They say money can buy anything, and that includes positive reviews for your product.
However, Amazon is suing 1,114 “John Does” who have written ‘false’ product reviews via the site fiverr.com. Amazon prides itself not only for product being shipped quickly but also for having the largest number of product reviews, legitimate reviews. Amazon even verifies the reviewer, so other customers know that review is authentic.
What is wrong with fake product reviews? Is it any different than paying a celebrity to endorse a product they never use? Or what about sending free products to trendsetters in exchange for a review? The real difference is people tend to trust consumer generated product reviews over other types of product endorsements. They believe they are reading reviews from consumers who have purchased a product and are now supplying true feedback.
Many businesses spend tons of money on traditional advertising – TV, radio, and print. More and more of these businesses are realizing that product reviews are what really matters. A recent study shows that more than 70% of consumers are influenced by product reviews. So, it makes sense to want to pad these reviews. At a rate of $5 per post it is an effective financial option for less ethical companies.
Deterring fake product reviews is an ongoing problem for Amazon. In April, Amazon first went after the specific sites creating the bogus reviews, most of which are now shut down. Now, Amazon is taking aim at the individuals writing the reviews.
This situation brings me back to the Napster days. Napster was one of the first online music sharing sites where one person could upload a song and another could download the same song, all for free. What could be better than free music for all!?
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) had a lot of issues with royalties not being paid and new music being shared before release dates. The RIAA first sued the creators of Napster and shut the site down. However, as creative programmers and music listeners found other methods of sharing music for free, the RIAA started to go after the specific music downloaders. Law suits ranging from $3000 – $150,000 per song were targeting any and all perpetrators, including a 12 year-old girl from New York.
Being paid to post reviews may not be as criminal as Napster and in many ways is no different than traditional forms of product marketing, but Amazon knows the value of their customer reviews and that they drive business. If Amazon is taking product reviews this seriously, CEO’s, brand managers, new product developers are taking note and sure to follow.