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BizReport : Ecommerce : January 06, 2021


Brands: What to do about fake reviews

Fake reviews are nothing new on Amazon. In fact, some merchants pay for reviews, not caring about their legitimacy. The problem is that consumers are getting better at spotting fake reviews, and they don't like it when fakes are found. Most merchants would likely agree that fake reviews aren't a help to them, but what can they do about fake reviews hitting their products?

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: Why are fake reviews only now being seen as a big issue for e-commerce?

Tom McFadyen, CEO, McFadyen Digital: Reviews play an increasingly influential factor in the customer buying process. Unfortunately, fake reviews are more prominent than ever, so it's become more challenging to manage them at scale. Think about it: Hundreds of millions of products are on ecommerce sites, and many of those products have hundreds or thousands of reviews each. So how do you manage the authenticity of billions of reviews? Many marketplaces will use automation and artificial intelligence to help make the decision between a real or fake review, but the problem is bigger than just identifying the authenticity of these reviews. Sellers can get kicked off of a marketplace for fake reviews they didn't post, and while there is a process to appeal, it's like speaking into a void to get re-listed - meaning that sellers could be missing out on weeks or months of product sales. In fact, some unscrupulous sellers will post obviously fake reviews on a competitor's listings to get their competitor suspended from selling. The challenge really just comes down to the sheer volume of fake reviews.

Kristina: What is the draw, for some, in getting these large numbers of reviews that clearly aren't accurate?

Tom: There's a two-pronged answer here. If a seller is posting fake but positive reviews to their product pages, that inflates the customer ratings that shoppers typically rely on. In fact, 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase. However, this is not an ethical way to boost ratings. Offering customers an incentive, like a coupon or promo code, can entice shoppers to leave a positive review on their own, if the marketplaces allow this practice.

Sellers will also leave fake reviews on their competitors' pages to help weed out the competition. Whether it's leaving obviously fake positive reviews to try and get them kicked off the marketplace or leaving realistic-looking negative reviews to prevent buyers from purchasing the products, the intent is to help your business out by taking out the competition. And fake negative reviews can be extremely impactful: negative reviews can stop about 40% of buyers from wanting to buy a product.

Kristina: What can merchants and marketers do to cut down on fake reviews?

Tom: While much of this is, unfortunately, outside of the merchants' control, there are a few things to keep in mind. Be vigilant of your listings: Is there anything out of the ordinary, like an onslaught of new reviews, both positive and negative? Communicate any suspensions with the marketplace platform directly to get ahead of the issue -- It helps if you can figure out the backend channels to get in touch with the right people more quickly, too.

Think of it like spam email. There isn't much you can do to stop the emails from coming, but with some automation tools and a close human eye, sellers can get better at spotting an influx of fake reviews or suspicious activity.

Kristina: What should sites like Amazon and other mass retailers do to cut down on fake reviews?

Tom: Marketplace platforms like Amazon should heavily leverage automation to help cut down on these fake reviews, using machine learning to identify patterns that signal suspicious activity. Using data and analytics to see patterns in locations, times, IP addresses and activity frequency can help identify problematic users. Repeat offenders can be banned, shutting down the creation of these inauthentic reviews. Fraud identification techniques for ecommerce transactions and a dedicated team to manually search for discrepancies are also important to leverage. Marketplaces also need to staff a seller support team to address seller concerns, such as unjustified suspension.

Going back to the email spam example, Amazon implementing automation measures would be similar to Google's algorithm for identifying spam email and keeping it out of your inbox. In a perfect world, marketplace automation would prevent reviews from hitting sellers' pages.

Kristina: Can we get to the point that there are no fake reviews or is it enough to get to the point that fake reviews do not outnumber real reviews?

Tom: We'll probably eliminate fake reviews around the same time that we completely eliminate spam email or credit card fraud - a long time from now, if ever. As marketplaces and sellers get better at stopping fake reviews, the better the unscrupulous black hat actors will get at posting them. An old military saying provides the perfect analogy: "For every measure, there is a countermeasure, and for every countermeasure, there is a counter-countermeasure, ad infinitum." However, it's possible for us to reduce them through the measures mentioned above. More than this, it's important for sellers and marketplaces to communicate often to identify and diminish the number of fake reviews and to support the good sellers.






Tags: advertising, ecommerce, ecommerce reviews, fake reviews, fraudulent reviews, McFadyen Digital








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