Is There A Marketing Loophole When It Comes To Up-Voting Amazon Reviews?
The ever-evolving nature of online business is a source of both excitement and exasperation for entrepreneurs. Boundaries are repeatedly being pushed, often pitting pioneers against the proverbial “powers that be.”
Take, for example, the semi-recent Amazon review changes. A few months back, a tornado barreled through the e-commerce industry: Amazon had banned incentivized reviews. No longer could sellers offer free products in exchange for honest feedback. Ostensibly, the move hurt companies relying on the technique for product launches.
But instead of throwing in the towel, marketers did what they do best…adjusted. Many started offering “list optimization” and “list maintenance” services. How did the new system work? Promotions experts enlisted users to up-vote helpful reviews; instead of writing posts, operatives boosted positive reviews.
It was a genius approach; because if you look closely at Amazon’s interface, a question sits at the bottom of each review: “Was this review helpful to you?” Nowhere does it indicate that review-rating is dependent on product purchase. After all, (and theoretically), reviews are tools for potential buyers — and potential buyers find some reviews more helpful than others during the decision making process.
Regardless, Amazon insists its algorithms unearth these types of up-vote networks. “We have machine-learned processes to detect inauthentic customer insights including the manipulation of helpful votes and will ban vendors, sellers, and reviewers who are found to be out of compliance with our policies,” explained a spokesperson for the company.
Marketing Blackmail: Sabotaging A Listing To Drum Up Business?
Here’s an excerpt.
The scenarios can get nastier still, according to one merchant who markets skin-care products on Amazon. Asking not be identified for fear of retribution from these vendors, the merchant said his product was a best-seller on Amazon in mid-April, when shoppers were scooping up 450 units a day.
Earlier this month, however, he noticed that all of the negative reviews — about eight of them — were on the top of his page, though the vast majority of his reviews were positive.
The merchant reached out to a “list optimization” vendor who’d previously sent him an e-mail advertising its services. The vendor, whose company the merchant declined to identify, offered to “clean up” his problem for $350 or to provide “listing maintenance” for $1,000 a month.
The skin-care merchant declined the services. The next morning the number of negative votes climbed to 160. On the following day it was 260.
The vendor called him back and suggested that one of the merchant’s competitors — whose positive review votes had, maybe not coincidentally, risen by a lot — was responsible for the negative votes.
The vendor reiterated his offer, upping the cost to $2,000 because the problem had grown exponentially. The vendor also offered to “screw the competitor’s site” according to the merchant.
Blackmailing businesses, via fake review manipulation, undermines “truth-in-advertising” standards and various Federal Trade Commission “unfair and deceptive” marketing rules. If someone is unfairly attacking your website or product listing, in this manner, let’s talk. Our team has helped hundreds of businesses with online review issues of this nature.
Want to read more about online feedback legalities? Head over to the consumer review law section.