No More Free Products In Return For Reviews On Amazon

Amazon Reviews

Reviews are a huge part of why we buy the items we choose to buy. 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, which shows why online retailers put so much effort into making them available for potential customers to view.

Product reviews are a prominent part of all Amazon item listings. Those with the highest and greatest number of reviews outsell the rest by a large margin. But Amazon just made a change that could have a big impact on the ability for many to get reviews. Here’s what happened and why it’s bad for business.

The New Rules Of Reviews On Amazon

Up until this week, Amazon allowed anyone who owned or had experience with a product to review it on their site. In addition to people that had purchased a product, they also allowed companies to send people free and discounted products in exchange for a review. But the changes made this week now ban incentivized reviews on Amazon, with one shady exception.

Incentivized reviews on Amazon are no longer allowed, unless they’re done through Amazon’s own Vine program. Incentivized reviews have been proven to be more positive of products, according to an analysis of 7 million Amazon reviews by ReviewMeta. So why does Amazon think their program is any different?

More Incentive To Be Positive

Most incentivized review, which offer free or discounted products to people in exchange for reviews, are filled with overly positive feedback. This is even more common in the Amazon Vine program. While Amazon claims they don’t require positive reviews and in fact don’t even require those given free products to review them at all (seriously?), the truth of the program is far different.

Vine members get to pick and choose the products they receive and review. With it being unlikely that they’ll pick something they don’t think they’ll enjoy (or can resell for a good price, something not allowed by the program), members are more likely to enjoy the products because they already have a positive affinity towards them when selecting.

This alone can skew a review and make it increasingly positive while letting the negatives go. Look at almost any Vine review on Amazon and you’re almost guaranteed to see a 5 star rating. You’ll be hard pressed to find a 3 star rating or less from any Vine program member. Why is that?

It’s been said by a number of members that negative or less than very positive reviews will result in being dropped from the program. Negative reviews make the companies giving up free product less than happy and unlikely to continue participating in the program. Amazon gets paid from participating companies and if they want to keep companies involved, they’ve got reason to drop members who don’t have good things to say about their partners.

New Rules, No Change In Results

Amazon claims the changes to ban incentivized reviews outside of their own program will help assure customers that reviews on Amazon are trusted sources of buying advice. But it’s clear that banning others from incentivizing their reviews while keeping their own Vine program will do little to stop the flow of overly positive reviews from those that receive free products.

More likely than the reasons given by Amazon, these changes may have been made to increase the number of companies participating (and paying) to be part of the Vine program, and it will also likely increase the number of undisclosed incentivized reviews on Amazon. Is that really what we want?

Author: Ben Brausen

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