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Manipulative Marketing Techniques: Fake Online Reviews of Products and Services

Online Reviews

Have you ever bought a product or service just because all those shining stars and positive reviews convinced you? We’re all as guilty as charged!

Studies revealed that as many as half of all online reviews of products and services are reportedly fake. There is no legislative regulation, and self-regulation of online providers remains deficient. More and more consumers realize after the purchase that they have been deceived.

While the primary focus of our articles is on methods and techniques of political manipulation, the examination of manipulative marketing techniques is also fundamental. As it stands, a modern informed consumer must also have the skills, knowledge and understanding of media literacy, because media and consumer culture are complex and often interconnected structures.

The more we learn about these structures, the less likely we are to “buy a pig in a poke.”

Online shopping is in full swing. Consumers are increasingly choosing to buy online. Because it is easily accessible, fast, and the offer is virtually unlimited. How to decide what to choose in this flood of products and services? Online reviews in the form of comments and stars are certainly a welcome help.

The majority of consumers who decide to shop online are between 18 and 35 years old. There is almost no product or service that cannot be ordered online. Most often, we shop or order in this way: clothes, cosmetics, food, books, toys, sports equipment, electronic devices, travel.  

The purpose of online reviews is for consumers to share their experiences. The one who has already bought the product and was generally either very satisfied or very disappointed with it, as a result of which he decided to share his experience with other potential consumers.

The results of many analyzes show that as many as half of the reviews of products and services online are fake. Behind their launch are well-organized groups that increase the sale of products and services online with false positive reviews and the maximum number of stars. Of course, such action takes place either in exchange for direct payment or in the form of a purchase discount or other consideration or gift (you may also read The Role of Influencers). 

According to some estimates, each additional star should mean an increase in sales by as much as a quarter. More than 93 percent of consumers decide to buy based on a review they find online.

Large online platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tripadvisor, Booking.com, have recently increasingly come to the public with news about the measures they have or will take to curb the creation and spread of fake online reviews. 

The measures rely primarily on the use of machine learning, i.e. algorithms that detect and remove such ratings in time. For this purpose, companies also employ people who try to remove as many such fake reviews as possible from the platforms before their users can read them. The platforms also take procedural action against the organizers and delete their accounts. One of the tools is also a call to users to report any detected fake reviews.

The motive of online platforms is of course clear. With all the accusations that have been heaped on them in recent years, and in the desire to further strengthen their business interests, it is crucial to maintain the credibility of the online environment. This environment is a key source of advertising and sales for many companies around the world.

However, their efforts often do not yield the desired results. The online giants are therefore often accused of not doing enough and that their measures are often too late and not consistent enough. That is why some countries already regulate this area, while others are increasingly deciding to do so. According to many experts, paying for an online assessment should be recognized as an illegal act and prosecuted as such.

HOW DO I PROTECT MYSELF AS A CONSUMER?

Surely anyone who has ever shopped online has some negative experience. When the postman brought the product to the home, it turned out that it was not what it looked like online. With the number of fake reviews circulating online, it seems we consumers are living in a new reality. It is becoming more and more normal and accepted that online reviews are not necessarily true, that they are there to increase sales and not to really help the consumer make a decision.

Therefore, if you often make purchase decisions based on the experiences and reviews of other users, it is definitely a good idea to be thorough when reading reviews. Don’t just rely on the number of stars, but carefully read several reviews, check the supplier’s website and remain suspicious. Above all else, ignore the five star reviews.   

As people are often more trusting of the reviews of other users, as we believe that they are genuine and come from the actual use of the product, it is still good to know when there is reason to suspect that something is not right:

1. The product or service has a suspiciously high number of positive five-star reviews compared to negative reviews.

2. Evaluations of products or services are too general, which means that they do not contain individual specifics or characteristics that would testify to the actual use of the product by the evaluator.

3. The same user evaluates products and services strongly positively in different parts of the world

4. All evaluations of the product or service were given within a short period of time.

5. If the reviews often contain pictures and videos, this can be a sign that it is a review against the client’s payment.

With all this, it will not be superfluous to be aware that we as consumers are different. We do not necessarily share the same views and expectations, we do not perceive the surroundings and things in the same way, our needs are different and last but not least, we also differ according to our economic status, the environment we come from, all of which also affects our user experience. 

Therefore, it is understandable to some extent that the same product or service cannot suit everyone in the same way, which is what global manufacturers and their advertising strategies are betting on. It might not be a mistake to keep this in mind the next time you read a positive review from a user “NN” from the other side of the world.


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