• Amit Relan

Fake Reviews Are Destroying the Trust in the Digital Retail Ecosystem





In 2019, 50% of consumers agreed that they always relied on reviews and ratings before making a final buying decision. According to a report, 48% of Indians bought products under the fashion category after reading ratings and reviews.



Our research reveals that the proportion of fake reviews on popular e-commerce websites is ‘one-third’ of the total volume of reviews. Misleading and fake reviews violate consumers’ rights under the Consumer Protection Act 2019, which states that consumers have the right to be informed about the price, purity, quality, potency, quantity, or standard of goods or services.

Another source revealed that Amazon has more than 1.8 million unverified reviews, with a five-star rating for 99.6 percent of them. Therefore, nearly all brands on the eCommerce marketplace have a higher reliance on unverified reviews and mislead the consumer towards the brand.

Reviews have the ability to drastically impact the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results, which inevitably skews the discoverability of the product on eCommerce search engines. Zero negative reviews means that the brand has achieved eutopia and no longer faces problems from its consumers, which is impossible to achieve. But that is just one part of the story.

The impact of fake positive reviews also impacts the discoverability of products on e-commerce platforms. In fact, product listings with higher (fake) positive reviews often become more discoverable to consumers on ecommerce searches, which is a problem eCommerce marketplaces have failed to resolve.

Another prerogative of fake reviews is that people making buying decisions feel that the feedback is biased. According to Statista, 38% of consumers felt that the products have a positive bias on eCommerce platforms. It was also the biggest proportion of buyers evaluated before the 2019 pre-festive season in India.

A mixture of positive and negative reviews is often found on genuine product listings. Negative reviews are as important as positive reviews, as they display brand authenticity, revoke bias, and help consumers make a sound decisions after weighing the cons with the pros of the products on ecommerce platforms.

According to a source, 14.6% global consumers read more than ten reviews before making a final buying decision. The penetration of fake reviews into the digital retail ecosystem not only violates the customer’s informed decision making right under the EU’s unfair commercial practice directive, but also, impacts their final purchase decision.

In India, as well, the government is set to bring in a strong framework that will ensure a detailed examination of reviews and ratings to keep the consumers safe. After scanning 223 eCommerce websites, the government body could not predict the authenticity of R&R of 144 websites. The dilemma lies in not being able to predict/reveal whether legitimate consumers are the contributors of R&R.

The state of ratings and reviews is also becoming perplexed with the intervention of influencers. Brands ask for a video and written reviews from influencers on eCommerce marketplaces in exchange for their product, which further pollutes the credibility of R&R in general.

The brand/sellers have gone a step ahead by compensating people with $5-$10 commission, reimbursing product purchase cost, fees, and taxes for an authentic five-star review. According to a report, Facebook groups have become a prominent source for recruiting people to submit fake reviews. It resulted in an average 12.5% increase in sales.


How Can Brands Spot Fake Reviews?

Today, monitoring and reporting false feedback on product listings is possible through the following methods:

Evaluate the User Profile: False reviewers often tend to copy-paste their feedback for multiple product variants. Therefore, evaluating the user profile helps to find instances of similar reviews and ratings in favor or against specific brands.

Sight Repetitive Mention of the Brand Name: Another red flag to spot fake reviewers is examining whether the feedback mentions the brand name multiple times. In most instances, the reviewer is either appreciating or diminishing the brand reputation by targeting the 'brand name.' Such reviews may not offer a true experience and could have been falsely created.

Service Providers: Unfortunately, there are companies providing fake review services which are operating openly. Brands use their services to create negative reviews for competition and positive reviews for their own products. This defeats the whole purpose of maintaining the much required trust and transparency in the digital retail space. Ideally, the government should clamp them down.

Behavior Analysis: Marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and others often have two forms of reviewers, namely, verified and unverified. Generally, fake reviews are usually associated unverified profiles. Their behaviour would reveal that they visit a product page and leave instantly after submitting their feedback. They could also leave multiple reviews in different time frames using multiple unverified profiles.

Conclusion

Today, the government has understood the impact of fake reviews on online shoppers and eCommerce platforms. Their sheer step into the forefront for vetting the authenticity of the reviews and ratings is a clear sign of making drastic changes in the digital retail ecosystem in this regard.

Eliminating company’s offering fake review service or eliminating paid reviewers may be a stepping stone, but the real change will happen when brands understand the importance of unbiased reviews by genuine reviewers or people with verified profiles.

The change will happen when brands become proactive and continuously eliminate illegitimate R&R’s from the digital retail ecosystem.

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