Amazon just banned incentivized reviews from their website. What can your brand learn from the decision?

As reported in TechCrunch earlier this month, Amazon recently made the decision to ban all brand incentivized product reviews from their website.

While the online giant has always been careful to monitor for and remove any fake reviews from their website, this decision tightens the reigns even further. Any incentivized review will now have to go through Amazon Vine, a program which allows Amazon, not the brand, to select reviewers they view as trustworthy to further eliminate the potential for biased content.

The new policy showcases an important shift in consumer mindset. Modern consumers are well-researched and more skeptical than ever, making it more important than ever to have a truly transparent online brand.

At ConsumerAffairs, we decided to dive a little deeper on this topic. To look at the nature of bias and trustworthiness, we created a study that had consumers analyze two similar restaurant reviews, one slightly negative and one slightly positive, and looked to see if there was a shift in impression when the consumer thought the review was incentivized.

Participants were surveyed on a few different variables, including:

  1. The star-rating of the review
  2. The perceived trustworthiness of the review
  3. The likelihood they would choose to eat at the restaurant based on the review

The survey also asked what specific incentives would most affect the trustworthiness of a review. Basically, at what point would the individual perceive or assume bias in the content of the review based on the incentive given? The lowest consumer tolerance for incentives came when a product was given for free in exchange for a review, with almost one-third (32%) of those surveyed saying it would bias a review to the point of being untrustworthy.

One of the biggest takeaways from the study was that bias of any kind, whether negative or positive, made the content feel less trustworthy to the consumer. Consumers are looking for honest feedback from real people and don’t need a perfect 5-star review to feel that a brand or product is trustworthy.

While it can be tempting to want to increase the quantity of reviews for your brand by any means necessary, focusing on quality is going to serve your brand much better in the long run.

Download the full study on incentivized reviews here.