Amazon Applies Machine Learning To Improve Reviews - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Software
News
6/23/2015
07:06 AM
100%
0%

Amazon Applies Machine Learning To Improve Reviews

Amazon.com has for several years capitalized on machine learning for its recommendations that come with customer purchases on the retail site. Now, it's extending those efforts to product reviews and star ratings to enhance customer experiences.

COBOL Leads Us Back To The Future
COBOL Leads Us Back To The Future
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Amazon is turning to machine learning to improve the customer review experience for US users of its massive e-commerce site. As anyone who has used the service knows, star ratings and customer reviews have been a fixture of the Amazon.com shopping experience for more than 20 years.

Amazon.com has for several years capitalized on machine learning for the company's affinity marketing, or what it calls "Similarities," recommendations that come with a book or other customer purchase on the retail site. It sought to provide its internal teams with machine learning tools that have been put to use multiple times inside the company. Machine learning is used to make 50 billion predictions a week on Amazon.com, according to an April article by InformationWeek's Charles Babcock.

Although the latest changes went into effect on Amazon.com last week, a company spokesperson said they're not yet visible to users.

The practical application of machine learning in this context could hold long-term lessons for any CIO or IT leader looking to improve customer relationships for their business.

[ Does automation really matter to IT? Read Driverless Cars, AI, Robots: Why CIOs Should Care. ]

In the latest machine learning application, Amazon perceived a problem with its reviews system that allowed positive initial reviews (and the "star" ratings that they generate) to obscure any not-so-positive ones that were entered at a later date. Julie Law, an Amazon spokesperson, told InformationWeek in an email: "The enhanced system will use a machine-learned model to give more weight to newer, more helpful reviews from Amazon customers. The system will continue to learn which reviews are most helpful to customers, and improve the experience over time."

(Image: Simon Steinberger via Pixabay)

According to Law, the machine learning will be factored into two major aspects of how customer reviews appear on the site:

  • Star rating: A product's overall star rating will now factor in the age of a review, "helpful" votes by customers, and whether the reviews are from verified purchasers.
  • Review ranking: Similarly, these factors will be used to determine where a review appears in the overall list.

The machine learning system does not pass judgment on the actual content of the reviews (save for their age). The primary factor that the system pays attention to is whether or not other customers found the reviews useful.

In April, Amazon Web Services launched Machine Learning-as-a-Service for customers of its EC2 cloud.

Amazon Machine Learning is a managed service that analyzes a user's historical data to look for patterns and deploy predictive models. It can examine customer data and find patterns of likely customer turnover or churn. It can find typical issues in customer support. It can isolate and detect the patterns of problem transactions. The Machine Learning API and developer's guide, in the form of wizards, are available as another Amazon service.

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
skullaria2
50%
50%
skullaria2,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/27/2015 | 4:46:50 PM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
I look for top and Vine reviewers.
The verified purchase can be faked pretty easily too.
larryloeb
50%
50%
larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2015 | 8:30:57 AM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
That indeed is what Amazon is hoping for.

They know reviews are borked. This is an attempt to fix it.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2015 | 8:18:40 AM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
I have never been a fan of the "usefulness" feature precisely because it blurs the line of relevancy. For example, If I am interested in the new remastered version of say, Rubber Soul, i want to see reviews based on this release, not people gushing over a previously released CD from 1986! Amazon tends to lump all this together. Hopefully this new idea will solve the problem.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/24/2015 | 8:09:51 AM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
It would be much more convenient to have a one stop site for all the reviews, provided they are reliable. I hope this will be the solution.
larryloeb
50%
50%
larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2015 | 8:07:42 AM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
"Similarities" (as Amazon calls them) will not be direclty affected by this new system; just reviews.

There is similar technology in place for recommendations, but this new stuff is limited in scope.
larryloeb
50%
50%
larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
6/24/2015 | 8:05:18 AM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
I think that this is the sort of problem they were trying to address with this system. They equate "usefullness" with relevancy however, and I'm not sure that is a real equivalency.
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2015 | 7:48:57 PM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...

Sounds promising, I hope this will also make the process of recommendations on the site more accurate. I can search for an item once or buy it once and I am given recommendations regarding it for months! I am hoping this process is more accurate and less irritating with usage of this type of technology.

tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/23/2015 | 2:16:52 PM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
At that point what i do is look on other sites for the product and consult those reviews.
tjgkg
0%
100%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
6/23/2015 | 2:15:27 PM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
Most of those fake reviews are pretty obvious. What i always do is sort by newest reviews first. And i look for verified purchases. What i dislike about the Amazon reviews is that they will include reviews for previous versions of a product which is wrong.  Only reviews pertinent to the product displayed should be reviewed.
Ariella
50%
50%
Ariella,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2015 | 12:48:42 PM
Re: One of the problems that this is meant to address is...
@progman2000 yes, Google would know all your contacts on Gmail.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Slideshows
What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/4/2019
Commentary
Watch Out for New Barriers to Faster Software Development
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  12/3/2019
Commentary
If DevOps Is So Awesome, Why Is Your Initiative Failing?
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  12/2/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Video
Current Issue
The Cloud Gets Ready for the 20's
This IT Trend Report explores how cloud computing is being shaped for the next phase in its maturation. It will help enterprise IT decision makers and business leaders understand some of the key trends reflected emerging cloud concepts and technologies, and in enterprise cloud usage patterns. Get it today!
Slideshows
Flash Poll