Before buying on Amazon, most people check reviews. In fact, before buying anything, most people check reviews. 

But sellers are increasingly aware of their power in shifting products. Reviews – and more of them – lead to more sales. It’s not surprising that there has been a rise in incentivised reviews; that’s when customers get products at a discount or for free in return for a review.

What’s the harm in that, you may ask?

The problem is that data analysis by Review Meta of 7 million Amazon reviews has found that incentivised reviewers give higher ratings.

That’s not a surprise – people are more likely to be positive about something if they haven’t paid for it. Particularly if other customers are judging it against the (full) price they paid.

But Review Meta’s point is that these reviewers aren’t just normal people being offered a discount on something they were going to buy anyway; they’re serial reviewers who are picking up stuff on the cheap.

People are buying products on the back of reviews that have essentially been paid for. - Highlight to share -

These incentivised reviews can have quite a noticeable effect: reviewers were found to rate products 0.4 stars or higher. That’s enough to send an average Amazon-reviewed product from the 54th percentile to the 94th percentile.

So people are buying products on the back of reviews that have essentially been ‘paid for’.

It also fundamentally puts into question using Amazon reviews as a basis on which to make a purchasing decision. There are too many reviews and products to make weeding out incentivised reviews practical.

Full disclosure: we allow brands to send products to people we pick at random in exchange for a review ONLY IF the product hasn’t gone on sale yet. Once it’s in the stores, it’s purchasers only.

A solution could be to show the score of the verified, un-incentivised reviews as the default option and let people see the others if they choose. That’s the service that Review Meta are trying to offer; the software removes the reviews that it determines to be ‘unnatural’.

Review Meta then monetises through the Amazon Associates programme.

One person’s comment under Review Meta’s video summed the whole situation up:

“I recently watched this video and I am happy to give it 4 stars out of 5. The information was presented in a highly entertaining way and was very informative. In the interest of disclosure, the maker of this video did provide me with a free copy to watch.”

The best way to get authentic, honest reviews is to use a closed reviewing system. - Highlight to share -

But without getting too meta on you, we’d argue that the service Review Meta provides is just as biased. Their algorithm, at least for now, is far from accurate.

One review, for example, has been deemed ‘untrusted’ for using repetitive phrases but they’re simply product descriptions. And in some cases, you can see that both the most trusted and least trusted review are the same review.

review meta

So what’s the answer, you may ask, if Amazon provides biased reviews and Review Meta don’t do the best job of filtering them out?

The best way to get authentic, honest reviews is to use a closed reviewing system.

That means collecting reviews only when proof of purchase has been received from the online shop, the manufacturer or the customer themselves (a receipt).

In the interests of openness and transparency, here’s our magic recipe:

reevoo process

No ‘write a review’ button, no open submissions, confirmed purchasers only.

That’s what Reevoo does.

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Incentivised reviews are biased, sure...