Analysis of Amazon Reviews

This is an updated version of our post on Amazon reviews from May 2017. 

 

The Importance of Amazon Reviews

We’ve previously discussed the importance of reviews to your online business and how to go about acquiring more. According to data from Podium, 93% of consumers say online reviews have an impact on their purchase decisions. Nearly 60% of consumers look at online reviews at least once a week. As your business aims to better understand the customer feedback that has such a large impact on product sales and SERP ranking, it’s important to take a look into its composition. Reviewers tend to demonstrate the same behaviors across all products and categories. By understanding the drivers behind these, your business can best establish a strategy to manage reviews and customer feedback. This post will examine various facets of online reviews, as well as give insights into the factors that influence customer review behavior.

 

Understanding Star Ratings

 

Customers are Driven by Extreme Experiences

Customers overwhelmingly give reviews that skew on the positive side, with a large majority of people generously offering up 5 stars. After examining one million reviews, we found that approximately 80% of reviews left by customers were positive; 67% of reviews are five stars. Lukewarm reviews in the 2-to-3 star range are the most infrequently given. There are generally two scenarios that provoke a customer response: incredibly good or incredibly bad experiences. When customers have a strong opinion on a product, they are more driven to leave a review to let others know how they feel. Being indifferent about a product isn’t likely to encourage this same behavior.

AverageStarDistribution

 

Additionally interesting is the increase in extremely positive reviews over time. A decade ago, only about half of all reviews were five stars. The frequency of this type of review has grown with time, while other star ratings have fallen. The number of one-star reviews has remained relatively constant, however, and it's risen in recent years.

Star Distribution Change Over Time

Star Ratings are Distinctly Different in Low-Rated Products

In comparison to the distributions of star ratings seen above for all products, when we narrow down our product set to those with an average rating of three stars or less, we can see that the distribution differs quite a bit. Almost half of these products' reviews are one-star, and they receive minimal five-star reviews, with a sharp drop from 67% to 24%.

Amazon star distribution for products with 3 star or less averages

 

However, even taking these different proportions into account, average star rating on Amazon is not as simple as calculating the average of all star ratings left by customers. Just because your product has received mostly five-star reviews does not mean your average rating on Amazon will be between four and five stars. While Amazon hasn’t revealed the method it uses to calculate this number, it’s believed to take into account a variety of factors. The algorithm places more weight on reviews that are more recent, given by verified sources, or have been voted helpful by other shoppers. It additionally gives less weight to reviews from customers known to give predominantly negative reviews.

While it might seem reasonable that Amazon should simply take the mean of star ratings, the algorithm helps customers make the most informed purchase decision possible. If a product received only five-star reviews years ago, these should not be as important as the numerous one-star reviews left in the past month.

 

Behavior by Reviewer Type

While behavior is relatively similar across all reviewers on Amazon, there are certain differences in behavior that can be observed between different reviewer types. For example, verified reviewers tend to be more generous as a whole with the positive reviews they give, particularly compared to their unverified counterparts. Some of the most credible reviews come from members of Amazon's Vine program. Vine was created to provide customers with unbiased product reviews. It's invite-only; reviewers are chosen based on the helpfulness of their reviews, the quantity they’ve posted, and their interest in the products featured in the program. Vine reviewers are the most sparing with the number of five-star reviews given, and they tend to favor four-star reviews more than any other group. However, it’s interesting to point out that Vine reviewers give positive reviews around 86% of the time, which is much higher than Amazon’s average, due to their higher tendency to rate products four stars.

Star rating distribution by reviewer type

 

Key Takeaways

Reviews are vital to your business's survival. Customers expect them to inform their purchase decisions. Without them, you're at risk of losing sales to competitive products. While the exact method Amazon uses to calculate average star rating is unknown, it unquestionably places greater importance on reviews that are the most relevant and trustworthy for consumers. As a whole, reviewers are generally generous with their feedback. Most will give five stars. Some won't. If your product has a star rating of three or less, most of your reviews will be on the negative side. Responding to negative reviews, no matter their quantity on your listing, is important to your business. Not only will resolving customer issues encourage past customers to keep coming back, but potential shoppers who see your business has excellent customer service are more likely to choose you over someone else.

 

If your business would like assistance tracking and responding to reviews on Amazon and related websites, our Reviewbox tool can be incredibly useful. Learn more about it here or contact us for a free trial!