Temptation is only a few keystrokes away. A series of loving reviews from customers can more than double sales inquiries online for some businesses, experts say.
But how can anyone be sure these happy words are genuine and the vendor hasn’t enlisted friends and family to give sales a little kick start?
A giveaway is that the testimonial is too effusive, too complimentary and is written in marketing-speak.
No-one writes like an advertising brochure in real life.
And watch for sloppy spelling and poor grammar. Do a copy, paste and web search on phrases (including spelling mistakes) because fake reviews are sometimes taken from other sites.
A sudden spike in the number of reviews may also mean someone is padding with a few extra testimonials, either from paid writers or friends.
Australia’s federal and state consumer watchdogs have just launched a crackdown on bogus customer reviews.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has had a major win with the Federal Court imposing the first fine in Australia for a fake customer testimonial.
The $125,000 fine against Euro Solar and Australian Solar Panel is said the be the biggest imposed in the world. The man behind the companies, Nikunjkumar Patel, has been fined $20,000.
And nationally state watchdogs have told more than 40 companies to prove that their glowing testimonials are genuine or face legal action.
Sam Johnson, the founder of Feedback Loop, a online review verification system, says this sets an example on misleading testimonials.
“It’s the largest single fine that any company has been issued worldwide,” he says. “In New York, fines totalled $350,000 across 19 companies.
“We have customers and staff in the UK, US and Australia but Australia has by far being the most active in dealing with this problem.”
Restaurants reviews are a problem globally and also in the frame are real estate, funeral services and alternative health.
Studies indicate that reviews can increase businesses sales between 17 per cent and 153 per cent, Johnson says.
Businesses make more sales because potential customers trust them more and are more likely to make a decision to buy.
However, a bad fake review can hurt sales.
“Marketers are getting increasingly savvy so they can be hard to detect,” Johnson says.
“A poor fake review may read similar to all the others, have poor spelling or grammar, be over-enthusiastic.
“But it’s much harder to fake photos, real names, job titles and connections to social profiles which is what our software automates.”