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How Can Fake Reviews Hurt Your Brand?

According to a Pew Research Center report, 82% of Americans read online reviews at least some of the time. While BrightLocalreports this number to be higher, 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Reviews help them form opinions quickly, as studies have shown that 68% include an idea after reading only 1 to 6 online reviews.

Needless to say, online reviews are essential to your business's success and encourage or discourage customers from purchasing your product or service.

In an era where everything can be faked, e-commerce sites such as Amazon, eBay, and many others are plagued with fake reviews that are causing customers to become more skeptical. The Washington Post revealed in an investigative piece that in some categories, the percentage of questionable reviews could go up to 67%!

As consumers are waking up to the reality of the internet they use daily, they are learning to identify genuine reviews from fake ones, thus avoiding products that seem to have too many suspicious reviews.

Here are five ways fake reviews can hurt your brand:

1. Fake reviews are illegal

Believe it or not, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) makes fake testimonials illegal in Section 5 of the FTC Act 15 U.S. Code § 45. The FTC considers a review fake if it is not based on a real customer's experience. A fake review is seen as deceptive advertising as it may mislead the customer, encouraging them to purchase a product or use a service under pretenses.

If a company or a person is caught engaging in fake reviews, every single one of their violations is subject to a $10,000 fine. Recently, the FTC has started implementing this law by bringing a case against an independent retail website that paid for fake reviews. To ensure endorsements and testimonials are up to the standards of the FTC and you won't get into legal trouble, they have issued this guide to help you learn more about this issue.

2. Consumers are smarter than you think

Consumers have become experts at spotting fake reviews, and many ignore the star rating in favor of reading the description that reviewers leave before deciding to buy the product. A suspiciously high star rating is alarming, and customers tend to steer away from products that are too good to be true.

In addition, customers are doing more research on other platforms, such as blogs and YouTube, where they can get expert opinions and detailed breakdowns of features away from written reviews on e-commerce sites. If the reviews on those sites do not match what experts say, customers will lose trust in the company and its products.

Honest negative reviews on your product page help customers weigh the pros and cons. Customers already know that products are hardly ever perfect and deserve an excellent 5-star rating. They are realistic and are not expecting flawless reviews. They read reviews to answer questions about the product to ensure it suits their needs. Many users start by reading one-star reviews to understand what customers hate about the product or service to determine if they buy it.

When a product's reviews are mostly fake, customers are more likely to research the product because they are more suspicious, which may lead to them not buying it.

3. You will lose credibility

Customers are becoming more vocal as social media platforms give them a stronger voice that reaches people beyond their networks. You better believe they will use this voice when they believe they are being scammed or taken advantage of. As they are better at spotting fake reviews, this increases the probability of exposing your practices. They will also encourage their friends to tell you, causing your reputation to take a massive hit. Once the word gets out that you are buying fake reviews to hype your product or service, your business's trust and credibility suffer. Once customers lose trust in your company, it will be tough to gain it back again.

4. Platforms will block your account

Several e-commerce platforms have instated policies that can suspend or ban sellers from using their media if they are found to be manipulating reviews and ratings. Amazon states, "If we determine that you have attempted to manipulate reviews or violated our guidelines in any other manner, we may immediately suspend or terminate your Amazon privileges, remove reviews, and delist related products."

Facebook and eBay have also started cracking down on accounts and groups engaged in trading fake reviews for money or incentives after receiving complaints from the U.K. antitrust regulator.

Amazon is even going much further than just banning sellers and accounts; according to TechCrunch, they have sued more than one thousand defendants who were found to provide or engage in fake reviews.

A. Amazon Vine

To battle fake reviews and gain trustworthy reviews for sellers, Amazon launched Amazon Vine. This internal service provides sellers unbiased reviews for their products from reliable reviewers with a high "reviewer rank," which Amazon calls "Vine Voices." A high "reviewer rank" means that a reviewer consistently submits honest feedback for products they have purchased on their site. Vine Voices are chosen by an invitation program and are determined by several criteria, most notably input from other customers about their reviews. You can learn more about joining the Amazon Vine Program as a seller here.

B. Revioly

Revioly is a market test platform that provides brand owners with early authentic reviews of their products by their target market. Revioly states that they strive to purify online reviews so that online shoppers can be confident about their choices. Brands can sign up for their service to receive honest and authentic feedback about their product as an Early Authentic Review Service (EARS). However, the company insists that you do not guarantee 5-star reviews for your products because its team of reviewers will review them fairly and truthfully. You can learn more about joining Revioly's review program as a brand here.

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