With any competitive landscape, people will do whatever they can to come out on top, even if it means breaking the rules.
Yesterday, I talked briefly about fake engagement on Amazon, specifically with regard to click farms, outlining how brands and sellers are spending money to artificially boost their search rankings and reviews. As the result of fierce competition to boost rankings on the Amazon marketplace, fake engagement has been a long-standing issue for Amazon. There is debate surrounding the volume of artificial reviews — according to an article by NPR, auditors such as Fakespot and ReviewMeta believe that over 50 percent of reviews on specific top-selling products are fabricated. Amazon, on the other hand, claims that “less than 1 percent” are inauthentic, although “sometimes individual products have more suspicious activity.”
Writing fake reviews isn’t simply a click farm operation — companies are recruiting individuals across the US and other countries to write seemingly real reviews for brands and sellers. NPR outlines the story of Travis, a teenager living in the Northeast, who has been writing and soliciting fake reviews for money. Travis has personally experienced the negative impact of fake reviews — after finding a highly reviewed safety lock for his rifle on Amazon, he noted that it was “cheap plastic” and would “pull apart as soon as you give it any force.” After writing reviews himself, he is certain the reviews on his safety lock were artificial.
How brands can compete
Buying fake reviews is not a good strategy, particularly for established brands. Fabricated reviews often bolster low-price, poor-quality products that otherwise wouldn’t find success in e-commerce, and encourage little-to-no brand loyalty. If this weren’t enough, Amazon goes out of its way to identify, remove, or devalue suspicious reviews, and since a change to their community guidelines in 2016, has sued over 1,000 sellers for buying reviews.
Brand loyalty, quality, and authentic storytelling are key for brands looking to compete in an increasingly competitive space. Rather than purchasing fake reviews, brands should focus on delivering a top-notch customer experience, and consider gathering authentic reviews by promoting their products to real customers. Amazon, interestingly enough, has offered a customer review program called Vine since 2007, allowing vendors to purchase authentic reviews from trusted customers handpicked by the retailer. But here’s the catch: the reviews aren’t necessarily going to be good, as they are intended to reflect honest feelings about any given product. While buying Vine reviews is certainly a risk for brands and should be completely unbiased, a 2016 survey of 30 million Amazon reviews found Vine reviews averaged 4.39 stars, while regular reviews averaged 4.24 stars.
For companies looking to authentically market their products and earn reviews, read Amazon Programs: What Brands Should Be Considering.