One of the best marketing techniques any business can have, is to receive and publish glowing reviews from purchasers. Amazon, selling everything from books, technology and even fashion and health related items, clearly has plenty to win or lose if doubts are cast with respect to the veracity of its customer reviews. In an effort to crack down on allegedly fake reviews the online company recently filed its third lawsuit against the owners of five new sites promising positive customer reviews.
One of the sites was Paid Book Reviews offering customers 100 reviews for $2,200. This site states that it comprises “a team of writers who understand the effect of positive customer reviews on your book’s sales.” Two types of book reviews are covered: unverified (the writers read the sample pages of a book on Amazon.com and post positive comments) and verified (the company buys the client’s book, reads it on Kindle and posts positive comments on Amazon). Purchasers can opt for as few as five book reviews, for only $125. Thanks to Kindle, tablets and other mobile technology the reviews can clearly be lucrative for the company offering them, since there is no need to purchase a physical copy of the books. Kindle books, which can be read on mobile devices regardless of the reader’s location in the world, cost less than physical books and can be reviewed by writers and critics form anywhere in the world.
Amazon began filing lawsuits in April 2015; so far, over 1,000 reviewers have been targeted. Some of these sites have already closed, and the information obtained has enabled Amazon to also ban specific sellers and reviewers from using their site. In its official statement, Amazon claims that legal action has been taken to stop sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fake reviews, but also to put an end to the larger ecosystem of individuals and businesses that support inauthentic reviews in return for money.
Savvy Amazon users take note; it is possible to spot fake reviews thanks to free website, Fakespot. Just copy and paste the link to the product page, and click Analyze. If you use Chrome, add the Fakespot extension and simply click the Fakespot icon in your toolbar – you will instantly be told if the reviews you are reading are considered low quality . If Fakespot deems a review ‘low quality’, the likelihood is that those reviewing the product are likely to have reviewed other items by the same company, that they have written only extremely positive reviews, or that they have reviews products they have not purchased. These are pretty good indicators that reviews given are not based on one’s real experience or opinion.
Research indicates that up to 90 per cent of customers make purchasing decisions influenced by positive online reviews, while around 86 per cent are influenced by negative reviews. Around two thirds of online buyers read reviews, since brands can sell similar products and lack of awareness of differences in quality and features of online items makes reviews an invaluable source of information.
Research has also shown that B2B companies stand most to gain from customers who have had a good experience with them and who review their products and services online. Over 60 per cent of purchasers claim to have purchased products or services from a B2B company after reading positive reviews. The key to receiving a good review does not only lie in the product itself, but also customer service, which is ranked as a primary factor in influencing the degree to which customers trust companies.
Because customer service is so important, marketing managers should work closely alongside customer service personnel , so that customer concerns expressed on social networking sites are attended to promptly and efficiently. Equally important is the practice of answering negative comments and reviews online, for others to see. Often, the percentage of negative comments can be reduced simply by attending speedily to complaints and problems, offering solutions and bonuses to clients who chose to remain loyal despite a glitch or two. Social media platforms should also be used to announce changes made to service policy or products, based on comments by customers. Ultimately, reviews, even negative ones, should be seen as an opportunity for companies to grow and adapt to the changing demands of the market and their target client.
Author is Helen Young