Apple pulls customer reviews from online store – smart retailers should follow

“If there’s anything useless for an online store to have, it may just be user reviews. And Apple seems to know that. At some point over the few weeks, Apple quietly removed all product reviews from its online store,” Don Reisinger for Inc.:

Of course, some critics interpret Apple’s decision as self-serving. The company must have taken issue with negative reviews and rather than allow users to speak freely about products they’ve purchased, Apple is instead stopping reviews entirely… But before we immediately go negative here, perhaps we should keep in mind that online reviews are notoriously unreliable. Sure, there are plenty of legitimate reviews where people share their real feelings to help others, but there are also plenty of reviews that are useless, intentionally negative, or anecdotal and in no way reflective of the average person’s user experience.

Worse yet, online reviews are notoriously fake… Suffice it to say that Apple’s move makes more sense than some might think at first glance. And more online retailers should consider following the Apple’s lead.

MacDailyNews Take: What’s to stop Google, Samsung, Spotify, other Apple competitors, Apple-haters, etc. from spamming or hiring spammers to denigrate Apple products on Apple own store pages? Nothing. There’s just no good way to police it. For that reason alone, Apple is smartly leading the way once again. What seems like a nice idea on the face of it is simply a bad idea in practice.

14 Comments

    1. “Trying to silence customer comment will only result in anger and negative reviews across social media.”
      Doing ANYTHING will result in anger and negative reviews. In the social media bubble, everyone knows the quickest way to increase your followers is to be as outrageously negative as you can. Irrational people REALLY desire to find someone that confirm their preconceived negative ideas. It’s why someone, who has had three FREE motherboard swaps, but still FEELS that Apple is MAKING money on that exchange, will follow folks that build shaky cases as to why that’s true.

      Yet, in the real world, Apple continues to sell millions and millions of products a year to customers that rate their satisfaction as high. So, by having those reviews, Apple’s spending time and money keeping something running that results in anger and negative reviews being posted on a system THEY PAY FOR. Remove them, yes, people will still have anger and negative reviews (it’s part and parcel of having a high visibility social presence), but Apple’s not wasting their money giving them a platform. And, still, millions and millions of products a year will be sold to customers that rate their satisfaction with Apple’s products as high.

    2. Customer reviews have always been problematic. In the old days when you had to fill out a comment card or (gasp!) write a letter, people seldom provided feedback. As a result, feedback in the old days primarily came from people who were angry about a problem. To a much lesser extent, there was feedback from people who were delighted. Given human nature, there appears to be more drive to complain than to praise. Companies worked hard to solicit customer input in those days.

      Jump forward to the age of the Internet and ubiquitous access to web sites, and feedback is much easier to provide and much easier to fake or skew, positively or negatively. In addition to the legitimate reviews from people who bought and used the products, competitors or haters are easily able to post negative reviews, paid shills can post good or bad reviews, people can be incentives with free products to post favorable reviews, or advanced AI/bot networks can post reviews.

      I generally use customer product feedback on multiple sites as a factor in my purchasing decisions, but I filter the output, looking at it in several ways. I first take a look at the distribution of customer ratings – every product will have some 1* ratings, but I take a closer look when they exceed around 10%. I look to see how many are based on simple things such as shipping damage or a mistake on the customer’s part about somethin not fitting when they clearly ordered the wrong part. If there is a pattern of product failure due to a plastic fitting or adjustment knob, then that is a red flag. Then I search the 5* and 4* ratings, skipping over the bland “it worked” posts looking for people with some expertise with the product, such a a carpenter commenting on a table saw. You can tell the real deal if you have some expertise, yourself. I also keep an eye out for posts that have been updated to see how the product fares longer term. Many people like a product for the first few weeks, but I want to see what happens when the purchase honeymoon is over. Next, I compare to competitor products – some types of products tend to consistently draw more positive or negative reviews than others. The more complex the product, the likelier that there will be problems and complaints.

      To me, this is all part of the fun of picking out something to buy.

  1. I don’t think Apple Store customers will miss customer reviews for Apple products. Why? Because for most Apple customers buying a Mac, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, AirPods, Watch, Apple TV… They’ve already made the decision.

    They don’t need to read potentially unreliable info. Apple is ONE brand. Apple is very good at limiting and differentiating choices to make customers happy. More choice is NOT always better, because selecting from too many choices causes stress and later buyer’s remorse. For an Apple product, the right choice is usually simple and obvious. The hardest decision might be color 😅

    On the other hand, in the Windows and Android world, there are countless choices, between many brands. Even choices within one brand are often confusing (like Apple in the early 1990s with all those Performa/Centris/Quadra models and confusing numbers). So customers are more likely to read customer reviews to help make a choice.

  2. I agree. The online comment culture has become so toxic that the reviews don’t matter any longer.

    You have those who intentionally spam and troll with negative reviews. You also have those who post negative reviews when the problem is user error. You also have the bias that if someone has a good experience they usually don’t say a thing, but if something is bad then people very loudly complain. Service workers in the restaurant and retail industry have had to cope with this forever.

    Add to that the fact that most people are in information overload these days, and yes…lets mercifully put an end to these customer reviews.

  3. Tend to agree with the comments above. One possible half-way solution would be to leave the comments but remove the “score”. Also, having a “verified purchaser” option would help or only allowing those that actually own an item to comment. An Apple ID could be used to verify ownership.

  4. There is absolutely a way to police it. It’s simple to have a system like Amazon where the person posting the review is tagged as a “verified buyer” of the product being reviewed. Obviously this may prevent folks who buy elsewhere from posting reviews on Apple store.
    Also, I think the reviews on the Apple online store are more useful for non Apple products sold on the store. Because as someone else mentioned people already have their mindset on buying the Apple products.

  5. Actually it is very easy for Apple to do this and it does involve what is called verifiable buyers but unlike Amazon or other retailers Apple’s products when sold carry a one year warranty and I can’t think of many who do not register their product with Apple so that if it does require a repair they can get it. Those are verifiable buyers. They are verified because they supplied a serial number or EMI number to Apple verifying they purchased said product. No Scam, No Issues, No BS, just honest reviews from users. Apple does this just like they run everything else they want to control and keep problems as unknown and limited as is possible. Most companies do the same it’s not just Apple but Apple does it better and keeps things bottled up better than any other company. It is also true that lately Apple has failed in several ways mainly from releasing operating systems that had problems.

  6. Reviews and ratings on 1st party store are pointless and I always found that weird. Ratings on 3rd party reseller platform or marketplace make total sense and the quality of ratings through quantity decides about the store success. That’s what sets Amazon apart – nobody has been able to replicate the quantity and quality of comments. That’s also why eBay is lagging behind.
    In order to get review quantity you need to start selling a lot of these things but you will not if your rating system sucks – chicken and egg situation – the barrier to enter this market is very high now.
    Why did I say quality through quantity when the common folklore wisdom sets these 2 apart? Because laws of statistics will demote falsely positive and falsely negative reviews. The only alternative to quantity is manual curation which is not scalable. Manual curation is the method used by Costco – not curation of reviews but picking quality products for customers who have disposable income and don’t have time to research the best products – they are given limited choice of hand-picked quality products at okey-ish prices but they trust the quality. Amazon also uses that with “Amazon choice” products which you can usually buy without spending too much time searching – it might not be the best price or the product best matching your needs but will be reasonably acceptable and quick.
    (Apologies for digressive train of thought -time to stop now)

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