Last year, Amazon launched an attack against over 1,000 individuals who are offering their services of providing fake four and five star reviews on-line. The individuals had mainly used the website Fiverr.com to advertise their services but the site is not exclusive in offering such services. Facebook “likes” are so routine that most brands have Facebook pages. Many pages solicit ‘likes’ as entry to contests or other benefits, they are that important. Even travel sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Open Table provide reviews to help their visitors to select the best hotel or restaurant based on the reviews of authentic consumers.
As consumers, we know how often we rely on reviews on “likes” to help us determine the reliability of products or services being sold on-line. The Internet is a very competitive marketplace where price may not be enough to entice perspective buyers to select your product. The reviews took hold to assist the consumer by bringing testimonials about the product to the forefront. The consumer now had more that price to help them make the purchase decision.
These reviews have become so important that its no surprise that “counterfeit” favorable reviews and likes would become commonplace. So why the concern from Amazon? As an on-line retailer, Amazon is greatly concerned that fake favorable reviews will damage the credibility of their websites with consumers. In addition, what would stop sellers from posting negative reviews to divert consumers from competitors? The result in either case, is the negative impact to the consumers who rely on these reviews to help them make reliable purchase decisions. As with counterfeits, left unchecked, the credibility of the site can be greatly diminished.
Brand owners must also be wary of reviews as well. These may be postings on blog sites, third party selling sites and even their own websites. Positive or negative, if they are not authentic, the brand can be damaged and consumer confidence can be lost. The goodwill that has been earned is easily destroyed.
Counterfeiters and look alike brands use these strategies as well to divert consumers to their website. Claiming reviews of “bargains”, and “good values” can convince consumers to buy their products, which may be poor replicas of the authentic product that will also damage the goodwill and consumer loyalty that has been developed.
Unfortunately, “if it’s too good to be true, it mustn't be true” has become the first reaction of many consumers because of unearned favorable reviews and likes. What was originally an important way for brands and retailers to guide their customers the best products and service has now become a red flag for consumers.