Home / Industry / Retail /  Consumers find discrepancies in online ratings and reviews: survey

NEW DELHI : Scores of consumers who shop online said product ratings and reviews on e-commerce sites have a “positive bias" and that many have encountered products that were underwhelming despite being highly rated, according to a survey conducted by community-led social media platform LocalCircles.

The survey points to discrepancies consumers face while shopping for goods online, especially those that are based on positive reviews and recommendations.

In fact, 65% of those surveyed found the product ratings on e-commerce sites to be positively biased indicating that sellers may be influencing ratings for their products to attract consumers and platforms are not proactively acting in such situations. Only 17% of one surveyed found online reviews to be accurate. Meanwhile, 80% of those surveyed said they have ordered at least one or more product based on high ratings but those failed to meet their expectations.

LocalCircles received over 69,500 responses from over 38,000 consumers located across 284 districts of India.

“One of the top issues reported by consumers has been how sellers themselves, via friends and family networks and in some cases even via public relations and influencers get purchases organized which are designed just to rate and review the product highly. Such a practice gives an initial positive ratings and review boost for the seller’s products while it misleads the consumers," it said as part of its findings. 

LocalCircles also conducted a similar survey in 2019. However, the pandemic has led to greater instance of consumers moving to online shopping; as a result reviews and ratings have become even more important. 

“When it came to reviews, positive bias has increased by 5% from 57% to 62%, while accuracy has reduced by 3% as compared to the 2019 survey. This indicated that consumers continue to find reviews on e-commerce sites positively biased," it added.

Additionally, the majority of consumers surveyed were against re-listing of a product in case of repeated negative reviews and low ratings. “90% consumers who shop on e-commerce platforms want that if a product from a seller has a large number of low ratings and negative reviews, the platform should not allow them to re-list the same product for sale without a review of the issues," it added.

Re-listing of products despite negative reviews encourages bad seller behavior, it added.

Interestingly, 87% of those surveyed were in favor that it should be mandatory that e-commerce sites only permit consumers with a verified purchase of a product to rate or review that product.

A small proportion of those surveyed  acknowledged being offered various incentives by sellers to post positive reviews of a product. “16% consumers say that sellers on e-commerce sellers offered them incentive or credit to rate or review a product. Consumers have previously reported receiving communication from sellers with incentives for high rating of their product," it said.

Finally— not all those who leave a negative review get published. In fact, only 23% consumers said their negative reviews or ratings on e-commerce sites were published as it is. 41% of consumers said such reviews were not published sometimes while 17% said their negative reviews were not published at all.

Ensuring stricter rules on ratings and reviews can lead to driving up the quality of reviews and ratings. 

In addition to these, if seller terms are made more stringent to restrict paid or influenced ratings along with some basic systems driven features that detect high ratings in short periods of time or from a common IP address, cleaning up fake or biased ratings should not be rocket science, LocalCircles said.

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