According to a Pew Research Center report, 82% of Americans say they read online reviews at least some of the time. While BrightLocal reports this number to be higher with 91% of people regularly or occasionally reading online reviews and 84% trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews help them to form opinions quickly as studies have shown that 68% of them form an opinion after reading only 1 to 6 online reviews.
Needless to say, online reviews are important to the success of your business and in encouraging or discouraging customers from purchasing your product or service.
In the era where everything can be faked, e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay and may others are plagued with fake reviews that are causing customers to become more skeptical. The Washington Post revealed in an investigative piece than in some categories, the percentage of questionable reviews can go up to 67%!
As consumers are waking up to the reality of the internet that they use on a daily basis, they are learning to identify the real reviews from the fake ones, thus avoiding products that seem to have too many suspicious reviews.
Here are 5 ways fake reviews can hurt your brand:
1. Fake reviews are illegal
Believe it or not, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) makes fake testimonials illegal in Section 5 of the FTC Act 15 U.S. Code § 45. The FTC considers a review to be fake if it is not based on the experience of a real customer. A fake review is seen as deceptive advertising as it may mislead the customer, encouraging them to purchase a product or use a service under false pretenses.
If a company or a person is caught engaging in fake reviews, every single one of their violations is subject to a $10,000 fine. Recently, the FTC has started implementing this law by bringing a case against an independent retail website that paid for fake reviews. In order to ensure endorsements and testimonials are up to the standards of the FTC and you won’t get into legal trouble, they have issued this guide to help you learn more about this issue.
2. Consumers are smarter than you think
Consumers have become experts at spotting fake reviews and many of them ignore the star rating all together in favor of reading the description that reviewers leave before they decide on buying the product. A suspiciously high star rating is alarming, and customers tend to steer away from products that are too good to be true.
In addition to that, customers are doing more research on other platforms such as blogs and YouTube where they can get expert opinions and detailed breakdown of features away from written reviews on e-commerce sites. If the reviews on those sites do not match what experts are saying, customers will lose trust in the company and its products.
Honest negative reviews on your product page helps customers weigh the pros and cons. Customers already know that products are hardly-ever perfect and are actually deserving of a perfect 5-star rating. They are realistic and are not expecting flawless reviews. They read reviews to answer questions that they have about the product to make sure it suits their needs. Many users start by reading the one-star reviews to understand what customers hated about the product or service in order to determine if they buy it or not.
When a product’s reviews are mostly fake, customers are more likely to do more research about the product because they are more suspicious, which may lead to them not buying the product.
3. You will lose credibility
Customers are becoming more vocal as social media platforms gives them a stronger voice that reaches people beyond their networks, and you better believe that they will use this voice when they believe they are being scammed or taken advantage of. As they are better at spotting fake reviews, this increases the probability of exposing your practices. Once the word gets out that you are buying fake reviews to hype your product or service, your business’s trust and credibility suffers. They will encourage their friends to expose you as well causing your reputation to take a massive hit. Once customers lose trust in your company, it will be very hard to gain it back again.
4. Platforms will block your account
Several e-commerce platforms have instated policies that can suspend or ban sellers from using their platforms if they are found to be manipulating reviews and ratings. Amazon states that “If we determine that you have attempted to manipulate reviews or violated our guidelines in any other manner, we may immediately suspend or terminate your Amazon privileges, remove reviews, and delist related products.”
Facebook and eBay have also started cracking down on accounts and groups that are engaged in trading fake reviews for money or incentives after receiving complaints from the U.K. antitrust regulator.
Amazon is even going much further than just banning sellers and accounts, according to TechCrunch, they have sued more than one thousand defendants who were found to provide or engage in fake reviews.
5. Higher ratings will result in higher return rate
When a customer purchases a highly rated product, they automatically have higher expectations about the product. Once they try it out, they are more likely to get disappointed from the over-hyped review and therefore they are more likely to return it.
In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review, they concluded that “overly positive reviews inflate customer expectations about the product (that’s why they buy it), customers can experience greater disappointment upon receiving the item if it doesn’t live up to its rave reviews. This then leads more people to send the product back.” They found that overly positive reviews increase the likelihood of product return by around 10%. This not only results in a decrease in profits and return costs associated, but as Ecommerce BrainTrust reports, Amazon will take down the product page of any product with a return dissatisfaction rate higher than 10%.
So, it is very clear now that purchasing fake reviews is not the best way to increase your sales and get feedback from your customers. But are there legal ways where you can increase verified honest reviews that will increase your company’s credibility?
The answer is yes. And here are two of the ways you can receive legitimate reviews from customers who try your product.
A. Amazon Vine
To battle fake reviews and gain trustworthy reviews for sellers, Amazon launched Amazon Vine, an internal service that provides sellers with unbiased reviews for their products from reliable reviewers with a high “reviewer rank” which Amazon calls “Vine Voices”. Having a high “reviewer rank” means that a reviewer is consistently submitting honest feedback for products that they have purchased on their site. Vine Voices are chosen by an invitation program and are determined by several criteria, most notably feedback from other customers about their reviews. You can learn more about joining the Amazon Vine Program as a seller here.
Revioly is a market test platform that provides brand owners with early authentic reviews of their products, by their actual target market. Revioly states that they strive to purify online reviews, so that online shoppers can be confident about their choices. Brands can sign up for their service to receive honest and authentic feedback about their product as an Early Authentic Review Service (EARS). However, the company insists that do not guarantee 5-star reviews for your products because their team of reviewers will review them in a fair and truthful manner. You can learn more about joining Revioly’s review program as a brand here.