Businesses Violate Policies By Creating Fake Amazon Reviews
If you needed any proof of Amazon’s influence on our landscape (and I’m sure you don’t!), just turn to the publicity surrounding the validity (or lack thereof) of product views on the shopping website.
The Wall Street Journal. The New York Times. The nation’s largest media outlets have cast a spotlight on so-called Amazon fake product reviews aimed at influencing shoppers’ decision making.
These fake reviews are typically orchestrated by businesses looking for more public positive feedback. Businesses pay to create dummy accounts and then purchase products from Amazon in order to write glowing reviews.
That’s because by buying the products, the reviews are actually based on verified purchases (we won’t even talk about how companies pay 3rd-party review firms to write negative reviews on a competitor’s product).
Amazon has a history of attacking (and suing) these offenders, but in the end it’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole: get rid of one offender, only to see another one pop up.
Are You Getting Duped By Amazon Itself?
I want to tread carefully here, because like I mentioned above, Amazon does work hard to protect the integrity of its reviews.
Or, should I say, Amazon works hard to ensure 3rd-party sites aren’t impacting the integrity of its reviews, because, the way I see it, Amazon’s Vine program puts the entire validity of product reviews into question.
Amazon Vine – Amazon’s Most Trusted Reviewers
In case you’re not familiar, with Amazon’s Vine program, potential customers are vetted and given free (or heavily discounted) products to elicit honest feedback. A Vine review is identified with a green stripe; I suppose as a way to purport transparency.
Spin it how you want, but that sounds a lot like bribery to me, and here’s why that spells trouble for online retailers.
Sure, these are more ethical than paid-for-reviews, but getting a product for free is going to impact your view of that product.
- For example, when a vetted reviewer receives a free product, he/she is less likely to follow up if the product breaks.
- If the vetted reviewer didn’t actually purchase the product, they have no way of considering/factoring in the purchase and shipping process as part of the review
- It’s hard to view any experience as negative if you receive a product for free. In fact, you’ll be astounded how rare negative Vine reviews are (as well as reviews from similar programs such as ReviewKick and Amazon Review Trader)
I’m not saying that Vine reviewers are being dishonest. It’s more about unconscious positive bias resulting from being given products for free (or heavily discounted).
It’s human nature, and it’s not good for online retailers.
Customers are clearly influenced by the reviews they read. Even reviews that are required to have a disclaimer added (I received this item at a discount in exchange for my review) and aren’t marked as a verified purchaser can impact whether someone buys (or avoids) a product. Customers struggle to make a qualified decision when they’re stuck staring at hundreds of 5-star reviews (Vine or not) dripping with bias.
But Customers Aren’t The Only Ones Impacted …
While the Vine program (and related programs) are a bit more honest (I struggle to even use that term) sellers that pursue seedier avenues are doing a number to your sales.
That’s because sellers that receive a flurry of 5-star ratings within a short period will rise to the top of search results within their category…leaving honest sellers behind.
Clearly that’s not fair, although at the same time, honest sellers that receive a bunch of valid 5-star ratings should be rewarded – clearly they’re selling something in high demand.
And with the influx of questionable reviews, trust between consumer and brand is breaking down, at a time when it’s never been more important to establish trust with your customers.
Tools like FakeSpot.com are becoming go-to sites to help consumers spot fake reviews, but Fakespot isn’t foolproof.
So, As An Amazon Seller, What Can You Do To Fight Fake Reviews?
It can be frustrating to watch a virtual no-name seller shoot to the top of your category after receiving hundreds of 5-star reviews within a month…especially if you suspect foul play.
There are two significant ways to combat this:
- Establish a customer engagement system – This will take work at the onset, but then, when automated, can offer a great return for little investment. Establish a system company-wide where you email/contact previous customers, reminding them to leave reviews on your product. Email clients (Mailchimp, AWeber) allow you to create triggered, timed, automated emails based on actions and behaviors. You just have to craft the messaging to encourage response.
- You can also use services like Feedback Genius – Feedback Genius complies with Amazon’s policies and guidelines and provides tremendous customization to meet your needs (for example, you can create special templates for repeat buyers, or exclude them from receiving a message intended for first-time buyers)
In the end, I want to stress that this isn’t a losing battle, although at times it might seem like it. With persistence and a solid strategy in place, you can overcome these fake and iffy reviews and come out on top.
We’ve done it for countless clients, and we can do it for you. Contact us today to see what we can do to help you win – and keep winning – at the Amazon game.Need Help With Review Strategies on Amazon? Contact Us Today!