Amazon is dedicated to making it much, much harder to just buy a product because of a good review (or few thousand good reviews).
New updates to the Community Guidelines announced yesterday will ban reviews that came for an incentive — unless, of course, those incentives come via the Amazon Vine program.
Vine allows Amazon — not the seller or vendor — to identify trusted reviewers, and has a number of controls in place in order to keep bias out of the review process.
The changes are consistent with Amazon's prior policy of banning direct monetary compensation for reviews — and has even sued businesses for paying for them and people for writing them. But until now, Amazon had allowed business to supply an object to be reviewed to customers for a free or discounted rate in exchange for an "honest" review.
Those honest reviews somehow always seemed to be positive, however — and it stands to reason that a person who has just gotten something for free may not be quite as critically discerning as someone who just paid for it. Which, in turn, leads to customers not trusting the reviews.
And consumers aren't wrong — studies seem to demonstrate that incentivized reviewers are both much more likely to review well and much less likely to review poorly.
The Vine program — which Amazon must select you for — is only an option for those whose reviews have been dubbed helpful by others and who tend to have some expertise in what they are reviewing.
“We do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written,” explains Chee Chew, VP, Customer Experience at Amazon, in an announcement about how Vine controls for bias. “And we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product,” he adds.
Vendors have no contact with Vine reviewers — or any ability to control what is posted by them.
The new rules are now in effect for all product categories other than books. Amazon has also alluded to new upgrades coming to Vine, but neglected to say more about what those might be.