Amazon are singled out in this video but are not alone and in the UK, new legislation will try to combat the problem.
We don’t hide our major clients, from the BBC, to M & S and Warner Brothers, yet you will not see testimonials on our website, or embedded reviews.
This is a choice and no disrespect is meant to those who offer them but worth taking user perception into account. A decade ago, up to 10% of people visiting an average website might look at a testimonials page, now typically less than 1%.
The reason of course is lack of trust, to the extent that many feel showing testimonials does more harm than good. Neither are online reviews, or social mentions as believed as they were, with legislation now being aimed at them.
The Digital Markets Bill
To give the full title, the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill is at committee stage and will soon add to the powers of the Competition and Markets Authority. A newly formed Digital Markets Unit will focus on creating a competitive environment.
The task will be wide ranging, from trying to control market dominance, to subscription models for consumers and small business. There is also a requirement to eliminate fake reviews, buying, selling or hosting them will become illegal.
In principle, this would include writing an inventive testimonial on a website but being that granular is unlikely to be practical for a regulator. A greater focus will be on major tech companies and levying fines if they are not compliant.
Even so, specific duties are being assigned in terms of online promotion and the probability is that a few small fry will be caught in the net.
Principles To Note
Platforms hosting reviews must take reasonable steps to verify that product and service reviews are genuine. There will be a ban on people receiving money or goods for writing reviews and on companies paying for them.
This includes professional promoters on social media and those who offer fake reviews at a price, on places ranging from NHS Choices, to Google, Facebook etc. Not so hard to purchase them by batch, at a relatively modest cost.
How successful the regulator will be at stopping large scale activity, often originating in under regulated countries remains to be seen. The more serious battle against phishing and phone scams has not eliminated the problem.
There will still be well publicised cases and ensuring they could not in any way be linked to a business will make sense for them. The clean up may come from reputation protection, as much as individual regulatory action.
Keep On Promoting
Nobody is suggesting that promoting a business should hold a fear factor. We all need to do this, although there are varying ways.
A proportion of consumers and many B2B buyers carry out their own research. Ensuring they can easily find information on a website matters, then they will check claims made, look at corporate structure and relationships.
Dynamic for example mention the many thousands of carnets we have supplied and this can be verified. When we partnered with a leading US company, this was highlighted rather than hidden away, our environmental and data policies are there to be seen.
As the web matures, honesty and openness may prove to be the best recommendation. The same as when customers talk to a support team and value an honest response.