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24 Oct 2018
What Are Fake Amazon Reviews?
 
In a development that will have big implications for ecommerce retailers around the world, Facebook has uncovered a scheme to manipulate product reviews on Amazon. The scheme came to the attention of Facebook courtesy of an investigation by Which, a consumer magazine, as reported by the Telegraph
 
The scandal will be impactful for retailers broadly, and those currently active on the Amazon platform. It raises the issue of ethics in ecommerce, as well as providing concrete proof that some sellers continue to find ways to manipulate the algorithms and gain an unfair advantage. 
 
Such behavior harms the integrity of the marketplace and ultimately ruins the business models of those conducting honest business. In this post we will dig deeper into this issue to unpack ways to protect your ecommerce business. 
 
The History Of Fake Amazon Reviews
 
Some retailers might be surprised that others would go so far as to pay users to create fake reviews on Amazon. The reality, however, is that this is not the first time sellers have been found conspiring to game Amazon rankings. 
 
For example, back in 2015, Amazon sued several individuals in a crackdown on fake review schemes run via the Fiverr website. 
 
The ecommerce giant has clearly realized that fake reviews present a threat not just to honest sellers, but also to buyers. Buyers might unwittingly buy bad products on the premise that glowing reviews are authentic.  
 
Facebook Groups Used To Run The Latest Scheme
 
In the scheme revealed by Which, the consumer magazine, the perpetrators used Facebook groups to organize their activities. The sellers behind the scheme offered users cash or refund benefits in exchange for positive product reviews. 
 
If the product buyers did not post a review deemed positive enough, they did not receive the promised benefits. They were essentially being duped as part of a cruel scheme but they should never have been in that place to begin with.
 
Why Legitimate Reviews Are So Beneficial
 
While the use of manipulated reviews is categorically bad and can get sellers banned from Amazon, this is not to say that all reviews are problematic. On the contrary, legitimate product reviews from independent buyers of your product can be very good for your selling efforts. 
 
Amazon has cracked down on paid and incentivized reviews, but its buyers still read reviews actively as a means to gauge product quality. Having good product reviews in an Amazon seller’s account has been found to boost sales and raise the profile of a brand. 
 
Social Proof That A Product Works As Promised
 
To understand why positive product reviews can be so powerful for growing sales, consider two equal products from a buyer’s perspective. One of the products, say, a piece of exercise equipment, has been reviewed multiple times, all of them top ratings. The other, while exactly identical to the first product, has zero reviews at present. 
 
While the products may be technically equivalent, buyers trust the social proof of the first product. It has already been tried by others and found to work as promised. As a result, that product will continue to sell really well while the other struggles to attract buyers.
 
Higher Organic Product Search Rankings
 
In addition to social proof, product reviews can lead to increased sales due to improving a product’s ranking in Amazon’s product search algorithms. 
 
Amazon’s ranking engine places a premium on Verified Purchase Reviews. These reviews are earned when Amazon can verify that the buyer purchased the product through Amazon, and did not receive a big discount in order to buy the product. 
 
The more of these reviews you earn as a seller, the better your products will rank, leading to potentially much higher sales through Amazon.
 
Ways To Get Legitimate Product Reviews
 
If your brand needs reviews in order to grow on Amazon but fake reviews are an ill-advised and dangerous waste of time, what is an ecommerce retailer to do? The answer is that there are perfectly legitimate ways to get reviews available. 
 
Your best move is to take a good look at your brand and see if you can excite genuine buyers to share the merits of the product. At no point must you offer incentives or other benefits that would game the algorithms and potentially put your Amazon Seller’s account in jeopardy.
 
Ask For Feedback From Customers
 
During the customer’s journey with your brand, there are multiple places to ask for feedback from the customer. For example, after a customer completes a purchase or receives their product in the mail, you can send them a quick email asking for feedback. This is a good time to let the customer know that they should also leave a review back on Amazon if they are so inclined. 
 
Whether customers are happy or unhappy with the product, a good percentage of them are likely to leave feedback on Amazon if asked. You should welcome any negative feedback you get as a chance to improve your product or customer service. 
 
Enroll In The Amazon Vine Program To Receive Reviews
 
Amazon makes available its own unique program for collecting reviews on a product. This program is called Amazon Vine. It works by inviting trusted product reviewers to try out products and post their honest reviews as part of the program. 
 
Amazon Vine reviewers are independent and can be frank and critical of products that do not meet their expectations. Brands and vendors can enroll in the program, for a fee, and receive reviews of their products.
 
How To Monitor If Your Competitor Is Using Fake Reviews  
 
Suppose your brand is operating fairly on Amazon, but you are concerned your competitors are engaging in unethical review practices. To combat this problem, take the following measures to protect your brand.
 
Use Review Monitoring Services
 
Some of the competitor monitoring software in the marketplace can help you monitor product reviews as well. This ensures that you can see changes in reviews for your products and those of competitors. 
 
If you suddenly have bad reviews, the software will flag them and help you spot if a bad competitor is engaging in smear tactics. Alternatively, you will be able to identify reviews that look overly positive. 
 
Contact Amazon Seller Support To Resolve Fake Reviews
 
Once you’ve identified fake reviews, it’s time to submit a report to Amazon Seller Support. Submit your report along with any proof that you’ve been able to collect about the suspect reviews. The data you collect from monitoring reviews can help you safeguard the future of your business activities on Amazon and other marketplaces. 
 
Are you interested in price monitoring? Request a demo today to see how Competitor Monitor could benefit your business.
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