The Sad Reality of Online Consumer Reviews

By | December 22, 2013

Not every consumer or end user on a website fully understands the reality of the online review industry. As the virtual market clogs with fake reviews, it is a sad reality overall. Our team has first-hand experiences behind the scenes of the review sector, and we’re sharing what we’ve seen, as well was what we continue to see, to educate you as a purchaser.

5 Stars

rosmary, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

Types of Reviews Online

You are likely to encounter many positive reviews online, for products, services and companies. The 5-star ratings look great; the temptation is there to take the reviews at face value and buy them solely based on the recommendations.

That temptation doubles when you are busy, as you simply don’t have the time to investigate the quality of the review platform or the prospective item. While those latter techniques would aid you with your purchasing decisions, you simply don’t have the time to complete the steps in today’s busy world.

The Reality is Not How it Looks

Unfortunately, many glowing, positive consumer reviews are FAKE. The same is true of many negative reviews too. We, the CheckTick team, have quite a few years of experience in the online marketing industry, and the reality is even worse than you think.

Here are a few trends we see happening:

Consumer Review Trends

We see these points as interrelated and together they reduce the value of the review industry. Dishonest words reduce the trust consumers have in reviews.

Members of our team have been approached to write such fake reviews. We have even been offered money in return for writing them. We have been approached many times by devastated business owners; some of these owners hadn’t even fully set up their enterprise and already had 30-40 negative reviews for their business, often from their local competitors.

Consumer Reviews: The Reality

We are not embellishing matters here. The numbers are quite significant. The positive news is that slight improvements are starting to occur as people realise the impact of fake reviews. However, just a few years ago, it was hard to find real reviews. They were less than 50% of all reviews.

No Pointing Fingers Quote CheckTick

The numbers of fake reviews got out of hand quickly as large, reputable online companies began to produce them for local, national and even global business customers.

Businesses went along with the dishonest practices as reviews were important for creating and maintaining a strong online reputation. Online endorsements continue to be a big part of a company’s branding strategy to increase profit to its clients.

So, no one cared if the activity was ethical or not – it was driving profit, so everyone was doing it. Even large companies with happy clients took part; they simply wanted to boost their credibility quickly. Fake review posting services began to crop up, and were used time after time.

Now, you may be saying to yourself that there is no place to trust reviews, and it is useless to use them as part of wise buying decisions anymore. But wait – all reviews don’t have to be fake! Some platforms are more credible than others.

Types of Online Review Platforms

There are many online review platforms today. Platforms where any user can simply sign on and post a fake review against any company certainly do have potential to contain fake reviews. After all, there is no proof that the person actually used or owned the product or service that they wrote about. We are not saying that all reviews at these simple sign-in platforms are fake. However, we would personally not make our buying decisions based on them.

Fake Consumer Reviews?

Phillip Pessar, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr

Other platforms contain reviews that can only be posted just after purchase of the related product or service. These types of sites definitely have a much lower rate of fake reviews than the simple sign-in type. We can’t assume we know every site, of course, or that this principle applies to all platforms of this type.

For example, a company owner could purchase his or her own product in order to leave positive feedback on a particular platform. In fact, we have seen this activity done. That being said, the fraudulent owner is less likely to do that if the other option is just to come and sign onto another platform; the sign-on type is less hassle and requires less expense to post a review.

So, we are not saying that all endorsements are real on any online review platform. What we are saying is that “on average” reviews tend to be more truthful on platforms where they are posted just after the purchase of the relevant product or service compared to platforms where anyone can simply come and sign on to post a review.

Concluding Thoughts

At the end of the day, it is all about the platform that displays the reviews. How does the website deal with fake reviews, and what are the best ways to restrict them? It is likely impossible to have a website with all real reviews; however, there is a high likelihood of having the vast majority of reviews be real ones.

Do you want to learn how to spot fake reviews? Watch for our next blog post.

~The Team