Building trust in the time of fake online reviews
Online reviews matter more than ever before.
Did you know online product reviews were born in the late 1990s, around the same time as camera phones? But unlike camera phones, online reviews
haven’t evolved much since then. Yet they’re more important than ever considering the recent explosion of e-commerce and the fact that 95% of
consumers read them before buying.
It’s no wonder fake reviews are on the rise.
With search rankings affected by reviews, too, some sellers feel pressure to manipulate their rankings with phonies. Amazon in particular has proven
unable to keep up with this kind of fraud, which has led to declining trust in online reviews overall, as covered by the likes of CNBC, New York Times, Forbes and Ad Age. Fake review methods include:
Unscrupulous sellers find a SKU no longer sold on Amazon, steal the reviews and add them to their own listings. Never mind that the comments have nothing to do with their products. They get to launch with 10,000 4-star reviews. But consumers who read deeper see that the comments about those newfangled headphones are actually for an out-of-business bug zapper.
FACEBOOK GROUP FRAUD
According to analysis from Harvard Business Review, as many as 4.5 million Amazon sellers sourced fake reviews through Facebook groups over the last year. They recruit people to buy a lower-priced product ($15-$40), tell them what to write in their reviews and compensate them for the product and the review.
Sneaky sellers buy their own products and ship them to unwitting recipients at any known address so their reviews can receive a “verified purchase” status. Verified purchases get more weight in the Amazon system, so any money lost on the purchases can be made back over time due to higher search listings.
Amazon has thousands of employees devoted to reducing fraud. Yet they tend to only catch and delete about 40% of false reviews and it takes them an average 100+ days after a review is posted to remove it.1 By then, brief sales boosts due to false reviews have likely faded as consumers have gotten wise and their reviews have followed suit.