In September, Amazon expanded product reviews by allowing shoppers to leave a star rating without a written review. 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 4,137 customer reviews but 5,969 customer ratings. Since September, the number of reviews has doubled, but the combined amount of ratings has tripled. The specifics are irrelevant to consumers, but the increase in ratings makes the product appear more liked. In search and the product page Amazon now shows the overall number of ratings, and the number of reviews is only visible at the bottom of the page in the reviews section.
For the last five months, the product received, on average, 20 new reviews a day. Since the introduction of ratings, the rate of reviews didn’t change, but consumers leave an additional 30 ratings per day. In fact, during the last thirty days, the number of ratings per day has accelerated to 40. As a result, Apple AirPods went from receiving 20 reviews a day in August to 60 reviews and ratings in November.
The new rating system 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 has increased the number of ratings a product receives because leaving a rating is substantially faster and more straightforward than writing a full review.
While it hasn’t drastically increased the number of ratings across all products yet, over time, it will result in more rated products, more ratings per product on average, and an increase in the average star rating. Customers with a negative experience are more like to write a review, and the introduction of one-click ratings will make those with a positive experience contribute too.
However, while boosting 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 without a written review to decide why the shopper left the rating, or if it is even relevant, the new system makes shopping involve more guesswork. A one-star review can capture many different problems, yet it is now simplified to a number.
Because customers with a negative experience are more like to write a review, the overall product rating is often skewed negatively. The new rating system improves that. However, it doesn’t make reviews any more trustworthy - if anything, it makes the product’s star rating more opaque. But just like a small 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. Thus, for most shoppers and brands too, the more ratings, the better.