Should retailers ditch five-star ratings?
Five-star online ratings for reviews are common across retail (Amazon, Macy’s, Walmart, etc.), but Netflix believes the system is too complicated and biased.
The video streaming service is swapping its star system for a binary “thumbs up, thumbs down” one. The ratings are used to make personalized recommendations.
Netflix said a “thumbs up, thumbs down” test with hundreds of thousands of members in 2016 led to 200 percent more ratings than the traditional star-rating feature. Todd Yellin, Netflix’s VP of product, said at a press briefing in mid-March, “We are addicted to the methodology of A/B testing.”
Beyond gaining less feedback, the star system was found to be a poor method of discerning which shows and movies people liked.
Behaving like critics, users tended to rate the quality of a film rather than basing it on their enjoyment. For instance, documentaries would often receive five stars and low-brow comedies three stars, but users watched comedies much more often.
“What’s more powerful: you telling me you would give five stars to the documentary about unrest in the Ukraine; that you’d give three stars to the latest Adam Sandler movie; or that you’d watch the Adam Sandler movie 10 times more frequently?” said Mr. Yellin.
YouTube switched from a five-stars to a like/dislike system in 2010 citing that users had overwhelmingly been rating videos five stars. The next most common was one star. Two, three and four were rarely chosen.
Retailers have tweaked their ratings systems over the years. In 2015, Amazon introduced a new machine-learning platform that gave more weight in star ratings to newer reviews, those from verified purchasers and reviews voted as being helpful.
Lately, a push is being made to make ratings more informative. A Wall Street Journal article from December noted how Target has added descriptors so reviewers can award stars in categories such as “ease of assembly” for furniture or “design” for home decor items.
On Macy’s website, reviewers often provide their age range, gender, location, how frequently they purchase at Macy’s, a description of their style and the occasion they bought the product for.
- Netflix Replacing Star Ratings With Thumbs Ups and Thumbs Downs – Variety
- Netflix is ditching five-star ratings in favor of a thumbs-up – Verge
- When Shopping Online, Can You Trust the Reviews? – The Wall Street Journal
- How can retailers make online reviews more useful? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is the five-star ratings system too flawed to be used by retailers as a recommendation engine? What ratings methods do you think work best in producing helpful advice for online shoppers?