58% eCommerce consumers say their negative rating & review is not published by eCommerce platforms; 90% of them say platforms should restrict low rated products from sellers to be re-listed as another product
- ● Only 23% consumers say that their negative reviews or ratings on eCommerce sites were published as it is
- ● Government driving actions from ecommerce platforms on above issues can immediately lead to increased consumer trust in ecommerce ratings and reviews
June 28, 2022, New Delhi: The COVID-19 induced pandemic followed by subsequent lockdowns and the advent of quick commerce has led an increasing number of consumers to shop via eCommerce platforms. Many platforms have reported a surge in the number of new consumers in the last 27 months, not only in metros but also in tier 2 and 3 districts of the country. With value pricing, convenience, selection and fast deliveries offered by e-platforms, for many household consumers the migration from going to a market to shopping for most things online has become a permanent change. The 2021 Global Payments report by Worldpay FIS which tracked trends in 41 countries including India revealed that digital commerce accelerated manifold during the pandemic. Further, it stated that India’s eCommerce market will grow 21% over the next 4 years. Per market analysts, the shift in consumer market trends is likely to stay, even post pandemic. Amidst increased adoption, reviews and ratings emerged to be an important tool for consumers while they shop online. Recently, the Government via Department of Consumer Affairs also initiated dialogue with ecommerce platforms to minimise fake or paid reviews from their platforms.
LocalCircles has conducted a detailed national study to understand consumers’ experience with reviews and ratings on eCommerce sites. It then compared the findings with similar survey conducted in 2019 to understand the change over time. The study received over 69,000 responses from 38,000+ unique consumers across 284 districts in India.
Majority consumers rely on product reviews and ratings on eCommerce sites before buying a product
Platforms that provide trustworthy information on reviews and ratings will always have a competitive advantage and will win consumer trust in the long run. In the study, the first question asked consumers, “When buying something on eCommerce sites, how do you use ratings and reviews information that is available?” 64% of citizens said they “always go through them”, and 26% said they “sometimes go through them”. Further breaking down the poll, 7% said they “only check them for expensive or non-branded products” while 3% said they “never go through them". This question in the survey received 8,360 responses. This indicated that majority of consumers rely on product reviews and ratings on eCommerce sites before buying a product.
65% consumers say that product ratings on eCommerce sites have a positive bias on majority of the products
The next question in the study focused on the quality of ratings on eCommerce sites and asked consumers, “How do they find ratings on eCommerce sites for majority of the products?” 65% said they found “Positive bias” and 18% find it “Accurate”. There were also 16% who said they found “Negative bias” of the product, while 1% said that the “Sites that I use do not have product ratings”. This question in the survey received 8,539 responses.
Consumers continue to find ratings on eCommerce sites positively biased in last 3 years
In a similar study conducted in 2019, 62% of consumers had found ratings on eCommerce sites for majority of the products as "positively bias", 12% said it was "accurate", while 19% "negatively bias", and 7% said the "don't look a product rating". In 2022 survey, 65% found the product ratings on eCommerce 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.
62% consumers say that product review on eCommerce sites has a positive bias on majority of the products
Similar to the previous question on ratings, the next question in the study focused on the quality of reviews on eCommerce sites and asked consumers, “How do you find reviews on eCommerce sites for majority of the products”. 62% said “positive bias”, 17% said “accurate”, and 13% said “negative bias”. There were also 2% of consumers who said, “sites they use don’t have product ratings”, while 6% said they “don’t look at product ratings while making online purchases. This question in the survey received 8,499 responses.
Consumers continue to find reviews on eCommerce sites positively biased in the last 3 years
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 eCommerce sites positively biased over the last 3 years.
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.
80% consumers had 1 or more product they ordered based on high rating on eCommerce sites, not meeting their expectations
The next question in the study asked consumers “How frequently has it happened in the last 12 months that a product with high rating on an eCommerce site did not meet your expectations?” Only 5% said it has happened “over 5 times”, 27% said it happened “3-5 times” and 48% it happened “1-2 times”. There were also 6% who said it “never happened”, 2% said “they don’t look at ratings before ordering” while 12% did not have an opinion. On an aggregate basis, 80% consumers who have shopped on ecommerce sites have had one or more cases in the last 12 months where a highly rated product did not meet their expectations.
Percentage of consumers for who the product received wasn’t commensurate to the published rating, rose in the last 3 years
When a similar question was asked in 2019, the percentage of consumers for whom the product received wasn’t commensurate to the published ratings was 62%. This percentage has increased to 80% in the last 3 years. Further, the percentage of citizens saying it never happened to them in the last 12 months reduced from 17% to 6% in the same period. This clearly shows that many sellers are somehow able to plant high ratings and reviews of their products to influence the consumers and make them purchase it only for the consumer to regret later.
Only 23% consumers say that their negative reviews or ratings on eCommerce sites were published as it is
When the study asked consumers, “What has been your experience when you post a low rating or a negative review of a product on eCommerce sites/apps?” only 23% said that their negative reviews or ratings on ecommerce sites were “published as it is.” There were, however, 41% of consumers who said “it is not published sometimes” and 17% said “it is not published at all” while 19% did not have an opinion. This question in the survey received 8,426 responses. This is currently the single biggest issue with ecommerce ratings and reviews where a genuine, verified consumer review or rating is rejected by ecommerce platforms under the category of “it does not meet our norms for ratings and reviews”. Many consumers, if they are shipped a non-returnable fake or counterfeit product or a different product all together only have ratings and reviews as the mechanism available to them and express their dissatisfaction via the same. By suppressing this information shared by consumers, ecommerce platforms, most consumers feel are engaging in an unfair trade practice.
Percentage of consumers whose negative ratings or reviews was held back by eCommerce sites rose from 47% to 58% in 3 years
The percentage of consumers whose negative review or rating was held back by eCommerce sites has risen from 47% from 2019 to 58% in 2022. Further, the percentage of citizens saying their reviews are published as it is reduced from 27% to 23% in the same period. This indicates that eCommerce platforms are not completely transparent in publishing a verified consumers product reviews/ratings on their platform.
16% consumers say that sellers on eCommerce 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. The next question asked consumers “In the last 12 months, have any eCommerce sellers with your shipment offered you an incentive or credit to rate or review a product?” In response, 16% said “Yes”, while the majority of 83% said “no” and 1% did not have an opinion. This question in the survey received 8,242 responses. While this menace of paid reviews by sellers is not significant, it does exist as validated by 16% consumers and ecommerce platforms in their seller terms must clearly list as an unacceptable practice with disincentives for sellers if they were found engaging in it.
87% consumers want that eCommerce sites only allow customers with verified purchase to review and rate a product
The next question asked consumers, “Should it be made mandatory that eCommerce sites only permit consumers with a verified purchase of a product to rate or review that product?” In response, 87% said “yes”, 5% said “no” and 8% did not have an opinion. This question in the survey received 8,195 responses. Consumers continue to strongly believe that only those with verified purchases should be allowed to rate or review products on ecommerce sites. This is evident from the fact that in 2019 85% had voted for it while this year 87% citizens have voted for it. LocalCircles had earlier suggested to the Government on eCommerce consumer protection rules 2020 to only allow ratings and reviews by users who have made a verified purchase on that site.
Consumers continue to strongly believe that only that only those with verified purchases should be allowed to rate or review products on eCommerce sites
In 2019, 85% of citizens were of the view that it should be mandatory that eCommerce sites only permit consumers with a verified purchase of a product to rate or review that product. This percentage has slightly increased to 87% in 2022 while the percentage of citizens saying “no” reduced from 8% to 5% in the same period.
90% consumers who shop on eCommerce 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
Consumer have often complained that many eCommerce platforms let a product with low rating and negative reviews accumulated over time to be re-listed by the same seller as a new product. This practice encourages bad seller behaviour. In reality, because many negative consumer reviews and ratings are not published by the platforms, a seller can technically list a product, boost its ratings via unfair means and with platforms rejecting many low consumer ratings, the rating of a product stays artificially high for a prolonged period. Finally, once the rating catches up with reality, consumer feedback suggests that the seller lists the same product as a different line item or listing, again with high ratings. The original product with low ratings is then de-listed over time. To understand if many consumers had experienced this, the final question asked consumers, “If a seller on an eCommerce platform gets a large number of low ratings and negative reviews for a particular product, should the eCommerce platform permit them to re-list the same product as a new item for sale?” In response, only 2% said “Yes, they should be permitted to create a new listing of the product if they choose to” and 8% did not have an opinion. The majority, 90% of consumers who shop on eCommerce 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 the issues. This question received 11,624 responses.
To summaries, according to consumers, the 3 systemic changes of 1) only consumers with verified purchases rating and reviewing a product, 2) all negative reviews and ratings as long as the language is non-abusive and non-defamatory, it must be published and 3) sellers with negative ratings/reviews on a product should not be allowed to re-list the product as a new line item, if made immediately, 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 will be escalating the findings of this study with the key Government stakeholders so that the Government clearly understands the issue and drives corrective actions with ecommerce platforms at the earliest.
69,500+ responses were received from 38,000+ unique consumers located across 284 districts of India. 63% respondents were men while 37% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 34% from tier 2 and 22% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. They survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.