It goes without saying that not all Amazon reviews can be trusted. That glowing five-star review for an el cheapo hair drier was posted by the manufacturer. That scathing review of the iPhone 7 came from an Android fan who never tested the product. And so on and so forth.
But what about reviews from regular users who received a free or discounted product in exchange for "unbiased" feedback? Well, it turns out they're the least trustworthy of all. According to a new study by ReviewMeta, Amazon reviewers who use incentive disclaimers usually rate the products a lot higher. Well, duh.
There has been a growing trend on Amazon and other review sites where consumers are provided with free or discounted products by manufacturers in exchange for "honest" reviews. This is not considered a violation of Amazon’s Terms of Service as long as the reviewer discloses all the facts.
To find out whether this practice affects review scores, ReviewMeta analysed more than 18 million Amazon reviews. The results proved what many of us have suspected all along: these so-called reviews tend to score products more favourably than reviewers who paid for the product themselves.
"Our data continues to support our claims that the reviews with an incentive disclaimer (eg. "I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest and unbiased review") are much more likely to be positive than reviewers who did not receive a discount," ReviewMeta explained on its blog.
"Reviews containing language that would indicate the reviewer received the item for free or at a discount in exchange for a review on average rate the product .38 stars higher than reviews that did not contain this disclosure."
38 per cent of a single star might not sound like much, but it can make a big difference to a product's overall ranking on Amazon. As ReviewMeta explains:
"Considering that the average product on Amazon is rated around 4.4 stars, a boost from 4.36 to 4.74 stars can mean the difference between a mediocre product and a top rated product."
Plus, when you're comparing two similar products and tossing up which one to buy, a slightly higher star rating could be the deciding factor in your purchasing decision. As always, it pays to compare and contrast reviews from multiple sources and supplement user feedback with professional reviews before buying a large ticket item.
You can find out more in the above video. The accompanying blog, linked below, is also worth a look.