The Review Bias

| 3 mins | Bob
tags: opinion, mainstream

Good day everyone, today I’d like to discuss a topic that bothers me for a long time now. I couldn’t figure out how to describe my thought in a way that makes sense to others and provides enough interest to be listened to at all, so I’m not super confident that I will succeed now, but I’ll give it a go. This is so fundamental that we will get philosophical at one point or another.

An example: Below a smoothie blender on Amazon, you will only find reviews from people who

  1. wanted a smoothie blender and
  2. wanted this smoothie blender and
  3. have or had this smoothie blender and
  4. wanted to write a review for it and
  5. use this platform to do so.

Otherwise, they wouldn’t write reviews for it and you wouldn’t have found them. If you would take a random group of people from society, you could filter it with these five requirements.

The first one already reduces the group-size a lot but there might be loads of people who dream about getting a smoothie blender but don’t have the money for it. We cannot tell the size of this group unless we do a large randomised consumer survey.

When applying the second filter, the remaining group suddenly shrinks to almost nothing. Why is that? Well, there is no smoothie blender monopole like there is in cola drinks, so you will find hundreds of brands and models. Amazon (US) alone displays 582 of them in the search results.

You can imagine how much the third requirement reduces the group-size by looking at your own wishlist. There is a huge amount of people who found a specific product but never get to buy it.

The fourth requirement is a bit complicated. In what conditions do you write a review of something or give it a rating? Either you are happy with the product, just as you hoped when deciding to buy it, or you are completely upset when something breaks or does not fulfil your expectations. And recently, another way has opened: You are actively asked by the shop or the manufacturer to rate the product! If you stay neutral about the product like if you casually picked up a sack of apples, you probably won’t spend your time reviewing the taste of them. But if you are more or less kindly asked by the producer to do so, you will probably rate the apples positively because there was nothing negative to complain about.

Last but not least, it is important on what platform you are looking at the smoothie blender as it might be available in other shops as well. You will always find a prefiltered group of customers.

Because of all this, every single online-shop has at least these problems:

  1. The opinion in reviews of customers is subjective, obviously, but it also exists solely because they already had a positive opinion of the product – otherwise, they would not have gotten their hands onto it in the first place.

  2. Negative reviews only arise when customers are disappointed by the product, but that can only happen when major and unexpected flaws are found after purchase.

  3. When flaws are identified before purchase, there is no chance for a negative review to be written about them.

I have tried to find a solution for this bias but I just can’t think of any. The problem I described above is just natural and will happen everywhere but it bothers me badly because of the (most likely) large shift towards positive reviews and ratings. Maybe I am just wrong about something, so tell me in which points you would disagree. Thanks for reading and bye for now.

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updated on 2022-11-30