Online shoppers urged to look out for fake Amazon reviews

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Online shoppers have been warned about being duped into buying goods by Amazon sellers using fake and paid-for product reviews to influence people's purchasing.

Chris Turton, online sales expert and founder of specialist Amazon agency Ecommerce Intelligence, said reviews can be a useful guide when making purchase decisions - but not if they aren't real.

With fierce competition between third-party sellers, Chris said it can be tough to find genuinely good products, but highlighted a number of things to look out for to spot fake reviews. 

“There are some great red flags to look at when looking at the reliability of these reviews.

“First of all, don’t trust a product with a huge amount of reviews which are all five star or reviews with one or two words that lack any detail. 

“Look out for language that is remarkably similar across recent reviews.

“It also looks suspicious if there are a huge amount of reviews in a one-day period. 

“You can look at that review profile to see how legitimate they are.”

Chris has also warned sellers on Amazon of the damaging impacts creating or incentivising fake reviews can have on their businesses. 

He said thousands of sellers are neglecting the quality of their products by pushing reviews too much.

“The reason that there are fake reviews on Amazon is possibly down to the biggest lie many Amazon sellers believe and that is review volume and getting hundreds of reviews is important. The fact is it really isn’t,” Chris said.

“Thousands of sellers are still buying, fleecing or manipulating reviews because they believe it improves their organic ranking, while they neglect the most important thing and that’s product quality as well as the customer-centric model that’s been the lifeblood of Amazon since it launched nearly 30 years ago.

“As far back as 2015, I’ve seen sellers getting their accounts closed due to building fake reviews.”

Chris said high review counts do not appear to influence their Amazon ranking, but sales velocity does. 

“Consistent sales make Amazon more money and, in doing so, sends signals of a good customer experience and return on investment for that category. This means Amazon is likely to push that product further,” he said. 

“We advise our clients against pushing reviews too much.”

A recent survey by consumer champions Which? suggested one in 10 Amazon customers - over 4 million in total - has been offered ‘bribes’ of free goods in return for positive reviews.

But Chris said while the figures appeared worrying, the reality behind the headlines was very different.

“Nobody knows exactly how many fake reviews there are, but we believe it's a minute number,” he said.

“Sellers do not need to build, buy or incentivise fake reviews. It doesn’t do anybody any good in the long run and it’s obviously against Amazon’s terms of service.

“Amazon reviews do generate sales, but our data suggests the returns diminish after 20/25 reviews and not hundreds.”

Amazon has been aggressively fighting fake reviews, using a combination of machine-learning models along with expert investigators to ensure that every review is authentic and reflects customers’ actual experiences. 

“Amazon works really hard to remove these reviews and we’ve seen first hand the platform to identify and remove them.

“It also runs its Vine Program, whereby Amazon handpicks people it identifies as its ‘most insightful reviewers’ and makes them eligible to request free products from thousands of brands in return for honest reviews,” Chris added.

Ecommerce Intelligence is a £1 million business which helps businesses sell their products on Amazon and currently has over 50 clients, including NikWax and Ardo Medical.

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