In the e-commerce aftermath of Prime Day 2019, some consumers may be suffering from buyer’s remorse, wondering whether they were duped into purchasing seemingly stellar products by fake reviews.
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone.
For context, fake or inauthentic reviews are online reviews submitted by shoppers who never actually purchased the product or who were incentivized to provide reviews. And according to Fakespot, an online service dedicated to determining the reliability of reviews, 61% of reviews for electronics on Amazon are inauthentic. That startling statistic, coupled with the findings of a recent Sift survey that found more than two-thirds (71%) of consumers believe that all consumer products and services need to include customer reviews on company websites, means fake reviews are a problem that shouldn’t be ignored.
How do sellers solicit fake reviews?
Unscrupulous sellers will often incentivize shoppers to post positive reviews in exchange for free products or money. This type of arrangement isn’t relegated to deep corners of the Dark Web. In fact, Facebook is cracking down on private and public groups that are used to solicit incentivized reviews but the problem persists as new review marketplaces pop up as soon as others are taken down.
There are two primary types of fake reviews:
Boosting is when online sellers, someone they incentivized with free products, or a professional firm they hired will write a positive review of their product.
The flipside of Boosting is Vandalism, where the sellers themselves, or a professional firm they hired, will write a negative review of a competitor’s product.
The impact of fake reviews
With more than two-thirds (71%) of consumers believing all products and services should have reviews, and nearly 85% of shoppers saying they trust online reviews as much as a recommendation of a friend, the impact of fake reviews is substantial for companies and consumers.
And with 50% of businesses expecting content abuse – which includes fraudulent reviews – to increase over the next 12 months, it is only a matter of time before both businesses and consumers are directly affected by fake reviews.
Who is affected by fake reviews?
While anyone who shops online could potentially fall victim to fake reviews, the way in which they affect certain groups of people varies.
According to a recent survey commissioned by Sift that polled 1,000 consumers in the U.S. ages 18 and above, Generation Z (people born between 1995 and 2015) relies heavily on online reviews, with 79% consulting reviews before making any purchase. And like Millennials (1980 – 1994), Gen Z will often consult reviews for restaurants and apparel before making a buying decision.
Generation X (1965 – 1979) is more skeptical than other age brackets, with 87% believing that fraudulent reviews are an issue yet still use them when deciding on what to buy.
The estimated 74 million Baby Boomers (1944 – 1964) in the United States are the least forgiving when it comes to misleading reviews, with 53% stating they will never purchase a product again if they were convinced by an inauthentic review.
And both Gen X and Baby Boomers rely on reviews when shopping, specifically when purchasing electronics or planning their next big trip.
Fake reviews may seem trivial at first glance, but the potential damage to brand loyalty, trust, and a business’ bottom line is anything but.
Joe Vignolo is the Director of Content Marketing at Sift, specializing in authentic storytelling that connects and converts. Before joining Sift, he ran content at Outreach and Datanyze and was an award-winning broadcast journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He also believes Point Break (the original) is a shining example of American cinema.
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