If Many of Amazon's Top Reviewers Turned Out to Be Fake, How Do E-Commerce Websites Maintain Credibility?

Published September 9th, 2020 - 03:00 GMT
If Many of Amazon's Top Reviewers Turned Out to Be Fake, How Do E-Commerce Websites Maintain Their Credibility?
A recent Financial Times report has revealed some shocking details about ways through which reviews have been used to manipulate users for years. (Al Bawaba)

Since e-commerce is one of the biggest industries of our time, competition between websites, producers, and sellers has always been fierce, but it's now at an all times high, due to the rising popularity of online shopping since the world has embraced social distancing and movement restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

This growing significance of online shopping has also ignited the "review war" on some of the world's leading shopping websites, particularly the giant Amazon.

For years, online shopping has thrived on reviews written by users who presumably have tried the product and are providing their "honest" opinions of it, its authenticity, and whether or not they regret the purchase they made.

Consequently, reviews have been one of the major factors that are drawing customers' interests in products, driving sales either high or low, based on what previous customers have to say.

The credibility of such reviews has gotten even higher; as Amazon has been able to identify verified users to say that the person reviewing an item has for sure purchased and tried the product. Yet, a recent Financial Times report has revealed some shocking details about ways through which reviews have been used to manipulate users for years.

According to the FT report, Amazon has recently detected more than 20k reviews, many of which were posted by the website's top reviewers. The report highlighted that certain operators have used Facebook pages to hire individuals interested in writing reviews on the website in exchange for money, which eventually drove their profit skyrocket.

Additionally, some unknown Chinese brands have been offering free samples in return for positive comments of their items on Amazon. The FT adds: "The FT’s analysis suggested that nine of Amazon’s current UK top 10 providers of ratings were engaged in suspicious behavior, with huge numbers of five-star reviews of exclusively Chinese products from unknown brands and manufacturers."

FT has also linked the increasingly difficult task of tracking fake or paid-for reviews on Amazon since the Coronavirus pandemic, as more and more individuals have had free time to write reviews on the website that has been witnessing increasing traffic and a sharp increase in sales.

Responding to the reviews crisis, Amazon has told CNBC that it will be hiring more teams in addition to utilizing more advanced software trying to identify and stop untrue and unreliable reviews. 

In their report following the FT investigation, CNBC has cited a study conducted by UCLA and USC researches last July, in which they found out that there are at least 20 Facebook groups, each loaded with thousands of users, offering people financial payments for positive reviews they write in reference to their products online.

According to the study, each positive post on a product was offered a payment of around $6.

Even though Amazon has pledged to craft a plan through which the e-commerce empire can control reviews, keeping only authentic ones, customers are now expected to feel more hesitant towards buying products even highly recommended ones, as they might not trust its anymore.

Amazon and its platforms in the Middle East will soon need to also incorporate new ways to provide users with honest recommendations so they restore customers' confidence in the website. For example, they might have to require brands or sellers to post high-quality videos showing products from different angles, in addition to providing a detailed description of the materials used in manufacturing them. 

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