eCommerce Insiders

Fake Online Ratings: 4 Reasons They Make Companies Look Foolish

What used to be an accessible way for consumers to gain input on products and services they’re about to purchase has become a marker across a wide variety of industries.

In fact, the rating stars have become a brand in of themselves, and there’s good reason for this.

Econsultancy published an article last year that says it best:

User reviews are proven sales drivers, and something the majority of customers will want to see before deciding to make a purchase…

…There have been so many positive recommendations of the value of reviews for ecommerce, that the case doesn’t really need to be made anymore, though I’ll make it again anyway.

Quite simply, user reviews increase conversions. They can eliminate any doubts potential customers may have about a product, or can help product selection

And not only do online reviews assist with driving conversions, but they also assist with driving organic traffic via search engine queries.

Search engine spiders like unique content that is regularly updated, and user reviews are a great way to attract more content.

When many ecommerce sites just use the same standard manufacturer descriptions and product specifications, user-generated content can differentiate a product page in the search results.

This is important as it makes pages more useful to customers, and also increases the chance of ranking highly in the SERPs.

TrustPilot produced a whitepaper titled, How Customers Use Reviews Today. In it, the company makes the case for why reviews are becoming increasingly crucial. Here’s some hard stats they provide:

Half of the consumers surveyed cited overall rating (e.g 4 out of 5 stars) as the most important factor they considered when reading online reviews. After all, the overall rating is a high-level, easy-to-understand aggregation of a company’s feedback.

But there’s also a case to be made for the recency and volume of reviews: 20% of consumers indicated that how recently the reviews were posted was the most important factor for them, and another 20% said that they considered the number of reviews posted to be most relevant.

When it comes to the content of reviews, online shoppers are looking for quality products and great customer service: 88% of respondents claimed phrases relating to product quality were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ important, and 82% of respondents placed the same amount of importance on comments pertaining to customer service and support.

Consumers also want to see that companies are delivering products and services in a timely manner, and staying engaged with their customers: 68% of consumers say that references to speed of delivery are important considerations when reading reviews, and 79% of consumers want to see companies responding to negative reviews.

But with all of this said, there’s a dark-underbelly that has formed due to the importance place upon online reviews:

The emergence of fake reviews

Fake reviews are just as they sound. They are reviews that aren’t generated organically by previous customers. These are reviews that are often purchased from content agencies. Smaller entities like local property management firms (in charge of managing rental properties) often reward current tenants in exchange for the tenants offering glowing reviews of their living experience on the property, just to mention one example.

Why do companies do this? It’s simple! Higher rewards lead to more revenue generated, more brand recognition, and often, they lead to higher placement within search engine query results. But as one might imagine, there are dire consequences involved when companies resort to fake online reviews.

Here’s four consequences that arise from this dishonest tactic:

They spur consumers to spend money they might not have, otherwise

As mentioned earlier, a great deal of consumers consult online reviews before making a purchase. Obviously, the higher the reviews a product or service generates, the more a consumer will trust it and invest in the purchase of it.

The problem is, the customer is making a financial investment based upon fraudulent information, and they’re often left to realize for themselves after receiving the merchandise or after they use the service.

They place profit above customer satisfaction

Bottom line: Any company that uses fake reviews in order to generate more money is placing profit above customer satisfaction. To be plain, this is the type of company that couldn’t care less about customer satisfaction, as long as the numbers look good.

They can place consumers in harm’s way

Even worse, consumers have been placed in harm’s way after trusting a business based upon falsified positive reviews.

Think of the family who contacted food poisoning after trying out a new restaurant, based upon positive reviews. Think of the hotel traveler who trusted a travel/hotel review site, only to suffer bed bug bites, and other unsanitary conditions. And think of the customer who bought a kitchen utensil or tool, only to have the item cause them bodily harm.

They’re grossly unethical

Eventually, the truth comes to light. Either enough angry consumers will complain on a variety of platforms, or a major publication will publish a feature intended to take fraudulent reviews down. Then, the business associated with all of this will not only lose business, but they’ll earn an unethical reputation, ruining their business brand.

They’re an admission of guilt

Finally, fake reviews in their own way are an admission of guilt. Because let’s face it:

Why else would a business need to resort to fraudulent activity unless they were afraid that their product or service had no merit?

Terri is a content marketing storyteller and strategist. She teaches marketing and entrepreneurship through stories for marketers of all stripes. Her specialty is creating narrative and she writes essays and memoir in her spare time.

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