Last April, Amazon kicked off 50,000 Chinese sellers off their platform and banned their accounts for gaming the review system. This was done because sellers would include coupon codes with the packages, offering cashback for positive reviews, while others were straight paying for reviews, not to mention review farms. Where did all of these sellers go? Walmart, this is due to them being the second largest online marketplace in the US.
In early 2021, Walmart started to court sellers from outside of the United States to populate their catalog with millions of additional products, from 3rd party resellers. By the end of the year, Chinese sellers accounted for 1-7 sales. Research firm Marketplace Pulse estimates Walmart added about 8,000 sellers from China from March 2021 to mid-January 2022, accounting for almost all of its new international sellers and 14% of total new merchants.
According to Bloomberg, “there’s no shortage of industry bloggers or consultants on Chinese social media sites such as WeChat offering unscrupulous sellers so-called brushing services that help them create bogus reviews, credit card details, home addresses, and wish lists—all to simulate browsing histories and allow the placement of fake orders on retail websites. Done the right way, these subterfuges can help a seller show large numbers of buyers and positive reviews, which are often key to drawing customers to a product sold online.” “Brushing on Walmart is the same as on Amazon,” an adviser with the online name Xiaolu wrote in a post on WeChat. “The only difference is that Walmart so far doesn’t act as strictly as Amazon to crack down on the practice.”
Walmart’s website says sellers can ask for reviews for their products only by participating in one of the company’s three approved sampling programs. Amazon has a long set of rules, which go into great detail on what violates its terms, including the use of third-party services offering free or discounted products tied to a review.
I believe that Walmart will soon have a reckoning and will be faced with the same problem Amazon did. However, Amazon reviews are sacrosanct, buying decisions are made, based on the reviews. Walmart purchases, are made, because people want a product, delivered quickly and think they are buying the product directly from Walmart and not a reseller.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.