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Why You Shouldn’t Trust All Amazon Reviews

March 14, 2016, 6:12 PM UTC
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The next time you are researching a purchase on Amazon, pay careful attention to the reviews. Specifically, look for reviews with a Verified Purchase tag for an honest critique of the product. Be mindful of other keywords, such as “honest review,” which typically indicates if the reviewer was compensated in some form for the post or not.

This sage advice comes from a study conducted by Best Reviews.

Best Reviews looked at 488 different products listed on Amazon with a total of 360,000 user ratings. Out of those reviews, 66.3% (nearly 240,000) were 5-star ratings. It’s an almost unrealistic number for any business, let alone for the hundreds of products monitored in the study.

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As many of us know, reviews on Amazon (AMZN) are often a key factor when making a purchasing decision. Looking at the number of reviews and the average rating of a product should be trustworthy indicators of a product’s reliability. (Admittedly, this writer rarely looks past the number of reviews and average rating before making a decision. But that’s going to change after this.)

However, as the study highlights, manufacturers are alternatively faced with a situation in which a new product on Amazon is listed without reviews. Without reviews, it’s hard to gain momentum in sales, which in turn translates to little or no reviews.



In an effort to help boost a products sales, manufacturers often provide reviewers with free or discounted samples of a product in exchange for a review.

Amazon requires such reviews to be clearly marked, making it possible for would-be customers to identify reviews from a true customer or a “paid” reviewer. While Amazon strictly forbids a reviewer for being directly compensated for a review, there’s currently no restriction on receiving free products or discounts.

For more on Amazon, watch: [fortune-brightcove videoid=4462478312001]

Despite Amazon’s policy and attempts to downplay the review system that can make or break a vendor listed in its store, Best Reviews found paid reviews for new products are overwhelmingly positive. In fact, 96% of paid reviews for new products listed on Amazon’s “Hot New Products” page were four- or five-star reviews.

So what should you do? As the report indicates, all reviews are helpful to some extent, and you should take them all into account. Nevertheless, consumers are advised to put more weight on reviews with the “Amazon Verified Purchase” tag. Also, pay careful attention to reviews where it’s mentioned the product was provided for an “honest review.” According to the report, that phrase is required by most Amazon review programs.

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