It’s almost a guarantee that you’ve seen these reviews, they always included a disclaimer that the reviewer received the product either free or at a discount. Amazon has allowed sellers to incentivize consumers with their products as long as they wrote an “honest review”. That is, until Amazon recently adjusted their community guidelines and banned sellers from seeking incentivized reviews on products.
The original intent of this practice was to allow sellers to get customer reviews on new products. However, a recent study found this could lead to products having an inflated star rating. One statistic says incentivized reviewers were 12 times less likely to provide a one star review. Here is the breakdown of 1-5 star reviews:
Overall, this leads to an on average .38 stars higher rating than reviews that were not incentivized. At the time of the study, the average Amazon product had 4.4 stars. This would mean that a boost of.38 stars would be enough to move a product to the top percentile.
According to the study “2 years ago, incentivized reviews accounted for less than 2% of new reviews. Since February of this year, they make up the majority of all new reviews on Amazon.”
Amazon stated that the intentions of the ban are to “preserve the integrity of the Community content” and now they only allow solicited reviews either at their request or through the Amazon Vine program. Previously, Amazon went after fake reviews by suing businesses that outright paid for reviews and the people that posted the fake reviews.
Amazon Vine is an in house invite only program where sellers can submit their products for review. The difference between Vine and incentivized reviews are that Vine does not require “Vine Voices” (participants) to write a review and a negative review does not affect their status in the program. Instead, their ranking is based on how useful other customers rate the review. Also, sellers can not directly communicate with Vine Voices nor do they have control over which users get their product.
Chee Chew, VP of Customer Experience said in a statement by Amazon “we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product.”
This move by Amazon has been applied to all categories of products except for books. Chew stated “We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.”
The statistics are pretty clear that the products that use incentivized reviews rated higher. Only time will tell if these products will continue to reign at the top of their respective categories now that this program has been cut.