[READ IMPORTANT UPDATE AT END]
Have you ever bought a product off Amazon (or another online retailer) only to find it didn’t match up at all with the reviews you read before you bought it? Here’s one reason you may have a different experience than you were lead to believe.First, let me clarify, when I say “fake” I mean “less than objective”. The reviews I mention and probably 95%+ of the reviews you read were left by real people, rather than automated programs. Yes, some places actually have reviews left by an automated process rather than real people.
When product reviews were first begun on large online retail sites, the completely bogus reviews left by automated programs were the biggest problem. Now that automated reviews are pretty well detected by the large retailers, they aren’t nearly as common. Product sellers have moved on to a different approach that involves real people and in most cases real people that have actually used the product they’re reviewing.
This type of “less than objective” review is fake in the way that it’s portrayed. After reading through the usually two to three paragraph review, you’ll notice a line something like this near the end: “I received this product at a discounted rate for providing my honest and unbiased opinion ” or “I received this item for free in return for my honest and unbiased review, I did not receive any money or any other compensation in return, these are my honest thoughts“. These are the more prominent notices about an incentivized review. In this case the product seller has offered the reviewer the product at a cheaper price to leave a review for them. Do you believe this incentive would affect the review left?
These reviews are gained in large part by private Facebook groups where product sellers can find people willing to trade a review for either a discounted or in some cases, a free product. Some reviewers are also paid to create the reviews. The only stipulation, to stay within Amazon’s guidelines is to somewhere state that this transaction took place.
Here are some scenarios and tip-offs that may indicate the reviews you’re reading may be biased.
With these products, you’ll only see about the first 100 or so reviews that are incentivized. Why? Around a hundred reviews is the “tipping point” that people look for prior to making a purchase. If you have a hundred or more reviews, people will generally consider your product.
- Reviews will be overwhelmingly positive with minor or cosmetic “cons” that most people won’t even see as a negative.
- Star ratings are overall 4-5 stars. There are very few products that get 95%+ positive reviews. It’s not always the case, but should trigger further consideration.
- CAPITALIZED words with a lot of exclamation points. Often reviews that are less than objective try to compensate for it with exaggerated text or emotion.
Here are a few samples of reviews that have been left for products in exchange for a discount or free product.
|Product||Review or Snippet||Tip-off to biased review (other than it just being stated)|
|Iron Flask Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle||"I was so impressed when I opened the box. I love the matte finish! One of the prettiest I have seen. So I washed it and was ready to try it out. The overnight test. I love cold water but my current flask wasn't keeping my water cold all night. Plus I had to keep it on a coaster. Not this one. It kept the water cold and no condensation 🙂 I'm buying another one for my husband. Love this product! I did buy this product at a reduce/free price in exchange for my HONEST opinion."||Three exclamation points, and the word HONEST in all caps|
|CoolKo Newest Touch Screen Glove||"First cable I tried my y phone didn't recognize it so I tried the second and had the same problem. I found excess pieces of the molding around both connector which was blocking the connector from seating properly. After trimming the excess it worked great. The braided cable seems durable but I haven't used this long enough to see how well it holds up. "||On this product, there's actually (currently anyway) a line of text in the product title promising discounts for reviews. Secondly, look at the review in the prior column. This purchaser had to trim up the product to make it work. Would you do that then leave a 4 star review?|
|3 in 1 CoolKo Auto Scanner Newest Super Mini ELM327 Bluetooth OBD II tool||"This is a very nice product it saved me a lot of time and money on using a mechanic to solve my problem ..connected on my galaxy 6 and found the problem with my car fast courteous service as well thanks!"|
"Purchased this to use on my work truck which is throwing a check engine light. It will not communicate with the ECU on my 2006 Silverado but has no problem communicating with the ecu on my 2006 Pontiac. Additionally, the software will not work on a windows 7 or windows 8 or windows 10 computer.
But hey, the usb light works.."
|This is a bit trickier. The product description offers a discount for a review, but also, check out the reviews left. They are polar ends of the spectrum. They are either VERY good or VERY bad. Just something else to check closer on.|
I’d like to think it was this article that made the difference, but I seriously doubt it, as this news broke later the same day I posted this article. Amazon has just banned incentivized reviews by product sellers. The only discounts-for-reviews will be through Amazon’s Vine program. Amazon will be the one to select reviewers with helpful reviews to review new products for sellers and sellers have been banned from offering them on their own.
I’m split on whether this will solve the problem. I think it’s a good thing to quash the bias that results, but I believe the same practice will continue, now just without the “it’s my honest review” tagline. Sellers will most likely imply the discount or promotional item exchange for a review that’s left or communicate directly with the seller outside of Amazon to accomplish the goal.
Will this solve the review problem they’ve been facing? Will it simply push it “underground”? What’s the best way to solve the problem? Let me know what you think.