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Countering Fake Reviews with Fintech: The Role of Payments Technology

How can integrating feedback into the payments journey can optimise the customer checkout experience and counter the emergence of fake reviews? Brian Coburn, Founder and CEO of BR-DGE, a payment orchestration service for e-commerce businesses explains.

Some of you might have heard the story of the much-acclaimed restaurant “The Shed at Dulwich”. In 2017, it became a top TripAdvisor London restaurant. The only problem was it had never sold roasted haddock nor clams as it advertised on its menu. Indeed, the restaurant had never sold any food at all until its opening night when it already had the number one spot in London. It was a hoax from Vice journalist Oobah Butler to expose the rise in fake reviews online.

For many that hear this story, it evokes laughter. However, beneath this, it reveals the fragility of the online reviews system with some less ethical firms cheating their way to the top with forged five-star customer scores. The output of this activity is that consumers are often tricked and manipulated into buying services or products from companies that haven’t earned their great scores. On the flip side, some firms are on the receiving end of fake negative reviews from competitors and bots that go far in damaging their reputation.

Fake reviews unleashed

In 2022, fake reviews continue to pose a significant threat to consumers and platforms alike. Last year, Trustpilot removed more than 2.2m fake reviews from its site and has invested heavily in fraud detection and enforcement. Consumer group Which? has also published advice on how consumers can spot fake reviews, highlighting the challenges that consumers face from this growing problem. Further research from the UK Competition and Markets Authority found that 80 per cent of British adults had experienced misleading fake reviews online.

The threat of fake reviews even goes further with business owners and merchants facing the reputational risk of fake reviews damaging their relationship with customers. Being unable to authenticate reviews on third-party websites is part of this challenge with consumers and businesses unsure how to separate the genuine feedback from the forged.

The role of payments technology in countering fake reviews

 Within this worrying trend, there is a role for payments technology to lead the fightback with fintechs well-positioned to counter fake reviews and ensure the authenticity of customer scoring.

One way for payments technology firms to achieve this is by integrating the reviews process into the payments journey. For example, it can be as simple as during the payments process, prompting customers to leave a review following their payment. By using this technology, merchants can accurately track customer sentiment in real-time with assurances that the data and opinions received are accurate and fair.

Not only does this improve the customer experience, it also ensures that firms are receiving the correct information and analytics to guide their decision-making. This decreases the reliance on external feedback platforms where the authenticity of a review cannot be verified, often at great reputational risk to the merchant.

Nowadays, customer reviews play a leading role in shaping future business decisions so it is vital to get this right and, in turn, receive real, authentic feedback from customers. Furthermore, by integrating reviews into the payments journey, it saves on the organisational resource, stress and time it takes to identify, remove, and combat fake reviews. The business case for better review processes is clear.

The opportunity for optimising the payments process

 The best payment processes are those focusing on frictionless payments and ease of use for both end-users and merchants. Embedding an entirely authentic review process into the customer checkout process improves the experience for the customer but also businesses seeking to learn how their organisation can better itself.

Online review systems have long had a number of blindspots with some participants gaming and faking the system to enhance their own standing or defame others. At BR-DGE, we see fake reviews as a worrying problem but also an opportunity to enhance the experience for consumers and businesses alike with our payments expertise. We have recently partnered with eKomi to integrate reviews into the customer payments journey.

For those willing to challenge online fake reviews, there is a clear opportunity for fintechs to show up and challenge this harmful trend.

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