Online reviews: vital feedback or fraud magnet?
In this blog article. we discuss the significance of online reviews, the challenges posed by fake reviews as well as the responses being taken to combat them.

With so much in the news today about fake reviews and the challenges they place on businesses I thought it fitting that, as a huge exponent of the very useful role reviews play in building trust, gathering insight and managing CX, I should revisit just why reviews matter!

The benefits of online reviews

In the digital age, where information travels at the speed of light and consumer choices are abundant, the significance of reviews cannot be overstated. Reviews have emerged as a powerful force shaping the modern business landscape, acting as a virtual bridge between consumers and businesses. They provide invaluable insights, foster trust, enhance credibility, and drive growth.

Consumer trust and credibility:

Reviews serve as testimonials from real people who have experienced a product or service. Positive reviews build trust among potential customers, assuring them of the credibility of the business. When consumers read about positive experiences of others, they are more likely to trust the business and make a purchase ad we all know that trust is the foundation of any successful business relationship. And don’t be lulled into thinking this is a B2C only thing because businesses will turn to review platforms just as readily, especially when exploring a product or service that is new to their organisation.

Social proof and influence:

We’re social beings, and we often look to others for cues on how to behave. Positive reviews act as social proof, indicating that a product or service is worth buying. When people see others endorsing a product, they are more inclined to follow suit. In contrast, negative reviews can also serve as a cautionary tale, guiding potential customers away from subpar products or services.

Continuous improvement:

A corporate jargon term but one that matters. Reviews provide businesses with valuable feedback from their customers. Whether positive or negative, this feedback is a goldmine of information that can be used to enhance products, services, and customer experiences. By paying attention to customer opinions, businesses can identify and prioritise areas for improvement, rectify mistakes, and refine their offerings, thereby staying competitive and responsive to market demands.

Enhanced visibility and SEO:

Online reviews play a significant role in search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines, like Google, consider customer reviews when ranking websites. Businesses with a higher number of positive reviews are likely to rank higher in search results, leading to increased visibility among potential customers. Improved visibility translates into more website traffic and, subsequently, higher chances of conversion.

Competitive advantage:

In a crowded marketplace, positive reviews can give a business a competitive edge. When consumers are faced with multiple options, they are more likely to choose a business with a stellar reputation and positive reviews over its competitors. Reviews can thus influence a customer’s decision-making process, giving businesses an advantage in attracting and retaining customers.

Building relationships and loyalty:

Engaging with customer reviews, whether to express gratitude for positive feedback or to resolve issues highlighted in negative reviews, demonstrates a business’s commitment to customer satisfaction. Such interactions can foster a sense of loyalty among customers. When customers feel heard and valued, they are more likely to become repeat buyers and even brand advocates, spreading positive word-of-mouth referrals.

Adaptability and market insights:

Reviews provide businesses with insights into market trends and changing consumer preferences. By analysing reviews, businesses can identify emerging patterns, understand customer expectations, and adapt their strategies accordingly. This adaptability is crucial for long-term success, ensuring that businesses remain relevant and continue to meet customer needs effectively.

The challenges posed by the surge in fake reviews

The rise of online reviews has fundamentally altered the way consumers make purchasing decisions and recent reports suggest that households typically make around £900 of purchases a year based on opinions gathered from reviews. The flipside of this is that, alongside the genuine testimonials from satisfied customers, lies a growing menace: fake reviews. These deceptive critiques, generated by unscrupulous entities, pose significant challenges to businesses, consumers, and the integrity of online platforms.

Erosion of trust:

The most immediate and detrimental impact of fake reviews is the erosion of trust. Consumers rely on reviews to make informed decisions, and when a significant portion of these reviews are fake, it creates an atmosphere of scepticism. Genuine businesses suffer as potential customers become wary, unsure if the reviews they are reading are authentic or fabricated to deceive them.

Financial impact:

Fake reviews can directly impact a business’s bottom line. A negative fake review can drive away potential customers, resulting in lost sales and revenue. We’ve certainly not the only CX organisations working with clients who have identified reviews associated with their organisation that they cannot trace back to a customer but still have prospective customers cite them as reasons not to engage. Moreover, businesses might feel compelled to invest in reputation management services or legal actions to combat the issue, incurring additional costs. This financial strain can be especially burdensome for small businesses with limited resources.

Damage to reputation:

Building a positive reputation takes time and effort, but it can be tarnished quickly by fake reviews. Even if a business has a predominantly positive online presence, a handful of well-crafted fake negative reviews can significantly damage its reputation. Rebuilding trust and mending the reputational damage can be a long and arduous process.

Undermining competition:

Competitors deploying fake reviews as a tactic can gain an unfair advantage. By tarnishing a rival business’s online reputation, unscrupulous competitors can divert customers to their own services, leading to an uneven playing field. This not only hurts businesses but also stifles healthy market competition.

Fighting back against fake reviews

Detecting fake reviews is a complex task. Some are crafted so convincingly that they closely mimic genuine feedback. Businesses and consumers alike face challenges in distinguishing between authentic and fake reviews, making it difficult to assess the reliability of online content accurately.

In response to the growing menace of fake reviews, review platforms have been proactive in implementing stringent measures to combat this deceptive practice.

The Competition and Markets Authority first launched an investigation into online reviews back in 2019 calling for more to be done in the online retail space followed by specific investigations about Google and Amazon.

As proud Trustpilot partners we were only too pleased to see Trustpilot’s Chief Trust Officer (great job title alert!) Carolyn Jameson, on today’s BBC Breakfast now spearheading a coalition of major retailers and review platforms to work together and reduce the number of fake reviews online. A key part of this coalition will include creating a forum for information sharing to help brands collectively stay ahead of the game as fraud techniques develop.

Just a few of the tools they have at hand will include:

Advanced algorithms and AI:

Review platforms like Trustpilot employ sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to identify patterns and anomalies in reviews. These algorithms can detect unusual reviewing patterns, such as a sudden influx of reviews from the same IP address, helping platforms flag suspicious content for further investigation.

Manual review processes:

Human moderation remains crucial in the fight against fake reviews. Many platforms have dedicated teams of moderators who manually assess flagged reviews. These experts evaluate the context, language, and authenticity of reviews, allowing them to differentiate between genuine and fake feedback.

Machine Learning:

Machine learning algorithms are employed to analyse the writing style and behaviour of users. These algorithms can detect unusual language patterns or review behaviour that might indicate a fake review. Machine learning models improve over time as they learn from new data, making them more effective in identifying fraudulent reviews.

Reporting Tools:

Review platforms provide users with reporting tools to flag suspicious reviews. Users can report reviews they believe to be fake, prompting platforms to investigate and take necessary actions, such as removal of the fraudulent content. In the case of Trustpilot’s flagging tools are open to all – both businesses and consumers can flag reviews for investigation.

Legal Action:

In extreme cases, review platforms take legal action against businesses or individuals involved in posting fake reviews. Legal measures serve as a deterrent, discouraging malicious entities from engaging in deceptive practices.

By employing a combination of these strategies, review platforms are actively working to maintain the integrity of their platforms. Constant adaptation and innovation are crucial in this ongoing battle, ensuring that users can trust the authenticity of the reviews they encounter, thereby fostering a more transparent and reliable online marketplace.

Businesses must remain vigilant, proactive, and transparent and, importantly keep the dialogue and feedback between a business and a review platform open and productive.

Worries about fake reviews are never enough justification to avoid these crucial platforms that can build trust and insight for your organisation. Reviews are far more than testimonials; they are a mirror reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of a business. Embracing reviews, both positive and negative, and using them as a tool for growth and improvement can lead to enhanced customer trust, increased credibility, and ultimately, long-term business prosperity. In a world where the voice of the customer holds immense power, businesses that value and leverage reviews are better positioned to thrive in today’s competitive market landscape.


By Celia Felgate, Director

UK Customer Experience Award Winning Agency

Winner, winner chicken dinner! We've won an award in the Outsourcing category alongside one of our clients, which goes to show how well we work as an extension of your business. You can trust your customer experience project is in safe hands.