‘Amazon’s Choice’ fails to impress online buyers due to flawed ratings

Farah Javed, Managing Editor

In 2018 alone, Amazon’s share of the U.S. e-commerce market hit 49%, according to Bigcommerce.com. This is more than Amazon’s top three competitors combined, with eBay at 6.6%, Apple at 3.9% and Walmart at 3.7%. Despite Amazon’s power in the e-commerce market, there is a doubt about its integrity.

With its Prime membership, fast delivery and extensive offering of over twelve million products, Amazon is the leader in online sales nationwide. With reviews of products, star ratings from one to five and even photos from consumers, Amazon has branded itself as a trustworthy and dependable company.

It is so trusted in fact, that when Amazon began labeling products “Amazon’s Choice” in 2015, its revenue tripled. This label, however, has been shrouded in mystery, as Amazon refuses to reveal what exactly makes an item qualify.

The Business Insider details that Amazon gives a generic answer: products have a low return rate and high ratings and they’re more popular than other items. The title “Amazon’s Choice” brings an increase in revenue, as in the mind of the consumer the product is better than any other product in its category.

No one knows the actual algorithm Amazon uses to give the title, according to CNET.

The all-so-honest reviews have proven to be a sham. Complaints across message boards and Twitter reveal that upon opening a package from Amazon, some consumers see a message plastered on one of the cardboard flaps. The message varies in wording, but essentially says that in exchange for writing a five-star review of the product, the third-party seller will provide a gift card. As a result, these consumers write reviews praising the product and recommending it to future consumers.

This marketing tactic proves only to be useful to the third-party seller, who rises to the top of their category as “Amazon’s Choice.” Three other perspectives need to be considered: the consumers’, Amazon’s and other businesses on the website.

Primarily, the consumers who write good reviews do not always receive the promised reward from the sellers. The ones who write honest reviews find that the third-party seller attempts to bribe them with free products or gift cards in order to remove the reviews. Consumers fall victim to the excellent reviews and buy something like a phone case, but they end up unsatisfied with their orders, as first reported by Buzzfeed News.

This then affects Amazon, as consumers burned by the company with these bad purchases and conflicting appraisals grow less inclined to order from Amazon.

The company has a policy that does not tolerate bribery, and yet the products with strings attached are still labelled with the moniker of “Amazon’s Choice,” even after being reported.

Ultimately, businesses that do not have the “Amazon’s Choice” label bear the brunt of this apparently rigged system. For example, a search for hangers leads to AmazonBasics Velvet Suit Hangers, shown with the “Amazon’s Choice” label. Right below it, a consumer would see Utopia Home Premium Non-Slip Velvet Hangers, without the label.

Both are made of the same materials, look the same and are about the same price, yet the latter has fewer sales than the former.

This shows that within a category, businesses selling products without the moniker are negatively impacted sales-wise and generate less traffic, even if their product is just as good or even better than an “Amazon’s Choice” branded product.

Evidently, the algorithm that determines which product deserves the label is unjust, as it continues to deem products that use bribes for reviews as worthy, while companies with honest marketing are left in the dust. With its failure to regulate business practices on its site, Amazon is clearly no longer in its prime.