UPDATE: Amazon Announces the End of Incentivized Reviews
Before we dive into the data, let’s start with a basic question. What qualifies as a verified purchase?
What are Amazon Verified Product Reviews?
Not only does Amazon place more weight on Verified reviews over non-Verified, the team has also instated a new rule. Customers must have spent over $50 on their Amazon account in order to be eligible to write a review. This minimum was formerly $5.
So what does this mean for sellers?
Well, before you panic and shut down the review campaign you just launched, keep reading.
Verified vs. Non-Verified Product Reviews
Total Verified Reviews: 165 (only 7.1%)
Amazon star rating: 3.5
Total rating: 4.5Amazon’s star rating was almost a half point lower based off of verified reviews—a full point lower than the total rating.
Of course, with every study, there were some variations. In a few cases, Amazon’s star rating was much higher than both the verified ones and total reviews:
So what other factors are at play?
What Other Factors Weight Amazon’s Rating Algorithm?
There are a few reasons for these variations, which are a reflection of Amazon’s algorithm overall.
We would be interested to see how much Amazon weights each of these in comparison:
- Verified/non-verified status
- Recency of review
- Helpfulness ratings
- Quality of reviewer (based on how many helpful reviews they’ve made)
We may not have data to verify weight on the above factors, but we do have theories based on the way Amazon works. Amazon always seeks to put the customer first. That could mean favoring verified reviews over comped or deeply-discounted product reviews, which have recently come under fire for being a little too biased.
Amazon’s experts have other theories about these shifts, and they are in line with Amazon’s customer-centric policies:
“The quality of the reviewer could be the reason why Amazon’s star rating is so much higher in some cases than both verified and non-verified reviews,” says Tien Nguyen, Director of Technology at CPC Strategy.
Those may be theories, but our experts agree that the second quality, recency of review, is arguably just as important as “verified review” status in Amazon’s eyes.
And in fact, this is a factor Amazon publicly announced in 2015 when they rolled out their “new machine-learning platform” to make reviews more balanced. According to a Cnet article covering the development, the machine gave “…more weight to newer reviews, reviews from verified Amazon purchasers and those that more customers vote up as being helpful.”
Pat Petriello, Senior Marketplace Strategist at CPC Strategy, explains why:
Amazon likes to see steady, consistent performance in a seller’s available inventory, sales, conversions, reviews, and rankings. I could see them not wanting to allow a Seller to be able to frontload reviews for a product and then rest on those laurels forever without consistently following that performance up.
How Should Sellers React to This Information?
To start, know there are many factors at play in Amazon’s algorithm, and we haven’t figured them all out. However, we do know that it’s not time to shut down review campaigns. In fact, the new $50 limit for a “verified” purchase will likely help sellers out in the long run.
Ethan Pilkenton-Getty, Manager of Marketplace Channel Operations at CPC Strategy, shares why:
While they are significantly upping the threshold [for customer payment requirements], I still don’t see this having a major impact on review campaigns. I would estimate that most members of a review club are seasoned Amazon shoppers that have accumulated well over $50 worth of purchases on their Amazon account. So this wouldn’t impact them. However, this new policy could help weed out some of the fake review accounts that are opened for the purposes of buying reviews.
Still wondering if your review campaign is worth it?
Jeff Coleman, VP of Marketplace Channels at CPC Strategy expands on why you can still get the competitive edge.
“Our early indicators still point to sales velocity as a primary driver of product rankings, says Coleman. “Even if the ability of review clubs to generate a high volume of reviews weakens over time, I’d still place a lot of value on their ability to drive sales velocity.”