Amazon.com

News broke this week of Amazon’s plans to sue over 1,000 people who have written or offered to write fake reviews of products sold on their site. In particular, Amazon has targeted those who offer their ‘fake review’ service on Fiverr.com, an online labour exchange.

It’s not the first time action has been taken against fake reviewers either, in the last six months, TripAdvisor has said it had closed almost 30 businesses dedicated to posting fake reviews, with dozens more to come.

What this means for the future of online reviews

Nowadays, consumers look much further than the retailers’ descriptions and specifications of their products, they look to their fellow consumers.

There’s no doubt about, reviews are increasing in influence by the day – research has revealed that 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a business, and 88% also said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

In research published by Econsultancy, it was revealed that 63% of customers are more likely to purchase from a site which has user reviews.

Reviews are so valuable that there’s a whole system devoted to faking them. There’s even strategies dedicated to creating joke reviews so that they’ll go viral. So, what does the future hold for real and genuine reviews when so many false ones are undermining their credibility?

Retailers and review sites certainly have a responsibility to weed out the fake reviews, they’re getting much savvier at being able to automatically identify them and this can only continue to improve.

But retailers also need to be encouraging more positive reviews – not only will it help their own online profile and improve sales, but the more genuine reviews there are out there, the less influence the fake ones have.

Not only are the review sites getting more sophisticated at monitoring reviews; but consumers are also becoming much more aware of the differences between a genuine and a fake review.

Research has shown that consumers are actually less inclined to believe a five-star review over a three or four-star review, consumers are becoming sceptical of glowing reviews and actually tend to scan reviews for the negative ones.

Consumers are also able to identify the language and tone used in negative reviews to determine how much influence they play in their purchasing decision.

With both retailers and consumers getting savvier at spotting fake reviews, the influence of genuine reviews is only set to rise.

What can companies do if they spot a fake review?

 Firstly, if it’s a negative review, make sure you respond to it and offer to sort whatever issue they’re having. It could be genuine and if it is, research has shown that those consumers who leave a negative review and then are offered to experience the value of the brand – whether it’s increased loyalty points, a small discount – actually increase spending by 58%.

If you strongly suspect it’s fake and it’s negative, use the help links on whatever review site it’s on and ask for it to be reviewed for authenticity.

Thanks to the Competition & Markets Authority investigation which launched earlier this year, retailers and review sites have to step up their efforts to identify and verify fake reviews, so it’s likely that if you report a fake review, it’ll be taken down.

Secondly, it’s important that you have a review strategy in place. Encouraging positive reviews from genuine customers will not only influence sales, but it’ll help to lessen the influence the fake and negative reviews have.

Ultimately, this is a consumer’s world; your business has to be consumer-focused and this will be reflected online. Reviews are here to stay, and with £23 billion a year of UK spending influenced by reviews, you need a review strategy sooner rather than later.