Fake reviews have always been an issue, but online forums and internet shopping have created an environment where a review can be seen and shared around the world and can make or break a business.
Now, in the age of #fakenews, consumers are more aware of the issue than ever before. They are realising that they need to become more discerning when it comes to what they believe on social media.
How are review sites managing this?
Any site that uses customer reviews finds itself in the difficult situation of needing to balance two issues.
1. People must be able to trust the reviews they read.
TripAdvisor, for example, was founded on the motto “get the truth and go”. Its brand relies on people believing the reviews, so it must root out the fake ones.
Research by Brightlocal found that 91% of 18-34 year-olds trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from people they know. Of course, there is always the odd Amazon or TripAdvisor review that goes viral for its humor (who remembers Bic for Her pens?) but if left unchecked, fake reviews can become a real issue for a business. If I don’t trust that product reviews are genuine, why should I buy your product?
2. Reviewers need to be able to trust that the site won’t censor their opinion
As The Guardian points out, sometimes genuine reviews are removed when review sites and online stores try to root the fake ones out. As people often complain about very serious issues (such as theft and assault) this can be a real problem.
It also impacts the level of trust people have in the site. A person who’s outraged that their genuine (but critical) review has been deleted often won’t stay silent.
They go to Twitter and Facebook. They’ll talk about their experience elsewhere and tell people that the review site cannot be trusted; that they are in the pocket of corporations and censoring people’s posts – further undermining people’s trust in the review system.
How brands can meet consumer demands
Truth and transparency will be major consumer demands in 2019 as people become more conscious of the content they read, share and believe. We’ll probably see more examples of consumers calling brands and businesses out and doubting the veracity of reviews that look too good, or terrible, to be true.
To combat this, businesses need to continually create and support trust in the brand and its values. On a more practical level, this includes ensuring that review guidelines are in place and posted prominently on the site, and that there’s a way of showcasing experienced and helpful reviewers.