One of the easiest ways for a company to generate product reviews on Amazon is now banned. Businesses cannot send users free products in exchange for reviews. That is, not unless the free product is part of Amazon’s Vine program.
Change in Terms
Amazon has adjusted its terms and conditions to ban the practice of receiving compensation for a review. This includes free or discounted product, as well as cash and gift card offers. Hence, the time of the incentivised review on Amazon has ended.
Why Amazon is Banning the Practice
Amazon cites a recent study as the reason for the change. It found that those who received products for free, or at a discount, were more inclined to leave a positive review than those who acquired the product through a normal purchase. This suggests that products with incentivised reviews are more favourable than they deserve.
Part of the Amazon shopping experience is access to reviews from real people. While individuals write incentivised reviews , they may not accurately represent the quality of the product. Social psychology refers to the norm of reciprocity when describing why the reviews may be unfairly favourable. The idea states that when we are the recipient of a favour (in this case, a free item) we feel obligated to provide a favour in return. This inclination means people may write a more positive review instinctively, as a sign of appreciation.
What the Change Means
While many see this as an opportunity to ensure higher accuracy in reviews, it does have some drawbacks. For example, lesser known products or companies will not be able to use the practice to build some starting reviews for the product without using Amazon’s Vine program. This makes it more difficult for newer products to get reviews in the first place, which can hurt sales. The only alternative is to work with the Vine program, which likely comes with a price.
Granted, Amazon reviews are not always helpful even without incentives. This change does mean certain products will go without reviews for longer.
How this Impact the Average Shopper
Truth be told, most shoppers won’t notice a difference. Amazon receives thousands of new product reviews throughout the day. Some of the reviewers are even from verified buyers of the product, helping to demonstrate legitimacy. But that doesn’t mean reviews will be more or less accurate than they are now.
Will the practice of providing free products for reviews end? Probably not. There are other venues for businesses to connect with potential reviewers. And even though paid reviews are not permitted, that hasn’t stopped them from every occurring. Amazon has sued users over placing “fake” reviews for compensation, demonstrating that they do, in fact, get through.
What it will do is encourage businesses who can participate in the Vine program to do so. Otherwise, they will have to try their luck without reviews initially, or risk violating some terms and conditions to get their product into the hands of reviewers. Either way, the impact on daily shoppers will likely be minimal, if it is noticeable at all.