Online reviews for products and services are an imperative piece of information for consumers to determine the value provided. However, with suppliers across the board inflating reviews with incentivized ratings, consumers are often misinformed and deceived into agreeing to inferior and potentially malicious offers.
At face value, listed reviews for various items online should represent the most authentic and genuine evaluation for prospective buyers. After all, what better experts exist than the real users?
Unfortunately, the review ecosystem does not play out nearly as worthwhile in production. With no incentivization for unbiased reviews, honest suppliers with top quality products don’t see appropriate praise in their reviews. Instead, “winning” suppliers are the ones most effective at enticing individuals to sell out perfect reviews.
The Reality of Reviews
Review aggregators like Amazon, Yelp and Google provide meager incentives for reviews in the form of on-site badges and titles. While this does encourage a portion of the user-base to leave reviews, the vast majority simply can’t be bothered. What does it mean to be a Level 5 Local Reviewer on Google Maps, anyways?
In reality, avid reviewers are being incentivized from the reviewees themselves. It’s standard practice for merchants to provide top participants on Amazon, Yelp or otherwise with complementary products and services. The unwritten rule suggests that these reviewers are indebted to return the favor with stellar reviews. If not, they may find their freebie stream dry up.
Beyond complementary goods for top reviewers, sellers are taking it a step further, tapping into paid review groups to boost their ratings to the top of their niche and dominate online marketplaces. Because the work required to leave a five-star review is so miniscule, these merchants are able to buy authentic reviews to the tune of $5-10 per.
When these merchants see profits of $5-10 per sale (or much more), the payoff for fake reviews is massive.
Bad Actors, Great Reviews
Merchants are gaming the review economy to boost sales on products and services that would otherwise come off as inferior or otherwise too expensive. This in and of itself is a major issue, but it gets worse. What happens when the users themselves are the product, and bad actors fake reviews to take advantage of them?
In the digital age of today, malicious software can be leveraged to suck huge value out of unsuspecting victims. Savvy malware distributors are also gaming reviews to disguise covert malware as legitimate software. Unsuspecting users, deceived from the reviews, are at the mercy of the cyber criminals.
This has played out several times this year within the cryptocurrency space. With the price of Bitcoin rebounding immensely, new interest has once again flocked to crypto. Scammers across the board are looking to take advantage of these newbies with malware disguised as Bitcoin and altcoin wallets.
Specifically, there have been a string of malicious apps popping up on the Google Playstore. While the Playstore vets applications for malicious coding, this batch of malware was able to bypass filters with subtle code that overrides clipboard inputs. When users paste an address to send coin to, the app replaces it with the hacker’s wallets.
With paid downloads and positive reviews, these apps are able to jump the rankings and take on a plethora of unsuspecting victims.
Blockchain for a Better Review Standard
As it stands, the root of the online reviews problem lies in a lack of incentives and transparency. A fair system that rewards users for honest reviews- positive or negative, alongside a mechanism that verifies review authenticity is exactly what is needed. In terms of incentivization and transparency, blockchain provides the natural solution.
Singapore-based TEE-Coin (TEC) is working to be the pioneer of an improved reviews ecosystem. Through their ChatTee mobile app, users are rewarded TEC for in-app activity and product reviews. TEC can be redeemed in-app for coupons and discounts across the 40,000+ merchants currently onboarded, or exchanged for other cryptocurrencies or alternative rewards points.
All reviews are verified through underlying blockchain technology, so users have an authentic look into customer feedback for various products on the platform. Merchants also benefit from AI-based analytics for pinpoint insight into consumer and market trends. Suppliers can also leverage ChatTee’s 86,000+ users with specialized loyalty programs.
Often times, blockchain is synonymous with transparency. In a place like the world of online reviews, there is much to be gained by incorporating this emerging technology.