Amazon has expanded product reviews by allowing shoppers to leave a star rating without a written review. The company has been testing the change since September, and committed to it last week by changing the wording on the website to “ratings.” The overall star rating now includes feedback from customers who simply rated the product as well as the traditional reviews with text, images, or video.
For example, the Apple AirPods currently have 3,161 customer reviews but 3,864 customer ratings. So 703 additional ratings were left without a written review since the change went into effect less than two months ago.
The change is meant to encourage shoppers to share their opinion about the product, even if they don’t want to write a review. Previously a review title and written review were required fields. Now it takes a single click. The new system could drastically increase the number of ratings a product receives because leaving a rating is substantially faster and more straightforward than writing a full review.
Apple AirPods mentioned above were getting 500-700 reviews a month while maintaining the number one spot in the headphones best-sellers list since launching in March this year. In October, they more than doubled that by adding close to 1,500 thanks to the new rating system.
The product rating system is 1 to 5 stars, with 5 stars being the best. Using the new system ratings can be left with or without a previous purchase. However, only those ratings from verified purchases will contribute to the product’s overall star rating. The new system also allows adding a written review later on.
Products without reviews on Amazon do not attract shoppers, and without shoppers, there is no one to leave a review. There are many different tactics to kickstart reviews; however, the new rating system is going to help too. For brands, reviews are one of the few ways to build brand equity on Amazon.
However, while increasing the number of ratings for a product, this change makes it harder for anyone to examine them. For the past few years, Amazon has been dealing with the issue of fake reviews, and the new rating system is about to make it worse. Without a review to decide why the shopper left the rating they did, or if the review can even be trusted, the new system makes shopping involve more guesswork. A one-star rating without a review can capture many different problems, yet is simplified to a number.
A tiny percentage of shoppers leave a review, making the overall product rating often skewed by those who had a negative experience. The new rating system fixes that. However, it doesn’t make product reviews any more trustworthy. If anything, it makes the product rating more opaque. But just like a tiny percentage of shoppers leave a review, a similarly small group of shoppers read them before making a purchase. Most skim the first few search results by the number of reviews and the overall rating. For most shoppers and thus for brands too, the more ratings, the better.