By Stacey Vogler
Before your most recent online purchase, did you check out what other customers had to say about the product before buying? I know I did. Today’s online shopper can see reviews of virtually every product and service available, from books to hotels to extended service contracts.
Consumers take these ratings into consideration before making a purchase decision because of the implied unbiased, real-world nature of the information. In fact, according to the 2012 Local Consumer Review Study, a whopping 72% of consumers surveyed said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations!
But how much faith should we put in these reviews, especially the extremely positive “5 Star” ratings?
It turns out that a high percentage of positive reviews are either fabricated or written by consumers who have been influenced with a discounted price or other incentive. As this NY Times story details, countless others are penned by hired guns paid to churn out dozens of positive reviews each day.
The problem is widespread; data mining expert Bing Liu estimates that one-third of all online reviews are fake.“The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” Liu told the New York Times. “But almost no one wants to write five-star reviews, so many of them have to be created.”
According to this NPR story, the problem has even drawn the attention of the Federal Trade Commission and inspired academic research into spotting fake reviews. Think about the reviews your customers see on your e-commerce site and how those ratings – real or not – reflect on you.
Reviews and ratings are powerful tools that help customers make educated choices, but they can also be a misleading form of advertising. So ask questions, be skeptical, and ensure any review you take seriously – or allow your customer to take seriously – is a real one.