Amazon makes good on its promise to delete â€œincentivizedâ€ reviews – TechCrunch
Amazon is making good on its promise to ban â€œincentivizedâ€ reviews from its website, according to a new analysis of over 32,000 products and around 65 million reviews. The ban was meant to address the growing problem of less trustworthy reviews that had been plaguing the retailerâ€™s site, leading to products with higher ratings than they would otherwise deserve.
Incentivized reviews are those where the vendor offers free or discounted products to reviewers, in exchange for recipientsÂ writing their â€œhonest opinionâ€ of the item in anÂ Amazon review. However, data has shown that these reviewers tend to write more positive reviews overall, with products earning an average of 4.74 stars out of five, compared with an average rating of 4.36 for non-incentivized reviews.
Over time, these reviews proliferated on Amazon, andÂ damagedÂ consumersâ€™ trust in theÂ review system as a whole. And that canÂ impact consumersâ€™ purchase decisions.
According to recent findings fromÂ ReviewMeta, a business that analyzes millions of reviews to help consumers find those they can trust, Amazon has been rapidly deleting incentivized reviews â€“ even retroactively.
This is especially interesting because Amazon had said at the time of the banâ€™s announcement that it would only remove incentivized reviews from older products if they were â€œexcessiveâ€ or if they didnâ€™t comply with the prior policy.
But apparently, Amazon is going back to remove a large number of older reviews, as well.
Above: percentage of incentivized reviews per day since 8/1/2016
ReviewMeta checked up on Amazonâ€™s progress by analyzing its own dataset of around 65 million reviews across 32,060 products inÂ allÂ categories.
It found that Amazon had deleted over 500,000 reviews, 71 percent of which were incentivized. The average rating for these deleted reviews wasÂ 4.75 stars â€“ clearly much higher than the typicalÂ average. Some products even saw thousands of reviews removed â€“ like this cosmetic scrub, which had 9,000 reviews removed, for example.
Above: average rating forÂ all reviews per day since 8/1/2016
The company then analyzed a subset of products from over the past two weeks to get a sense of how many incentivized reviews still remain on Amazonâ€™s site.
Across the over 10 million reviews analyzed (a dataset based on those consumers entered on the ReviewMeta website), only 1.5 percent of the reviews were incentivized.
â€œThis is considerably less than we were seeing previously,â€ says Tommy Noonan, ReviewMeta CTO. â€œFor every incentivized review we found on Amazon, there were 2.6 in our database that werenâ€™t there anymore,â€ he adds, referring to the deleted reviews.
What theÂ figures seem to indicate is that, thoughÂ Amazon is deleting a large number incentivized reviews, it hasnâ€™t managed to catch all of them. Part of the problem could be that incentivized reviews are still rolling in, despite Amazonâ€™s ban.
That said, the number of incentivized reviews has dropped significantly following the ban, and this, in turn, has lowered the average rating for all reviews. The day before the ban was enacted, for instance, the average rating for all reviews that day was 4.73; on November 1, the average rating for all reviews had dropped to 4.65.
Whatâ€™s also interesting, Noonan notes, is that Amazonâ€™s product ratings were largely unaffected, despite the mass deletions. The product ratings â€“ that is, when Amazon tells you that a product is â€œ4.5 out of 5 starsâ€ â€“ appear to have already been adjusted to discount the incentivized reviews when calculating the overall rating.
â€œWeâ€™re seeing that many incentivized reviews effectively carry zero weight in Amazonâ€™s product ratings,â€ saysÂ Noonan.
This is likely due to the fact that a majority (95%) of the incentivized reviews didnâ€™t have the â€œVerified Purchaserâ€ tag attached â€“ meaning the customer had bought from Amazon directly. And unverified reviews were already carrying no weight in Amazonâ€™s rating system. (The exception being if they were the only reviews a product had, in which case they were used to calculate the overall score).
Noonan concludes that Amazonâ€™s actions have sufficiently addressed the problem with its ban.
â€œItâ€™s obviously not 100% perfect,â€ he says. â€œIt seems [Amazon has]Â removed a majority of the incentivized reviews and pretty much put an end to more being created. They effectively killed this industry,â€ he adds.
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