Can you really trust reviews? What we think of the reviews industry

We get it, you’re already sceptical about reading this blog. We’re a reviews platform, so of course we’re going to tell you that reviews can be trusted, right?

The truth is that not all reviews were created equal. Whilst a large proportion of feedback out there is genuine, the media frenzy that has surrounded fake reviews has put the industry in the spotlight.

Can reviews really be trusted? Here’s our unfiltered, honest opinion on the state of the reviews industry, and some tips you can arm yourself with to go forth and make up your own mind on what can and can’t be taken as gospel when it comes to online feedback, whether you’re a consumer or you have a business.

What’s been going on in the reviews industry?

People use reviews a lot. In fact, 96% of consumers say they read or use reviews in some way (Feefo Consumer Report 2019). With eight-in-ten people finding feedback as helpful as advice from friends and family, good reviews are like gold dust.

5 places to inspire comosers (2)

96% of consumers read or use reviews in some way (Source: Feefo Consumer Report 2019) Click to tweet!

Reviews are so important to consumers that businesses around the world are doing whatever it takes to provide them – even if it means lying to their customers. Businesses worldwide from every industry are posting phoney feedback which they have paid to have written, or in some cases, have even written themselves.

There’s certainly no shortage of news stories about all of this online (a quick Google search will bring up pages and pages of articles about businesses misbehaving) but if you’ve spent 2019 under a rock, here’s a quick roundup of just a few of the stories to have hit the headlines this year, and our two cents…

“The FTC fosters fake reviews, its own commissioners say” – Wired, October 2019

A large skincare company were caught showing their employees how to post positive reviews of their own business, yet the Federal Trade Commission settled without a fine or admission of guilt.

What we think: Tut, tut. The decision from the FTC to let this one fly only encourages more companies to be dishonest, and for consumers to lose even more trust in online reviews. It’s stories like this one that highlight the importance of spotting a fake, regardless of how legit a review may seem.

“Woking Pizza Express inundated with fake reviews after Prince Andrew Interview” – iNews, November 2019

Caught up in an unexpected media whirlwind, Pizza Express Woking found itself in the limelight following a highly anticipated interview with Prince Andrew on BBC’s Newsnight. This led to the branch receiving over 100 fake Google reviews since the interview was aired.

What we think: This sudden influx of fake reviews is the perfect example of the danger of unverified feedback. With no need to actually deal with a company in order to post a review, businesses can easily become targets for fake reviews, leaving the overall star-rating at risk of being massively skewed - even if the reviews themselves are clearly not genuine.

5 places to inspire comosers (1)

50% of consumers are more likely to trust a brand if reviews are authenticated from a brand like Feefo. (Source: Feefo Consumer Report 2019) Click to tweet!  

 ‘Why I write fake online reviews’ – BBC, April 2019

The BBC revealed that people are writing and posting fake reviews in exchange for money and free products across various industries, from electronics to restaurants. To muddy the waters even further, these people are actually given the money to buy the product so that the reviews can be verified.

What we think: Sneaky! Although purchases in cases like these are genuine, the customer opinions aren’t – so what’s the point? Sure, companies may sell more products by fooling their customers with fake reviews, but how will they improve their products or service without collecting genuine feedback and opinions?

5 places to inspire comosers (3)40% of online reviews are fake (Source: BestSEOCompanies) Click to tweet!

At this point, we know that fake reviews are rife, but it’s important to not tarnish all online feedback with the same brush – there are still plenty of genuine, reliable reviews out there which can be trusted, and are endlessly helpful to you as a shopper or for your business.

The key is learning how to spot a fake review, and it’s easier than you may think.

How do I know if a review is fake?

  • Is the review verified? This is usually marked by the words ‘verified purchase’ or something similar, and shows that an actual purchase has been made.
  • Is the language suspicious? Keep your eyes peeled for ‘salesy’ words and claims that seem unrealistic.
  • Is there a realistic number of reviews? Question large numbers of reviews, especially if they are all positive. The dates are important too – if loads of reviews have been posted in the same small time frame, something’s not right!
  • Are certain features mentioned again and again? If a business is paying for a fake review, they may ask for certain attributes to be mentioned, so look out for any positive comments that keep cropping up.
  • Does the review include any specific comments? Think about it – if this customer made enough effort to leave a review in the first place and leave 1 star or 5, surely they would have something specific to say about their experience?
  • How has the feedback been written? Paid reviews aren’t always written for businesses operating in the same country, so poorly written reviews are common in fake feedback.

If you’re still not sure if a review is genuine, there are a few online tools you can use to help:

  • Fakespot
  • ReviewMeta

    What’s wrong with posting fake reviews?

    We like to think we’re all about trust and transparency, but we know that not every business thinks this way. Unfortunately for them, though, there’s a lot more wrong with fake reviews than being unethical and deceiving your customers. Here are just some other reasons you should step away from phoney feedback:

    1.      Your products won’t evolve

    Without getting real feedback from your customers, you can’t see what needs work. The only way to improve is to learn from your mistakes!

    2.      You’ll lose customers

    Not only will your customers suss out that your feedback is fake when they receive their products and never return, it’s likely that they’ll spread the word and damage the reputation of your business.

    3.      You’ll be breaking the law

    Purposefully misleading your customers could result in severe punishment, as it goes against the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. It’ll also put you in the bad books with Google!


    Which reviews can I trust?

    That’s enough of the negative stuff, let’s look closer at the reviews you can trust.

    If you’re looking for a reviews platform, here’s what you should be looking for to minimise the risk of fake reviews:

    • Are you able to display photo and video reviews? These act as great ‘proof’ that the customer has actually experienced a product or service – useful for both the business and browsing customers.
    • Is it an open platform, or does it only allow verified reviews? Both options have their benefits, but platforms which only allow reviews from authenticated customers mean that only those who have made a purchase can leave feedback.
    • Can you be sure that negative reviews will be displayed? Trustworthy businesses need to display a mix of both positive and negative feedback. 52% of consumers are suspicious is there are no negative reviews at all!
    5 places to inspire comosers (4)38% of consumers have more trust in a review if a picture is included (Source: Feefo Consumer Report 2019) Click to tweet!

Reviews have had a bit of a hard time in the headlines, but it’s not all bad. Raising awareness of what is actually going on out there only makes shoppers savvier than ever, and less susceptible to falling for phoney feedback.

So, should you trust reviews? For the most part, no! We get it, and totally understand why you might want to turn a blind eye to feedback these days. The truth is, the benefits of listening to your fellow consumers or your customers outweigh the cons of falling for fake reviews. Feefo is an invite-only platform, meaning only verified customers can leave feedback for your business. Your competitors can’t pay for other people to leave fake reviews via Feefo, so you know that every opinion is genuine. To find out more about how Feefo works, get in touch with a member of our team today!

Want to read more? You might like these articles:

Do you know whose reviews your reading?

Have fake reviews made consumers savvier than ever?

How to spot a fake review

Read our most commonly asked questions!


Consumer report 2019-1




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