Chief Executive Officer Feefo
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Amazon's failures expose need for trusted feedback

17th Oct 2018
Chief Executive Officer Feefo
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Accentuating the positive is a natural impulse, especially in retail where consumer feedback is so important for establishing reputation and driving sales.

Amazon’s widely-reported investigation into claims of bribery relating to reviews on its platform demonstrates just how much rests on consumer sentiment, especially online.

Independent sellers using the Amazon platform are alleged to have bribed their way to deleting negative reviews from the website or restoring their banned accounts. The scandal also involved the illicit sharing of confidential sales data. Independent sellers face a tough battle, having to compete with Amazon, with one another and other online retailers, so it is not surprising that some may have been tempted to manipulate reviews. Of course, they were entirely mistaken.

But in the UK alone, reviews potentially influence £23 billion in customer spending each year, so it is easy to see why retailers might go down potentially dangerous paths to achieve a good reputation. Nevertheless, the deletion of negative reviews is both counter-intuitive and counter-productive. It is loaded with risk and creates doubts in consumers’ minds about the overall trustworthiness of reviews relating to any brand.

Why? Because consumers accustomed to online reviews know an unremittingly positive picture is too good to be true. They understand the value of real reviews from real customers and how trusted review platforms using artificial intelligence features give rapid access to the genuine feedback of thousands of real consumers. That provides them with a broader range of reliable opinions than word-of-mouth.

Research conducted among 2,000 UK consumers this year revealed how trust is a precious commodity in online reviews. While 94 per cent of consumers use online reviews, 89 per cent are worried about fakery and falsehood. The message is clear: businesses need to realise that trust and transparency are valued above all else. It also means the brand damage for any company rigging reviews can be very substantial.  Retailers need to grasp that manipulating reviews and deleting or neglecting negative sentiment is entirely counter-productive.

Any business that removes bad reviews is cheating consumers and risking exposure that will potentially destroy its brand. It is also denying itself all the insights that an agile, smart review platform will deliver about where it may already be failing to meet customer expectations. Such insights can be rapidly accessed through the power of artificial intelligence. Without these capabilities, an organisation will be slow to pick up on potentially damaging trends.

The Amazon incident once more demonstrates the need for retailers to become more transparent. They must ensure their customers are basing their buying decisions on real opinions of other customers rather than cherry-picked, positive reviews that suit the retailer. This is the only way to ensure that consumers stay loyal to brands in the longer term.

Right across retail, operators need to have agile, smart platforms that make it easy for real customers to leave authentic reviews. This is the way to build trust and to generate actionable insights that inform key business decisions, and which ultimately lead to greater sales. It is why deleting negative reviews is counter-productive.

By embracing reviews whether good, bad or ugly, businesses can benefit from all the tangible rewards of being more honest, trusted and transparent.

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