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Amazon Silently Defaults to Showing Only Verified Reviews

October 13th, 2016

Update: We noticed that they changed it back to normal recently. 

Just last week, Amazon made a big announcement about prohibiting incentivized reviews, shortly after we published our video that analyzed 18 million reviews and proved incentivized reviews had a substantial bias.

This week, Amazon continues to make changes to their review platform, but this time we couldn’t find an announcement about it.

You’ll notice that on any Amazon product listing, you can scroll down to see the top 5 customer reviews.  Normally, you’d have a link to view all reviews, however it is now replaced with a link that reads “See all verified purchase reviews”:

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Even after the last review, we still see the link at the bottom reading “See all verified purchase reviews (newest first)”:

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Sure enough, after clicking the link, you’re shown only verified purchase reviews, and need to click again if you want to include the unverified purchases:

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What about products with only unverified purchase reviews?

Some products have nothing but unverified purchase reviews, and we’re seeing the same thing.  Take, for example, this Primo Vino Wine and Champagne Bottle Chiller Wrap Sleeve that has 24 reviews, 100% of which are unverified:

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We still see the only option is to click through to the verified purchases, even though there are none to be displayed:

 

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What does this mean for the future of unverified purchase reviews?

The subject of verified vs unverified purchase reviews has been highly debated in recent months.  Some believe that your opinion should count just as much whether you bought the product from Amazon or not, while others feel that Amazon shouldn’t even allow people to write a review unless you’ve purchased the product through Amazon.

Out of our dataset of ~34 million reviews, we are seeing:

  • 29% are unverified purchases, with an average rating of 4.48 stars.
  • 71% are verified purchases, with an average rating of 4.34 stars.

We’ll be doing another in-depth study on verified vs unverified purchases in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for some more insights from the data.

Keep in mind that just because a review doesn’t have a “verified purchaser” badge doesn’t mean they didn’t get it through Amazon.  Kindle Unlimited customers never get this badge, and customers who bought the product at a significant discount (often incentivized reviewers) don’t have the badge as well.

Also, the “verified purchaser” badge is no guarantee of an authentic review.  It’s certainly harder for sellers to manufacture reviews with the “verified purchaser” badge, but not impossible.

However, our prediction is that Amazon will eventually phase out their unverified purchase reviews.  Anecdotally, we’re seeing that most customers are somewhat mistrustful of reviews without the “verified purchaser” badge, and judging by their recent actions, it seems plausible that these reviews will be the next to go.


  • Spirit of 76

    It’s pretty easy to spot the shills. Good reviewers have written a number of reviews of a variety of products over a long period of time, while fake reviewers only have a couple or even only one review, and the reviews are often but not necessarily always long and detailed. Also, they would have both positive and negative reviews. I would prefer to see all reviews, but Amazon has become ever more mercenary. Maybe the time is ripe for the return of third-party reviews-only websites.

  • Ellen Ska

    Amazon.com is doing this it because of complaints about “review mills” that post boilerplate positive reviews for a fee. But I’m one of those people who wants to see all reviews anyway, because I feel like I’m pretty good at spotting fake ones — by “fake,” I mean either paid reviews (all will be 5-star), or reviews by well-meaning people who want to help their author friends (I know people like that who give 5-star reviews out of loyalty).
    Perhaps we should be sending Amazon feedback that we want an option to select “All Reviewers” and have it stick, instead of defaulting back to “Verified Reviews only” with every new search.

  • BulkishSkull

    I know what you mean. And I don’t like it. I want to see ALL reviews amazon not just the “verified” ones.