Not Sure What to Buy on Amazon? Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust the Reviews

Like most twenty-somethings, I’m a pretty frequent online shopper.

Sure, shopping in person is great and all, but it’s hard to beat the convenience that comes with having pretty much anything you want delivered right to your door.

If I’m not using that trusty “price low to high” feature to filter search results, I look at the reviews to help me figure out what I should spend my hard-earned money on. Why? Because life is too short to wear flats that give you blisters.

A new report, however, says those helpful ratings and reviews may not be so trustworthy after all.


Incentivized reviews have been an ongoing trend in the online retail space for a while, with people receiving discounted or free products in return for reviews. Even though there’s no money being exchanged for feedback, it’s certainly not objective.

Research group ReviewMeta analyzed more than seven million Amazon reviews and the results are pretty alarming.

Incentivized reviewers were 12 times less likely to assign a one-star rating and four times less likely to leave a critical comment than ordinary users.

Incentivized users also tended to rate products 0.38 per cent higher.

While this may seem like a pretty small increase, it can be enough to tip a four-star rated product into the five-star range.

Considering Amazon’s customer feedback is a huge factor in the online retailer’s success, the fact that their ratings and reviews are less-than-accurate could affect the site’s credibility.


It also doesn’t help that even without the issue of incentivized reviews, there are a lot of different factors that can affect user ratings. Small sample sizes and things like the “brag-and-moan bias” (which shows that consumers with extreme opinions are more likely to post reviews) can all impact the number of stars a certain item receives.

But don’t worry – not all hope is lost for online shoppers. Products with a three-star rating should hold more weight since items with extremely low or high ratings are probably the result of overly biased users.

No go on and spend to your heart’s content.


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