer, to start tackling illegal fake reviews, the long-term potential reputational damage should definitely get you started on this journey today! Listed below are some of the dead giveaways that online shoppers use to detect a fake review.

How To Detect Fake Reviews?

  • Surface Level Reviews - If you have used a product or service, your reviews are going to be detailed and more in-depth. Fake reviews on the other hand are generic and focus on attributes of a product that can be picked up on without personally using it. For example, someone who genuinely used a new computer dock might describe it as “This docking station allowed me the ability to get the typical KVM and helped me switch my audio interface between computers as well”. A fake review might sound like “Great design! Best dock out there!”
  • Polarized Opinions - If the review system on your website or online marketplace comes with a rating system, then most often than not fake reviews will either carry a one- or five-star rating. The aim of illegal fake reviews is to either strongly persuade the public to buy a product, or to make sure they dissuade anyone from making that choice – there is no in between.
  • Exclamations and Exaggerations - According to a MIT research, repeated exclamation point usage is a key characteristic of reviewers who have never made a purchase. The reason why fake review providers use multiple exclamation points is because, like the polarized rating scale, it denotes heightened emotions being tied to the review. If carefully used, this deceptive tactic could work with individuals who relate it to the colloquial way we all speak online. If it isn’t used carefully though, it is a glaring giveaway of a review that is potentially fake.
  • Incorrect Spelling and Grammar - A lot of companies outsource their fake review services to countries where English is not the native language. In addition to questionable spelling and grammar, the use of colloquial English phrases that are natural in other countries around the world is a clear giveaway that a review might be fake.
  • Spike in Reviews - If all the reviews for a particular product or service have been written within a short frame of time, it can be because that is when a company hired the services of a fake review provider to provide fake reviews online.

Fake reviews affect business and credibility

Fake reviews affecting credibility became a huge sensation back in 2013 when Samsung was fined for paying people to negatively review HTC products. When this news broke out customers who were loyal Samsung users started to shift away from the brand for their disreputable competitive practises. Seven years on and multiple other fake review scandals later, individuals shopping online are highly vigilant of the reviews they see online.

While it’s easy to gain potential customer’s interest online, trust on the other hand is harder to gain in the e-commerce space. Especially for newer brands online, having a handful of reviews that can guide customers to make informed decisions will be more lucrative than spending thousands of dollars on advertising.

In February 2019, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) imposed a fine of $12.8 million on Cure Encapsulations Inc, a company selling weight-loss supplements on the Amazon Marketplace. The accusation? The company was found to be paying a third-party website to leave illegal fake reviews online. Though the monetary repercussions were gigantic, the biggest loss the company faced was in losing their ability to make weight-loss claims without clinical trials for every product they produced. We live in an era where the economy of trust is more important than ever – companies that don’t play along can suffer heavily.

Here’s What You Can Do to Provide Your Customers With The Best Shopping Experience:

  • A lot of websites and marketplaces offer the option of viewing the reviewer’s online profile. As mentioned above, word of mouth is the best way to create conversions online, as we are always looking for the opinions of our peers. Reward authentic content by providing badges or other online incentives that make your reviewers know you appreciate their honest reviews.
  • Provide your customers with both positive and negative reviews. A lot of times, the pressure to create a perfect online image can force brands to remove all negative comments – don’t do that. By displaying both the good and the bad, you are giving your customers the opportunity to weigh out the pros and cons before making a purchase.
  • Use ethical methods of procuring reviews like: adding rating and review widgets to your social media pages, using email marketing as a way to target customers who’ve made recent purchases, and transferring pen and paper reviews in brick and mortar stores to digital format. This extra effort put in by retailers will help gain the trust of your customers who will start to trust in your brand and see you as a reputable company.

It has become clear that retailers today are selling to a highly intelligent audience. Not only is it necessary for you to have the best product and great customer service, but you should be able to provide your customers with reviews that have been ethically sourced and that provide a fair representation of your offering. Companies like Revioly are spearheading this e-commerce initiative by providing customers a platform where they can provide insightful reviews that can add value to others shopping online. Procuring credible reviews that are in-depth and objective are necessary for SEO and to make you stand apart from your competition on online marketplaces like Etsy and Shopify. They also help to build brand loyalty amongst your shoppers.

With that being said, what are some ways your company has gone on to source fair reviews?

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