Those who have read reviews on Amazon in recent years will have noticed that an addendum has appeared in some reviews. This means that the reviewer has received the rated product free of charge or at a discount in exchange for his or her honest, unbiased opinion. In e-commerce circles, these reviews are referred to as sponsored reviews. Although a great deal of emphasis is generally placed on objectivity, according to an extensive review by ReviewMeta, the sponsored reviews are apparently more positive than “real” reviews. In the course of time, these supposedly influenced reviews have become conspicuous, resulting in complaints from consumers who feel as though they have not been given sincere advice. The question now arises what effect this change will have on the review platforms and on the online marketplace in general.
Chee Chew, Vice President of Consumer Engagement at Amazon, located in the Seattle metropolitan area, stated what is generally known about this issue on October 3, 2016, namely that customer reviews are among the most valuable tools for informed consumer buying decisions on Amazon. By using an algorithm that attaches more importance to the newer, more helpful reviews, they have already improved the review management, Chew says. Stricter criteria for the identification of verified purchases will begin being applied. People who have falsified reviews or written reviews on an unqualified basis are to be banned and even sued. Amazon’s guidelines have always prohibited payment in return for reviews, with one exception: reviewers could write a review against the free or discounted receipt of the product, provided they published this information. Chew emphasises that sponsored reviews are only a tiny part of the reviews on Amazon. When written adequately and objectively, these can be a helpful tool for other customers, as they create a foundation for new or lesser-known products.
A safe alternative is the Amazon Vine program, which has been around for several years – thus far exclusive to vendors. Amazon – not the sellers or vendors – identify and invite trustworthy and helpful reviewers to share their opinions about new or unreleased products on Amazon. This should prevent positive ratings being sponsored and customers being influenced in their purchasing decisions. The number of reviews for each product is limited under the Vine program. The changes in the review guidelines only apply to product categories, not to books.
Many of the American reviewers have already complained about deleted reviews from Amazon, as they feel they have been removed for no reason.
The blog post on the customer reviews update shows that Amazon will be announcing further news soon. This could mean that vendors may also be able to use the Amazon Vine program in the future.