Many fake online reviews are, however, a lot more sinister in nature. With over three-quarters (78%) of online Americans relying on online reviews in their purchasing decisions, it’s no wonder that companies are doing everything they can to ensure that their own products and services are written about in more favorable terms than those of their competitors. Unfortunately, for the consumer, the rewards of a sterling online reputation have led to an increase in shady practices designed to part the review-seeking public from their money:
- New York State recently fined 19 companies for their connection with fraudulent reviews on the Internet.
- Online reviewers are often motivated by incentives rather than a selfless desire to help their fellow Internet users make good consumer choices. A professional ‘reviewer’ can make $100 per review.
- Yelp deems that up to a quarter of its reviews are “suspicious” and, along with Google, is constantly developing its algorithm to filter out the multitude of unreliable reviews that are submitted to the site every day.
So how do marketers assess if their online product and service reviews are contributing to the bottom-line? Here are some pointers on what consumers look for when seeking impartial information before making a purchase:
- Stars! The addition of an extra star in a restaurant’s Yelp rating can translate to a 5 to 9 percent rise in revenue (Michael Luca, Assistant Professor at Harvard Business School).
- At least a little criticism. “No one trusts all positive reviews,” (John McAteer, Google’s Retail Industry Director).
- Critical mass. Products with the highest number of reviews are shown to outsell competing products (Sam Decker, Chief Marketing Officer of Bazaarvoice, a firm that powers review systems for online retailers).
- A verified source. As provided by social media sites such as Facebook (Edgar Dworsky, Consumer World).
- A reputable review site. Larger and more established sites (such as TripAdvisor and Zagat) are perceived as more trustworthy than newer and smaller sites (Ayaz Nanji, marketingprofs.com).