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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : July 24, 2015

Expert: Why inflated reviews are worse than fake reviews

The online review space is a tricky one. Customers rely on reviews to find out about products prior to purchase. The problem comes when brands pay for positive reviews or when reviews that aren't necessarily accurate are inflated.

by Kristina Knight

Kristina: Why are inflated product reviews worse than fake reviews?

Mark Spoonauer, Editor in Chief, Tom's Guide & Laptop Mag: While fake user reviews can be damaging to consumers, inflated reviews are worse because tech publishers need to be held to a higher standard. Not being honest about a rating relative to the pros and cons and criticisms you point out in the rest of the review is a violation of trust. You're forcing the shopper to read between the lines when they shouldn't have to.

Kristina: How important is it for brands to ensure their accurate product reviews are being seen?

Mark: Brands typically cherry-pick the most favorable quotes from reviews to help sell their products, and I don't take issue with that. Often these quotes are licensed by the vendor from the publisher. However, manufacturers sometimes decide not to link to the full review from the citation, and I wish more would to provide a more complete picture.

Kristina: Tell us how you keep accurate reviews 'in view' so that customers see reliable information about these products/services?

Mark: For us it's about quality control. If an editor is reading a review and the rating doesn't match up with what we're saying in the review - either positive or negative - that immediately raises a flag and triggers a dialog with the writer. We also always discuss the rating for a given product before it goes live, as well as whether the device deserves to be considered for an Editors' Choice award. We need to agree that a product is truly best of breed and beats its closes competitors before bestowing such a designation. By the same token, if we ultimately wouldn't recommend the product to someone we know (a good litmus test), we would also discuss whether it should receive 2.5 stars or below.

Kristina: What is driving the inflated review eco-system?

Mark: Part of the issue is that some editors feel as though they need to inflate the rating so as to maintain the relationship with manufacturers so that they can continue receiving products for review. Or there might be pressure to curry favor with vendors who are advertising partners. Ultimately, tech reviewers have a responsibility to provide an honest assessment of products. Companies we work with have inquired about negative ratings, but they always appreciate the feedback.

More from Mark next week, including how brands can ensure their accurate reviews are being seen.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: ecommerce, fake reviews, inflated reviews, Mark Spoonauer, online reviews

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