Indians don’t think e-commerce reviews and ratings tell the full story

Shopping through a screen is a task.
Shopping through a screen is a task.
Image: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui
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Indians would not give online retailers much points for transparency.

Most shoppers in the country feel reviews and ratings of products sold on e-commerce sites exhibit a positive bias, online community platform LocalCircles found in a survey released on Oct. 7.

“Consumers by design tend to rate and review more when they have a negative experience and hence the survey finding is a bit contrary to this,” LocalCircles noted. “If a seller gets related parties like family, friends or even hired marketing agencies to rate and review their listings, they can boost the rating of the product.”

LocalCircles surveyed over 33,000 participants across more than 220 districts in India.

Buyers have to be especially wary of products with five-star ratings if there are only a handful of people reviewing it. And if a series of glorious comments have been posted in a short time span, chances are someone was hired to make that happen.

As a result of this alleged tampering, products are not always up to the mark. Two-thirds of the survey participants felt a product with high ratings did not meet their expectations at least once in the past 12 months.

Still, in the absence of a reliable quality metric, consumers mostly rely on others’ experiences. Half the shoppers scoured reviews and ratings before every purchase and 35% said they did it some of the time.

If the positive skew wasn’t an issue enough, many feel negative reviews aren’t even seeing the light of day, it seems.

Less than three in ten consumers said their negative reviews or ratings on e-commerce sites were published as is. Over 40% said they were not published sometimes, or at all.


“If the negative reviews and ratings are not censored and if the seller influenced reviews and ratings are minimised, it will address this area of customer dissatisfaction,” LocalCircles noted.

So what’s the fix? The vast majority of consumers (85%) explicitly said they want e-commerce platforms to only allow customers with verified purchase of a product to rate or review that product. A mere 8% were against it. While this may not eradicate the seller-influenced reviews, it’s at least a start.