Since the dawn of the Internet, people have been trying to be something they’re not. This cartoon from 1993 has always been one of my favorites, as it highlights the anonymity the Internet can provide.
With just a computer and an Internet connection, you can be anybody.
Unfortunately, brands are no exception when it comes to playing this game. Most of us have read product reviews at one time or another, which means most of us have noticed fake reviews. Despite the anonymous nature of product reviews, shoppers are smart. They can discern that an exaggerated and glowing review just doesn’t feel authentic.
The Crackdown on Fake Amazon Reviews
Amazon has been getting the message that nobody likes fake reviews, and they are finally taking steps to mitigate them. Beginning in April of 2015, Amazon started suing the websites that allowed fake reviewers to connect with sellers. Then, in October of 2015, they filed suit against thousands of fake reviewers and sellers themselves.
Fast forward to Q4 of 2016, and Amazon had filed another round of suits, this time focusing more on sellers and brands purchasing the fake reviews. But suing the parties involved isn’t their only mitigation strategy. They also changed their community guidelines, banning the offering of free or discounted product in exchange for a review. They are working on technology that will flag fake reviews so that action can be taken. And they have changed the default sorting of reviews so that those marked as “most helpful” will display first.
“The vast majority of reviews on Amazon are authentic, helping millions of customers make informed buying decisions every day.”
This is what an Amazon spokesperson told TechCrunch while also mentioning that they will work tirelessly to remove fake reviews.
3 Reasons Fake Reviews Don’t Work Anyway, So Just Stop
While Amazon continues its crusade, it should be noted that fake reviews don’t work anyway. So brands and sellers should just stop. Here are three reasons:
- First, research shows that purchase likelihood spikes at 4.5 stars. That’s right, 4.5, not a perfect 5 stars. That’s because users like to weigh the pros with the cons and make their own decision. They don’t care if there are a few negative aspects about a product, as long as the product fulfills their need. They find the reviews incredulous if they seem too perfect.
- Second, too many glowing reviews can increase return rates because they over inflate expectations. Once the product is being used, if that 5-star perfection that was hailed in the reviews is not met, disappointment can set in. This means products get returned, to the tune of $642 billion worth of merchandise each year.
- Finally, it’s just the wrong thing to do. Buying fake reviews is unethical and does not help you truly improve as a company. Brands should seek to provide content and reviews that allow a consumer to make the right choice and have clear expectations. If those expectations are not met, the problem should go to product development.