A Closer Look to the Challenges for Both, Customers and Sellers

Amazon customer reviews are one of the tools that the site offers for making informed purchase decisions and lately the e-tailer has been working hard to make sure they are doing their job.

In the past, reviews on the listing were shown in an order from the ones with most helpful votes (by other customers) to the ones with the least, and the date or “age” of the review wasn’t taken into account. Just last year, Amazon introduced a new algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews.

Additionally, past reviews qualified for the “Verified Purchase” badge as long as the customer had personally made the purchase, even though he might have gotten a discount code and bought the item at $0 (gotten the item for free). Now, Amazon changed that algorithm as well and it left everyone with doubts, as there isn’t any known criteria as to what are the requirements for being eligible for the badge; just something is certain as expressed in the guidelines: products purchased at heavy discounts aren’t eligible for the badge (heavy is a broad term, isn’t it?). Amazon keeps this as one of its powerful secrets.

Amazon’s community has always prohibited compensation for reviews with one single exception: reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they fully disclosed the fact. The term the e-tailer has for these is “incentivized reviews” and they were considered to provide a foundation for new or less well-known products, being beneficial for both: customers, as they provided additional information about the product; and businesses, as they gave their products a launching pad.

Last week, October 3rd, Amazon gave a big blow with its updated policy in which it prohibits incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.

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Today, I’ll be glad to share with you Golden Canary’s point of view of these new changes.

Certainly, it will be difficult for small businesses and brands (like us) to launch new products in the future as incentivized reviews were a great way to promote a new product and give buyers extra information, in the type of customers’ experiences, regarding the item. I consider here’s a negative factor for both, consumers and businesses. The latter will have to spend much more in promoting its product to introduce it to the market and the former would have to take a “leap of faith” and trust in the product’s description and advertising when buying for the first time.

However, I do think this will be super beneficial to customers in the long run. This is why: in the giant world of e-commerce, sellers and businesses often found the way to outmaneuver Amazon policies and carried out massive giveaways to get reviews (when they had capital to do so). The problem is they gave the items to certain groups of “easy” reviewers who were just interested in free products and provided poor quality 5-Star reviews in exchange; the ones of the sort of “Great Product!” instead of descriptive and analytical ones that give buyers real valuable information about the item.

Now, this won’t be possible anymore and sellers will have to fight for their reviews in a way that will be completely beneficial for the customer, as they will be always seeking to provide the best experience and follow up in an attempt to get back a review; which I sincerely think it would just add value to buyers.

At Golden Canary, we used giveaways in the past to help promote our new products initially. So these news do hurt. But taking it as a challenge, we’re confident about the products and over the top service we offer and rely on them as a way to encourage customers to leave reviews and feedback.

I do recognize that it will make growth slower, but it is this decreased traveling speed that will help us focus on projects that add more value to you, the customer. It will encourage a healthy competition between businesses to become even better and it will undoubtedly benefit the shopping community.

So I, as head of Golden Canary’s Customer Experience Team, will gladly accept the challenge and hope that you, our valuable customers, enjoy the new ride.