I came across an academic paper in my files entitled ‘Deceptive Reviews” by Eric Anderson and Duncan Simester. The paper analyses product reviews online and found that 5% are from customers who have not purchased the product, they are more negative than legitimate reviews and use 40% more text resulting in a 1%-2% decrease in sales. So what are the haters trying to achieve?
There has been a number of different approaches since this paper was published attempting to identify fraudulent reviews with other techniques using software and algorithms estimating that up to 30% of reviews are potentially fake.
In the case of “Deceptive Reviews” it was not competitors leaving these comments but the retailer’s best customers who have continued to purchase products even after making the negative comment. The assessment is that the customer probably has had a bad experience with the brand and is now using every possible opportunity to make a statement to management. On the other side there is a whole industry that is farming positive reviews with brands encouraging staff to make positive comments or paying freelances to publish positive comments.
With crowdsourced reviews being such a powerful force, who are consumers going to trust and what are retailers going to do?
In many cases consumers trust anything they read or see, so it is up to retailers to make sure that they have an approach to ensure these reviews reflect accurately. It is not just about reducing the negative impact of bad reviews but if products or services appear to be better than they actually are then this could lead to some disappointed buyers. TripAdviser is reported to have developed a content integrity team that employs hundreds of staff that use a top secret algorithm to help them weed out the dodgy reviews.
As a consumer if you are going to use the reviews to influence a decision it is important to look for consistent feedback on other sites and maybe check out the most negative reviewers, you may find some leave a trail of complaints across many sites across the Internet.