Amazon’s new one-tap ratings could help the fake review problemFebruary 14, 2020
Fake reviews still exist on Amazon, but the dominant online shopping platform recently made a big change that might help drown them out instead.
The online retailer quietly introduced one-tap ratings for product reviews late last year, making it possible for shoppers to provide a star rating without needing to write a review to accompany it.
The change has already led to an increase in overall customer feedback, a competitive advantage that Amazon has over many of its biggest brick-and-mortar competitors. And new products are generating feedback on Amazon sooner, the company says, which could be a boon for new brands and sellers. But some industry observers believe another indirect impact of the change will be a significant increase in authentic ratings that will make it harder for fake reviews to break through the noise.
“As the number of ratings increase, customers can see a larger set and thus a more accurate rating,” said Patrick Miller, co-founder of Flywheel Digital, an agency that helps large consumer brands sell on Amazon. “For brands, this means the black-hat review clubs and sellers will have less impact, as fake reviews as a percentage of legit reviews should decrease.”
The new rating feature arrives at a time in which fake product reviews have been attracting more attention from the media, regulators, and Amazon itself as more consumers conduct more of their shopping online. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission brought its first case involving paid fake reviews, settling a complaint against an Amazon seller who purchased fake five-star reviews for a weight-loss supplement. Amazon has also filed at least five lawsuits related to fake-review schemes over the last five years. On one end, fake positive reviews can simply lead to the purchase of poor-quality merchandise and distrust among shoppers. But in certain categories, a flattering review of a bad or faulty product can be flat-out dangerous.
The new one-tap feature asks customers to select from one to five stars for a product. It’s only available to customers who have actually purchased the item from Amazon — “verified” buyers. That barrier alone creates one hurdle that will make the new rating system harder to game, since Amazon does allow written reviews from non-verified buyers. And as the new rating feature attracts more and more feedback from verified buyers, it’ll get more expensive for schemers to buy enough phony reviews to try to break through the noise.
“The more customers who purchased the product [who] provide feedback, the more accurately the star rating reflects the experience of all purchasers,” is how Amazon spokesperson Angie Newman put it, without directly referencing fake reviews.
Amazon does not provide many specifics about how a product’s overall star rating is calculated, other than stating that it is not a simple average but instead uses “machine-learned models” that take into account factors such as how recent the rating…