Lessons from the Amazon Breach: How to stop fake reviews

As an online retailer, establishing trust among your audience is a key element in your sales strategy and relationships – in fact, 88% of buyers’ purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews. If prospects don’t feel they can trust your brand when they’re browsing your website and considering a purchase from your online store, they’re not going to convert into customers.

Meanwhile, if customers have a negative sales experience and they can’t trust you to remedy the situation, they’re not going to return to your store or recommend your brand to friends and family. In every seller-customer relationship, brands should make it a priority to use messaging, social media and customer interactions to establish a sense of reliability and transparency.

This kind of trusting relationship can make or break the success of a small business, but it’s also critical for any major company that conducts business online. That’s why Amazon recently cracked down on more than 1,100 people that were accepting compensation from vendors in exchange for writing fake online reviews on the vendors’ Amazon seller profiles. This lawsuit underlines the problem with fake reviews, and how the act of uncovering fake reviews can severely damage a company’s reputation.

As an online retailer, it’s important to remember that if a large retailer like Amazon can get duped by fake reviews, it could also happen to you to. Legal action is not always necessary – but you and the third party review sources you use to collect reviews should be on the lookout for warning signs.

Get third-party validation.

Using a third-party review platform with a reputation for investigating false review claims can establish a precedent that your company’s online reviews are legitimate. Third-party services may send personalized feedback requests to customers following a sale and use a variety of other tactics to verify each review. Be sure that your third-party review platform has a team that consistently monitors for suspicious activity within their service. This might also include providing consumer alerts to notify all parties involved of a potential fake review. If you have the resources, employ an internal team to manage verification claims.

Use the community to assist in identifying the fake reviews

Our human nature is one of protection and support.  If we see something that seems fake, many of us will take action. Google has used this form of verification in their mobile app store (Google Play). Allowing customers and business to call out potential fake reviews is essential to managing a volume of reviews.

To aid in the community effort, be sure your third party review platform has an option for businesses and users to flag suspicious reviews. If they see a review, they believe violate the guidelines of the community, they can easily flag the review and the review community can assess it. More likely than not, your e-commerce team is small, and does not have a lot of time to dedicate to detecting fake online reviews like Amazon recently did. Using the community for the identification of fake reviews can be a great step toward earning consumer trust, and trusting the validity of your customer feedback.

Make the rules public

A fair game starts when everyone knows what the rules of play are.  Show everyone how you or your third-party review platform manage reviews and what you do with fake ones allows for the transparency needed to build trust. Before leaving a review on your site or your third-party review platform, your customers should know what information of theirs will be made public. Be sure to acknowledge if a customer needs to provide an online receipt in order to leave a review, if they need to connect a social media profile to validate their feedback and if their post will be reviewed before it is published. While having proof points is important to validity, remember that having too many will discourage users from posting reviews. Transparency in what is needed to leave a review is key here.

Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for suspicious activity.

Whether you’re managing review verification on your own or with a third-party partner, you can send a strong message to your customer base by enacting a zero-tolerance policy for suspicious activity. Examples of unusual activity might be one customer leaving a string of similar reviews, multiple registered users leaving reviews that contain the same language or a user leaving negative reviews despite being unregistered in your customer database. Each of these claims should be investigated, flagged and removed from your site as needed.

Don’t mistake negative feedback for fake reviews

One of the best ways to extend the value and reach of a customer review is to embed it on your website, particularly in a strategic location like a checkout page. While some brands are tempted to filter negative reviews out of this kind of live feed, seeing negative feedback – and reading how your brand responds to such a claim – shows your audience that your brand is transparent with its customers and willing to help every user remedy a less-than-great experience. In fact, PeopleClaim reports that 95% of shoppers are likely to repeat business with a brand following a negative interaction if initial complaints are handled quickly and efficiently.

While you’re harnessing the power of a well-handled negative review, don’t forget the value of a positive review. Customer feedback is a great way to highlight and extend your brands’ successes.

In addition to displaying reviews on your website, you can encourage users to share them via social media, and work with a platform to help review data feed into sources like Google Seller Ratings (GSRs) in order to enhance your search engine optimization. In general, when you treat reviews as an ongoing conversation, you improve your relationships with existing customers, promote sales among new audiences and highlight the reasons why users can trust your brand.

Jonathan Hinz, director of strategic partnerships and business development at Trustpilot