By Katie Griffiths

When you’re about to make an online purchase, what would you do first?

Check the reviews, right?

After all, it makes sense to discover what other consumers thought of the product, before taking the plunge.

In this digital age, 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. And 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Around 25 million British adults use online review websites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor and Expedia to find the best deals on hotels, books, food, electronics and more.

But with competition high, and so many retailers to choose from, shoppers don’t just look at a product - but the company they are buying from.

Shoppers will spend an average 31% more with a company which has ‘excellent’ reviews from customers.

Retail businesses understand the importance of good customer service, leading to positive reviews. But sadly this is giving way to fake reviews.

A colleague recently fell foul of this - although the fake reviews were so blatant it put her off spending money with the company.

She told me: "I saw this beautiful dress in a Facebook advert. When I clicked on it, I was taken to a retail website I'd never heard of before.

"So I checked out the reviews for the dress, hoping to see positive reports."

What she got instead made her laugh out loud - and put her credit card firmly away.

Reviews were placed in the names of TV and film stars Kevin Spacey, Oprah Winfrey, and Bear Grylls.

Even Nicole Kidman had apparently posted: "So elegant. Can't wait to wear it on my honeymoon!" (is this the same actress who's been married for 11 years to country singer Keith Urban?!!)

In an era of fake news, misleading reviews and endorsements online are becoming more commonplace – leading to organisations clamping down on them.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) announced last month that it is joining an international social media campaign to put a stop to deceptive reviews.

It is joining consumer protection agencies across the world tackling the problem of misleading- and downright fake – reviews.

They have taken action in at least 16 cases, including preventing a US business using fake online reviews that had been posted by its own employees. Another case, currently before the Australian Federal Court, seeks to stop a property services company from trying to block guests it suspects would leave a negative review on TripAdvisor from receiving the email inviting their feedback.

In the UK, recent cases include requiring a retailer to disclose unfavourable reviews so that customers have the complete picture, and another ensured that Airbnb change its review system so that guests can more easily leave feedback if they decide to cut short their stay in a property because they're not enjoying it. Airbnb agreed to implement the changes by August 31.

Nisha Arora, senior director at the CMA, said: "Shoppers worldwide are increasingly relying on online reviews and endorsements before they make a decision to buy a product or service. People need to know they can trust the information they find online, and make informed choices as a result.

"By working together with international consumer protection partners, whether in providing clearer guidelines or taking enforcement action against businesses that flout the law, we can achieve greater impact and better outcomes for consumers across the globe."

 

Our specialists cut through the fakery to give your brand a trusted voice in the marketplace. For more information, call us now on 0800 612 9890.