Customer reviews can be a boon for online businesses. According to a recent e-commerce study, a one-star increase in an Amazon rating equates to a 26 percent sales increase. Losing stars or getting bad reviews can harm a business as much as the good reviews help.
If you operate a small business online, take reviews seriously. Genuine reviews can help or hurt, but even the fake ones can do harm, even if they’re positive. Whether you’re the victim of fake reviews or have been tempted to pay for them, know how these phonies can impact your business.
The Fake Positive
Some businesses plant their own fakes. It seems logically sound: a good review should get results, whether it’s genuine or manufactured. Don’t be tempted by the inexpensive fake reviewers out there. The logic doesn’t really stand, and fake positives can actually hurt your business.
Doing anything dishonest damages the integrity of your business. A fake positive review is misleading to customers and chips away at trust. It offers high expectations for new customers. That letdown can be more damaging than a bad experience would have been. You’ve now completely lost the trust of that disappointed consumer.
Fake positive reviews do more harm than good in the long run. Yes, you may get an initial boost, especially if you back up the claims in the reviews, but it will come back to haunt you in the end. It’s much better to provide your best product or service and let customers offer genuine feedback.
Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty
Consumers use reviews to make purchases. They put trust in what fellow consumers have to say about their experiences. There is generally no reason for a genuine review to be dishonest. If someone is willing to take the time to share a positive experience, people put power in that.
Unfortunately, fake reviews have become commonplace. Consumers are much more aware of the existence of fakes. They’re savvy about online shopping and increasingly know how to spot fakes or questionable reviews.
What that could mean for your business are a loss of brand loyalty and consumer satisfaction. If you have many suspicious reviews, for instance, a lot of glowing recommendations appearing overnight, consumers won’t stick around. They don’t want to be a part of shady business practices or be tricked.
Fake positive reviews you seek out can ultimately be harmful, but what about fake negative reviews? A disgruntled customer can do a lot of damage by posting numerous fake reviews or posting content that exaggerates their negative experience. Your reputation can take a big hit from things like this, especially if you’re a smaller business just starting out and trying to build a customer base. Short of shutting down your site and starting over, it may feel like there isn’t much you can do.
One option you have is to enlist reputation management for small businesses. Companies that focus on reputation management can work with you to remove damaging information, take down negative and fake posts, and rebuild a better, more honest reputation. You can recover from fake reviews, but it will take time and resources. If it’s beyond your technical skills, turn to the pros.
Reviews paint a picture of your business, and you want it to be accurate. Whether they’re glowing or not, phony reviews give customers a false idea of what your business is, what it represents, and the experience they’ll have. As a business owner, you want customers’ expectations to match the experience.
The power of suggestion through reviews is strong. If you have a lot of fake reviews on your site, potential customers will have a bias. Even if the new customer’s actual experience is different from what they expected based on reviews, they can still hold onto that bias.
The only way to ensure that your target audience is unbiased and has the experience to match their expectations is to have genuine reviews. It can be difficult to live with those honest reviews that are critical, but if they are fair and you respond to them to resolve the situation, they only help your business.
Battling Fake Reviews is an Ongoing Process
Big companies and government agencies are cracking down on fake reviews. For instance, Amazon banned incentivized reviews and may even take legal action against policy violators. The Federal Trade Commission also took action, investigating companies with questionable review practices. Smaller companies need to do their part as well. Be aware of the issue, avoid paying for reviews, and regularly scan for suspicious posts.
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