The problem with fake reviews

Fake reviews don’t just hurt consumers (like me). They can cause serious damage to your brand. Here’s why it’s not worth risking it.

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I have something to admit.

In the last six months, I have purchased some truly awful products online based on glowing reviews.

So far, I’ve wasted my hard-earned cash on:

  • An eyebrow pen that claimed to be able to emulate microblading (in reality, it looked like I’d drawn on my brows with a brown sharpie)
  • An all-natural gel polish remover that claimed to make varnish bubble off in seconds (it didn’t work on the nail varnish, but it did burn my skin, and I then found out it was pretty much just caustic soda)
  • A gel polish pen that claimed to give you flawless nails (but came out in massive globs of varnish and was pretty much impossible to get an even coat)

As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme here. I’m a sucker for beauty products that profess to make the chore of tarting myself up easier, and if other people are vouching for how awesome they are, I’m jumping right on board the bandwagon. And I’m not alone.

The examples I’ve given are all cheap tat products bought on a whim. I was probably having a bad day or something. But it’s not just dodgy makeup shipped from China consumers need to be wary of when shopping online.

Just this week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cracked down on fake reviews left on Sunday Riley’s products sold on the luxury beauty site, Sephora. The skincare brand had been asking employees to leave glowing reviews for its products while also downvoting negative reviews in a bid to trick consumers into thinking the products were worth the hefty price tag.

So it seems everyone is at it, from the lowest end of the market to the highest. Chuck influencers in the mix and it’s now nearly impossible to sort the legitimate reviews from the fake ones.

The problem is, a lot of people make purchases based on reviews. Millennials (like me) are the most likely demographic to be influenced by the behaviour of our peers, so if a mate gives it the thumbs up, we’re probably going to be more inclined to make a purchase. God, we’re sheep. How depressing.

The impact of fake reviews

The impact on consumers is clear. See a product that everyone says is amazing, buy it, try it, get instant buyer’s remorse. The brand has your money, and they don’t care what you think of your purchase until perhaps, the negative reviews begin pouring in.

The impact for brands being caught telling fibs about their products can be very damaging. Angry people love to vent on the internet, so if a product doesn’t ‘do what it says on the tin’, expect a barrage of complaints out in the open for all to see.

This may sound obvious, but when marketing products, brands should avoid:

  • Lying about what the product can do
  • Making false claims about the ingredients/how it’s made
  • Posting fake reviews
  • Deleting negative reviews
  • Allowing non-verified purchasers to leave reviews
  • Paying influencers to promote a product without making it clear that it’s an ad

Why legitimate online reviews are important

Real reviews provide a way for potential customers to make an assessment about whether or not to make a purchase or sign up to a service. A good way to ensure that reviews are legitimate is to utilise a third-party review platform, such as Feefo or Trustpilot, that will only allow reviews to be posted by verified customers. This helps to build trust in your brand.

Of course, with so many other platforms available for customers to leave reviews, it can become difficult to manage them all. Facebook and Google reviews are often shown on the first page of search results when a consumer is looking for a brand, and shabby star ratings can have a hugely negative impact. To see what people are saying about your brand, simply Google your company name plus ‘reviews’.

If you find a lot of bad comments, don’t ignore them or attempt to remove them. Address them. If it’s skewing toward being all negative, firstly, ask yourself what you’re doing wrong. What can you do to turn those frowns upside down?

If things look really dire, you might also want to consider appointing a reputation management company. Bear in mind that you have to *actually be willing* to change your ways and provide better products and services, otherwise they’re going to be swimming upstream when trying to improve how your brand is perceived online.

And yeah, it might be easy to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers to make a quick buck, but unless you’re operating a churn and burn business model, your longevity is going to be limited.

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