The New York Times

When Is a Star Not Always a Star? When It's an Online Review

In the world of e-commerce, the online review is king, the internet’s answer to walking into a store and trying out a product for yourself.

An increase of just one star in a rating on Amazon correlates with a 26% increase in sales, according to a recent analysis by e-commerce consulting firm Pattern.

But while online reviews have become powerful sales tools, the ecosystem is relatively crude. Reviews can be easy to manipulate, and the operators of sites with the most reviews are not always motivated to crack down on fake ones planted to promote products. That leaves many consumers wondering what to believe.

“The detection of it is a very difficult issue,” said Edward Malthouse, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University who has studied the influence of online reviews. “How can you tell if I’m just someone who’s

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