July 10, 2020

Beware of Fakes. The Recent Shift in Customers’ Trust for Ratings and Reviews.

Your company has a rating but how safe is it? Visitors’ perception changed over time – why so and what kind of malicious tricks on ratings you can face?

How did fake reviews change the world? (5 minutes light reading)

It’s natural for people to share their opinions about a product or service. Numerous studies confirm that customer feedback is important. From a market to a market, 50% up to 92% of buyers make a purchasing decision based on feedback. Some rogue businesses took advantage of the situation and started to trade reviews as a commodity. Now anyone can buy reviews at the lowest prices. Bids start at $ 1-2 for 100 reviews. Just pay $ 1 and you get a review containing meaningful text… For $ 2-3 a review it would be written by someone who knows English. A study conducted by our data scientists pointed out the number of fake reviews on different sites is about 30% to 90%

What are the reasons for such vulnerability of reviews? The given fact is the sites like TrustPilot, Yelp, BBB, TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Facebook, Google Play, and the Apple Store allow leaving reviews without verification that they were made by real customers. Verification via social networks or an email is not a guarantee that reviews are made by real people. Only on Facebook we found more than 50 groups with at least several thousand members, where traders exchange orders for posting reviews

Fabricating fake reviews on Amazon, eBay, Booking, and AirBnB requires more complex manipulations when a seller places their own orders, paying a commission for the operation. The review price is relatively HIGH but affordable. Just a few reviews are enough for you to start receiving inflated ratings. In general, we can say that these sites are better protected, but still far from ideal.

Many companies have gone even further, and exploit the vulnerability of sites for black PR. Is a competitor’s ranking too high? Nothing prevents an outlaw from buying negative reviews. The rating calculation mechanism allows a small number of 1-star reviews  is enough to send a rating 4.9 quickly down. If you have less than 1000 reviews, then just a few dozen will be enough for you to sink below 4 out of 5. Black PR is especially beneficial for restaurant owners. Imagine that for just a couple of hundred dollars at all establishments within a radius of 500 meters, the rating on Google Maps and TripAdvisor went down to 3.5, and yours flaunted at 4.9. Investments in black PR will be paid back in a couple of days.

Abuses by the businesses exploiting portals’ vulnerabilities have led to a change in the users’ behavior. Stars and reviews are no longer that credible. According to our system, we see that users pay more and more attention to negative reviews, and positive reviews matter only if they have a 4-star rating and the review text is longer than 140 characters. These data can be interpreted as the customers perceive reviews with skepticism, hoping to find the truth, having learned enough about the shortcomings of the product or service.

The revealed results pushed us to drill down and we scrutinized the change in behavior of the users on the two years horizon. It turned out that slowly but surely, users are increasingly paying more attention to negative reviews. According to our data, 71% of customers read negative reviews before buying and are more likely to buy goods with shortcomings that they clearly understand and within an acceptable range. If this trend continues the reviews will lose a significant effect on the business in just 3 years in their current format.

We conducted a study on how reviews are losing effectiveness. It turned out the reviews containing more detailed information remain relevant. For example, a review of a treadmill is to contain a story about the results a person has achieved running on it, how many calories were burned out in one training session, how often a training takes place, a photo of a runner on the treadmill, and a dog didn’t chew the rubber and a cat is sitting on it only when it turned off, the name and surname of the person who left the review and his avatar on Facebook visible. Just a couple of such reviews are much more powerful unlike thousands of 5 stars bought and comments like “Everything is super!” / “I’m satisfied”. As a detailed review sparks an imagination, a buyer reflects on it but in a “classic” review a client sees nothing.

Detailed reviews are not suitable for all types of products, for example, they are clearly not suitable for sellers of bricks (and most such commodities). Detailed reviews require an individual approach for each type of product so that the information reveals the expected positive effects from the consumption of the product or service, as well as the identified shortcomings.

We are seamlessly moving customers to a new type of service, replacing “classic” reviews with detailed ones. To collect detailed reviews, I had to use other channels, for example, phoning with a client, so that the client only confirms the review in the future by logging in to the social network and adding photos. We see that such reviews are more important to a business than just ordinary stars. And we are sure it becoming a trend very soon.

Author – Rod Pope, CPO at Collect-Reviews