Update: On October 3rd, Amazon banned incentivized reviews from their website, except those that originate through Amazon’s Vine program. The Vine program operated by Amazon chooses its reviewers and mostly reviews newer products that do not have very many reviews. Some of the non-Vine incentivized reviews, however, will remain on the website, but no further reviews will be posted.
Amazon sold $21 billion in products in the first quarter of 2016. Buyers rely on online reviews posted on Amazon.com for information on products they cannot physically access before purchase, reviews trusted by 66 percent of people. Unfortunately, Amazon’s review policy can be abused in order to allow biased reviews to unfairly affect average review scores. Amazon’s policy prohibits paid or promotional reviews, except if a company provides a product for free or reduced price and the reviewer discloses this in their review.
ReviewMeta conducted an analysis of what they label “incentivized reviews” and found that reviewers who receive products in this fashion give higher than usual ratings and very few (if any) low ratings. They show that these biased reviews, even when controlling for the product, can significantly boost a product’s overall rating, which can mislead customers about the quality of an item they intend to buy.
ReviewMeta has developed an online tool that will filter out incentivized reviews and adjust the overall score in hopes of giving consumers accurate reviews. Their site includes products from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.ca, and Bodybuilding.com.
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