Most business owners acknowledge that fake product reviews are a form of fraud. Yet a lot of them ignore this fact and use fake reviews behind the scenes to make their products appear highly-rated to attract more interest and sales. When a manufacturer or retailer writes fake positive reviews and publishes fake high star or points ratings, they’re misleading consumers and sending themselves down a dangerous path.
If you’re selling a bad product, your attempts to hide its poor quality won’t provide you with lasting protection against the reality of the modern shopping cycle: A buyer sees or hears about something of interest that they value and then they buy it. They share their experience, whether positive or negative, with at least family, friends, classmates, and co-workers offline via private face-to-face discussions, phone calls or letters and online via chat programs, social media accounts, and email. A lot of these buyers also share their experiences on store and product review sites and shopping catalog product pages in feedback comment areas. Many consumers also band together in a mob-like fashion and join media representatives, celebrities and others in offline and online efforts designed to reveal business deceptions. Their actions can destroy a false good or excellent business reputation.
After shoppers reveal that a manufacturer or retailer deceived them or someone they love or know with fake reviews, they usually stop shopping at that business and recommend that members of their social circles do the same. Many people will also attempt to shame the business owner publicly on a global scale, especially if the owner doesn’t apologize and prove that they feel real regret over their actions. Some irate customers use negative hashtags coupled with the name of the business linked to fake reviews to make the truth trend on social media so that more people learn about it. The worst scenario by far is angry shoppers asking strangers from around the world to stop shopping at a business or buying its products. Your Better Business Bureau rating, if you have one, will most likely drop by at least one letter. All of these consumer actions related to fake reviews or other business misdeeds decrease foot traffic to offline and online shopping areas and associated sales revenues.
The trouble that you create for yourself with fake reviews doesn’t stop with losing favor with consumers or the media. You can also lose the trust of advertisers and others who help promote your business. For example, some search engine companies automatically rank businesses caught committing even one instance of fraud lower in their indexes. If you gain a reputation as someone who misrepresents your products and lies to the public with fake customer stories, many search engine providers will remove your business entirely, de-index all business details including related website URLs, from their collected data that provides search results. You might find your business suddenly no longer appearing anywhere in the results listed by some search engines.
Most importantly, acts of fraud often result in charges and fines that can cost you tens and possibly even hundreds of thousands of dollars. If a product is found to be defective after you posted fake reviews that lauded its quality and safety, you might have to conduct an expensive product recall and invest in expensive public relations efforts to distract the public from negative press. If your product is dangerous or doesn’t work as implied in your fake reviews, consumers might sue you with personal injury claims. Of course, misleading product claims and false advertising in the form of a fake review can result in jail time.
Instead of relying on fake reviews as promotional tools, consider legal, positive alternatives: For example, invest in creating an actual high-quality product that consumers will want to promote via truthful, positive reviews. Invest in focus group studies that allow real consumers to use your product and then fix any problems that they point out, re-test the product and publish their honest follow-up positive reviews. When you receive negative reviews, always respond to them as quickly possible in constructive and positive ways that show that you care about customer satisfaction and safety. Lastly, if any product isn’t good enough, pull it from shelves and start over instead of publishing dishonest reviews. The short-term benefits of using fake reviews again do not outweigh the long-term suffering that they can ultimately cause you.
Featured image source: Geek & Sundry