Ratings and reviews play a huge role in every seller’s online selling journey. More than 90% of buyers base their purchasing decision on reviews. Even offline buyers prefer to research, compare and read reviews online before going to out buy a product.
However, sellers often find themselves dealing with unverified/fake negative reviews, which is a no-win situation.
The paid reviews business
In this day and age of internet, blogs, social media, YouTube, and review sites, paid reviews are a norm. But paid reviews doesn’t equal to bogus reviews. Many individuals/firms offer to publish an honest review in exchange of money, discounts, vouchers or products. It works for both the parties wonderfully without spoiling the business ecosystem.
One such person advertised his company’s service on IOS’s forum where he wrote,
“I have a large group of reviewers who can leave products, seller reviews and social media posters that love to do reviews in exchange for products. We have a strict system as well as a 3 strikes rule. CURRENTLY WE SUPPORT ONLY AMAZON SELLERS BECAUSE ONLY AMAZON SUPPORTS THE SYSTEM.”
A professional service, that promises to strictly follow guidelines and protect sellers’ account. How neat!
Then of course there are those are willing to post not-so-honest positive and negative reviews.
The flipside is that since Amazon allows anyone to write reviews (a reason why abovementioned services are flourishing), competitors have found a way to eliminate rivals – post fake negative reviews.
Unverified reviews on Amazon
An Amazon seller AllinExporters wrote on Seller Central,
“From Last 2 to 3 Months, I have noticed that Few our Our competitors are Publishing Negative review on our Items to Negatively damage our sales… We have sent 100 + Reminders on this email in last 60 Days but till now we did not get any Response.”
The vendor went on to explain how competitors are placing fake orders and deliberating writing negative reviews below their best selling items, which is affecting their overall sales. Most of the reviews don’t follow Amazon’s general review guidelines and in spite of complaining several times, the marketplace has failed to take any action, as per the seller.
Another seller posted on IOS’s Facebook seller forum,
“Why Amazon allows customers to put feedback on products when they have not even bought the product. My stock at FBA is moving slowly just because of this stupid feedback by this customer or may be competitor.”
Getting reviews removed is tough – worldwide
Negative reviews are unsettling, even more so when they are fake. Many use the anonymity that Internet offers as a medium to rant and write negative content without really thinking of the consequences and damage it may cause to others.
There have been instances where companies have sued reviewers and sites like Yelp but it didn’t lead to happy ending. In most cases, they don’t disappear. Primarily because determining if the review is indeed fake is difficult and law-makers want to protect consumers from gag orders.
IOS reached out to Amazon for this case and asked the etailer about its reviews screening process and when a seller reports unverified posts on their listings, what action is taken.
Amazon India spokesperson replied to IOS,
“We are very protective of our customer voice and go to great lengths to keep reviews up on the site, even if they are aggressively critical or obviously untrue. This is essential in order to maintain trust in the authenticity of our reviews as a whole. We let other customers weigh in by voting or commenting.”
The spokesperson adds,
“We are deliberately impartial. To ensure we are not biasing toward removing critical reviews, we do not judge any review on accuracy when it comes to guidelines enforcement.”
While Amazon wants to protect its buyers’ voice, the ecommerce giant sued its own sellers earlier this year over fake reviews.
IOS asked if Amazon India would take similar action against Indian sellers as well but the spokesperson refused to comment on this.
How can sellers tackle this?
“To help customers make informed shopping decisions even when a review may have outdated or incorrect information we allow other customers or manufacturers to comment on reviews to add necessary clarifying information. We encourage publishers, authors, and manufacturers to take a respectful tone in such comments in order to prevent customer backlash,” asserts Amazon India’s spokesperson.
So sellers, you can do the following things:
- Reply to the fake review (avoid disrespectful, angry tone) and ask the customer to share his/her order id and contact details so that you can pull out the order details
- If the customer doesn’t reply in 4-5 days, leave a comment again that you have checked all the past orders and couldn’t find the details. Request again to provide the order id
- A week later (if customer doesn’t respond), write an update that the customer failed to share the order details and leave it at that. Share your number/email id for others to get in touch with you to clear any doubts/ask questions
- Request your other loyal/satisfied customers to comment below the fake negative reviews and share their positive experience in detail
- In the meanwhile, focus on adding positive reviews in your account. So reach out to your recent customers and request them to leave honest reviews. Because buyers often use ‘latest’ filter while sorting out reviews
- If you have offline customers, ask them if they can post a review on Amazon (as anyone can write here). If they aren’t tech-savvy, take their permission to post a review on their behalf in their words
- Lastly, report every fake review you spot with proofs, even if no action is taken
Amazon can follow Snapdeal’s example
Indian etailer Snapdeal recently introduced a new seller rating framework where it will consider only verified customer reviews. This is a very good move and Amazon should consider following the same route. Don’t you think?
Sellers, let us know your opinions. Do you think only verified reviews should be allowed on an online marketplace? Or do you think restricting reviews will have a negative impact on your business?