How can sellers keep it real, when they’re surrounded by fake reviews and counterfeits?
Q: I sell reflective wearables online and do good business on Amazon. But I’m constantly seeing new competitors—all cheap knockoffs that, suspiciously, quickly collect tons of positive reviews. What’s going on, and can I stop it? —Tim G.
A: “Amazon” is a good name for Jeff Bezos’ company. It’s a sprawling site characterized by relentless change, furious competition, and incredible diversity. It’s also, as many sellers have discovered, a jungle.
Tim, you’re getting it on two sides here, so let’s start with the review problem. Reviews are critical for a seller. They put customers’ minds at ease, drive sales, and push products up in the search rankings, but they are hard to accumulate because only a tiny percentage of buyers leave them. Which means, this being the internet, reviews must be immediately corrupted.
And so they were! Sellers began contracting with third-party firms that would help them offer free or discounted products in exchange for unbiased reviews that would contain a disclaimer—something like “I was provided with a free product in exchange for my honest review”—to satisfy FTC rules regarding endorsements. Some of these “incentivized review” sites were on the up-and-up, keeping reviewer and seller at a safe remove to ensure fairness. Others were not, allowing clients to pick reviewers based on average number of stars, or threatening to stop giving reviewers free stuff unless they gave everything high marks. Others still were just paying people for good reviews. In any case, a seller could amass a slew of these positive reviews in a very short period of time, climb the ranks, and sell more product.
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