Many businesses who sell their merchandise on Amazon published paid or incentivized reviews to increase their sales. Amazon has decided to come heavily down upon paid and incentivized reviews.
What are these reviews? Why do people write such reviews? The answer is very simple. There are incentives for writing positive reviews for products on Amazon and other online retail websites. Shoppers often go through these reviews before making the purchase and if the reviews are good, shoppers feel more confident. Seeing what sort of impact positive reviews can have, businesses started this trend of paid and incentivized reviews where they would either pay the reviewer or offer the products for free or at discounted rates. It was like, write a positive review and you would be paid by the merchant in the form of free products or discounted products.
In an update on its website Amazon has added the following text about paid and incentivized reviews:
Incentivized reviews are prohibited unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with feedback from customers and vendors. Here is how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-released products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and will limit the total number of Vine reviews that would display for each product.
Why has Amazon banned paid or incentivized reviews? Especially when initially Amazon had allowed businesses to offer products to customers in exchange of their reviews? In the initial condition, the reviewers were required to disclose their affiliation with the business – they had to tell that the business was offering them free products for review – but somewhere, it stopped happening. Businesses started offering products on the sly and the reviewers wouldn’t disclose this information and still write positive reviews. Even if people were writing free reviews after getting free products from vendors and businesses, the review system was being skewed by overwhelmingly influenced reviews and this is one of the big reasons why Amazon has banned paid and incentivized reviews. Not just banned, Amazon has also gone to the extent of suing businesses for getting fake reviews written for their product listings. Amazon has also sued the reviewers in the past, according to this TechCrunch update.
But why ban paid and incentivized reviews? Why curb them down so strongly? It’s the same reason why Google comes heavily down upon people who manipulate their search engine rankings by using unfair means. Whether it is Google or Amazon their main strength is democratization. People should be able to do business based on the strength of their quality rather than the money they can spend. If businesses with more money but with inferior quality products can force their way into higher rankings Amazon won’t be able to satisfy its customers. Eventually people will stop buying from Amazon. When they buy inferior-quality products from Amazon they are not going to blame the vendor, they are going to blame Amazon. In order to maintain a level playing field for everybody, Amazon is banning paid and incentivized reviews so that people write reviews for actually writing them rather than for payments and incentives.