You might have seen Igniyte’s Managing Partner, Caroline Skipsey, appear on BBC Breakfast this morning to discuss the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) report on fake online reviews, just released today.
Igniyte was asked by the CMA to help in their investigation of companies and review sites and they used Igniyte’s research in their report which revealed that over half (51%) of UK companies have been hit by unfounded criticism and malicious postings or have been targeted by trolls in the past year.
Igniyte’s research proves that online reviews are growing as a focus for businesses. The CMA launched the investigation in February this year after allegations of some companies manipulating their reviews and using incentives to encourage positive reviews.
As a whole, companies tend to struggle to encourage their customers to leave good reviews and review forums are often a way of customers being able to voice their negative comments. However, it is not appropriate for companies to mask over this with fake reviews – it is still essential that this process remains ethical.
Negative effects of online reviews
According to the CMA, 80% of consumers use online reviews before purchasing a product, which proves how detrimental it can be if your company receives negative feedback. The CMA’s investigation comes at a time where companies are spending up to £30,000 per year on trying to put things right – figures gained from Igniyte’s Business of Reviews research.
Caroline spoke about the investigation, explaining the potential pitfalls of generated reviews.
She said: “Used properly, review sites and forums are a force for good – giving consumers a much needed voice.
“But while businesses of all kinds welcome the opportunity to gather feedback, a growing number are falling victim to unjustified negative content online and the effect can be devastating.
“We welcomed the chance to participate in the investigation at the CMA’s request. We’d recommend businesses and review sites to take heed of the CMA’s clear guidance on the practice of online reviews.
“Paying for fake reviews and placing unsubstantiated content doesn’t fix the real business issues – if your business is subject to genuine negative reviews, the only way to overcome it is by listening to your customers and addressing their concerns.”
The CMA states that it will continue to investigate its concerns and will enforce ‘action’ where appropriate, to ensure businesses compete fairly in compliance with the law.
Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, has said: “We have opened an investigation into businesses that may be paying for endorsements in blogs and other online articles where the payment may not have been clear to readers.”
On the back of this investigation, various review sites, blog sites and reputation companies are being investigated for conduct that doesn’t conform to consumer regulation and ASA guidelines.
Online Reputation Management
The overall goal is for review forums to fairly represent the company in question. Every company will have the odd customer who has had an unfortunate experience and is fairly unhappy about it. But by the same token, they’ll probably have countless satisfied customers who fail to tell anybody about their experience. A business’ goal is to ensure that as many customers as possible are satisfied – thus increasing the chances of word spreading online and positive reviews being written. That is the only way that they’ll have a positive online presence in the long-term.