It’s extremely difficult to ship hundreds of thousands or even millions of things with high levels of quality. Even with stringent standards, brands carefully watch their return metrics (known in the business as TWR, or total warranty returns) to make sure that their quality control systems are working. The manufacturing industry has a bit of a reputation for being a slow-moving industry, and the consumer electronics vertical is no exception. The world outside of manufacturing has changed significantly in the last ten years, and manufacturing systems frankly haven’t kept pace. Engineering teams for new products are being asked to do significantly more year after year – thinner, faster, and better – with almost the same resources and toolsets. In the last few years, Amazon reviews have added another very real squeeze on these teams, as they work to make perfection possible.
Five years ago, the brand’s most trusted engineers would spend hours at the end of the assembly line inspecting units from the final development build, days before the product was going to roll into production. They would sift through tens or hundreds of trays of carefully wrapped units for the absolute best: the ones with smallest gaps and offsets, no scratches or dents, best button feel, and of course, representing the best function possible. Once selected, these “golden units” would be carefully packaged in retail packaging and sent to technology reviewers, who would then write the reviews that drove demand for the product.
While this process continues today, and the technology reviewer still plays a large role in driving initial demand for a new product, a democratization has occurred that no one in manufacturing is talking about: the very real business impact of bad Amazon reviews. Have you ever picked between two similarly-priced products on Amazon with thousands of reviews and just blindly chosen the one with higher reviews? So do millions of other people.