The site took the unusual step of suing some of its own users earlier this year – launching legal action against 1000 sellers who it believed to be soliciting fake reviews.
It has now made two additional, and significant, steps forward by introducing rules governing incentivized reviews and rolling out a new limit restricting the number of reviews which can be posted for items not purchased via the site itself.
Amazon’s mission to shore up the trust rating of its review system comes hot on the heels of Google and Facebook’s promise to stem the tide of fake news articles in search results and social media Newsfeeds.
The latest addition to its fake reviews arsenal, Amazon has announced that shoppers will be limited to five reviews per week on products not purchased via its marketplace. Currently, any user can place a review on a product, even if they did not order through Amazon. This system flies in the face of the Amazon’s new stand on fake reviews, as it means unverified purchases can leave reviews on any products – potentially open them up to fake or misleading content.
Now, only five reviews per week can be posted by any user who doesn’t have a verified purchase for that item on Amazon. This makes it harder for sellers to buy fake reviews and harder for bogus shoppers to capitalise by selling fake review services.
In the past, Amazon sellers have been allowed to offer free or discounted products in return for a review, provided that the review clearly stated that the user had been compensated.
In July, ReviewMeta carried out an analysis of seven million product reviews. Its findings showed that incentivized reviews earnt an average of .38 stars more than reviews from shoppers paying full price for the product. Further study showed that this seemingly small boost could actually push a product into the top rated category, when it perhaps did not deserve to be rated as highly.
Following this research, Amazon said that it would remove incentivized reviews on older products if they were excessive – new research by ReviewMeta shows that it has removed half a million reviews in the last few months, over 70% of which were incentivized.
ReviewMeta CTO Tommy Nooman said that the changes haden’t impacted on product ratings, suggesting that incentivized reviews were already given zero weighting by the platform.
What will this mean for Amazon sellers?
One of the biggest aims of the measures already rolled out by Amazon is to restore trust in its user ratings. By removing fake reviews, it ensures that product comments are fair, with no higher star ratings given than the product genuinely deserves due to payments for favorable reviews changing hands. While this can make the job of seller harder, it also means that shoppers are likely to have greater trust in reviews products do accumulate, which is good news for those who have genuinely strong offerings.
For Amazon sellers, the quick route to higher visibility and top ratings via incentivized or purchased reviews is no longer feasible. As a result, new products could take longer to become popular and climb through the Amazon best seller lists. It may also be harder to build sales momentum.
Research from BrightLocal suggests that consumers place a lot of store in online reviews, with 84% of shoppers trusting them as much as personal recommendations. For retailers, this means more work will need to be put in to secure the coveted feedback that will lead to Amazon sales.