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Fake reviews 'a problem' for businesses, brands

By BO LEUNG in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-06-25 10:34

As increasing numbers of people have turned to internet shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic, online reviews have become an important part of many consumers' decision-making over what and where to buy.

However, fake reviews are becoming a major problem for some companies and not only are they misleading consumers, but negative fake reviews are also having an impact on businesses.

According to new data, 68 percent of businesses in the United Kingdom are now worried about getting fake reviews.

Igniyte, a leading online reputation management company in Britain, who carried out the survey, said fake reviews have plagued many brands.

"The internet really is a cruel place. You would like to think that your business has not been affected - but you would be surprised," said Simon Wadsworth, managing director of Igniyte. "We see brands having problems with fake reviews. Our experience has shown that companies are coming under attack from a wide range of sources, including competitors, ex-employees, and malicious individuals."

Wadsworth explained that fake reviews could vary from allegations against a company to false statements or negative headlines and comments.

Igniyte research also found that 39 percent of businesses say that they have been directly affected by fake reviews on platforms such as Google, Trustpilot, Trip Advisor, and Reviews.co.uk in the last year.

"They could have been written by competitors who are trying to sabotage the brand, or by disgruntled former employees or business partners looking for revenge, or even just online trolls," Wadsworth said. "Misleading reviews can have devastating effects on sales. In fact, a lot of the companies who turn to Igniyte for support have already been hit hard."

Most shoppers now read online reviews first, with 9 in 10 consumers doing this before deciding whether to go ahead with a purchase on products or services, according to Igniyte.

"Your reputational crisis will likely begin online," Wadsworth said. "Negative reviews and social media comments are a greater threat to your reputation than employee conduct, faulty products, or poor pricing strategies are."

Spotting a fake review can vary, but there are certain signs to look out for.

These can include a reviewer's name not being found in a company's customer database, a reviewer not getting in touch after a business reaches out for further details on a complaint, or a review which contains false information.

Wadsworth said "businesses need a review management strategy" in order to tackle fake negative reviews and protect a company's reputation.

"Your customer service and marketing departments need to work together to look at both on and offline issues. As a brand, you must invest in monitoring your reviews to spot problems and react to them quickly," he pointed out.

"Taking control of conversations that are happening online - and taking complaints offline where possible - is my biggest piece of advice. You must care about your brand's reputation because prospective customers certainly will."

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