Amazon is suing fake reviewers, consumer watch dogs are warning us about fake and biased reviews. What will happen when we no longer have confidence in the consumer review ratings that are currently so popular?
Customer reviews are the zeitgeist. Everyone and his dog has a review(s) and if you are smart about it you have a 5 star review. Amazon announced that they are suing over 1000 fake reviewers who, for as little as $5, will provide a When Harry met Sally restaurant moment (a fake one, for those not familiar with the film). Recently viewers of Watchdog a UK TV customer champion programme were given advice on how to spot fake reviews. Apparently one obvious example is where businesses promote their own business and slag off their competitors.
The marketing industry has not been shy in sending out samples to people to try and then review. They have learned the lesson of behavioural economics that individuals feel some sort of obligation to be nice to the brand that feeds them..... So now any activity of this nature is meant to come with a health warning advising unsuspecting customers that the deck has been stacked.
There are also countless examples of brand owners asking negative reviewers to drop their review for some consideration, not least and I kid you not, the airline that de-boarded a passenger because of a negative tweet.
In truth, popularity and claimed popularity have always been an influence factor but social media has turned this into an art form.
So what happens when we either no longer believe the customer reviews or everyone gets such high reviews that we all get 5 stars?
I suppose we might review (pun intended) what else works. What about expert reviews or professional mystery shoppers? These seem to be effective in providing unbiased and honest opinions. I look forward to seeing the wheel spin full circle.
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