Updated November 2018 with up-to-date tactics and strategies
As we all know, reviews are critical to a product’s success on Amazon. As of October 2016, Amazon removed incentivized reviews. For many, this has made getting those first reviews on newly launched products more difficult. In this post, we’ll discuss the current state of affairs for Amazon reviews and how to get those critical first reviews. I’ll also discuss some of the black hat ways other sellers are using to get reviews.
Related Listening: Episode 153: How to Get Amazon Reviews in 2018
Amazon Today – No Incentivized Reviews
As mentioned, Amazon changed its review policy in late 2016 to remove incentivized reviews. Amazon now prohibits the following activities related to reviews:
- Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative’s, close friend’s, business associate’s, or employer’s) products or services.
- Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your competitors’ products or services.
- Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products, refunds, or reimbursements) or on behalf of anyone else.
Let’s rephrase this wording in Plain Amazon Seller English
- Amazon will now remove reviews (or at least make them unverified) for products purchased with a discount code greater than a 50% discount
- Amazon will remove reviews if they can determine there’s a close connection between you and the reviewer
What Amazon is really trying to eliminate is the blatant and systematic abuse of the review system which happens frequently, especially for high demand items. I’m personally of the mindset that getting some initial review traction is critical and even Amazon probably turns a very big blind eye to this (after all, if it results in more sales that’s a good thing for Amazon).
Amazon Today – Limited Automated Emails with Customers
Amazon made it even harder to get reviews this summer when they allowed customers to opt out of unsolicited emails. Sellers were using email responders, specifically Feedback Genius, to automatically send review requests to customers. You can still send these requests but increasingly you’re receiving an undeliverable message like below.
Most customers were tuning out these messages anyways but this was one more blow to automating reviews.
Also, Amazon does not want you to word your emails in such a way as to only solicit positive reviews. For example, “If you love our product, then leave a review”. Amazon does not want if/then statements in your email autoresponder series.
White Hat Review Strategy
Here’s a solid white hat review strategy for getting your first product reviews:
1. Amazon Early Reviewer Program
When Amazon removed incentivized reviews they also nearly concurrently released their Early Reviewer Program. This program allows a select number of customers to write reviews for products enrolled in it. In return, the reviewers receive small credits of $1-3 from Amazon. The Early Reviewer Program costs $60 and the product must have less than five reviews and you must be brand registered.
Early Review Key Points/Requirements
- The cost is $60 and you pay it after you get your first review
- Eligible for Amazon.com products only
- Eligible only for products with less than 5 reviews
- No condition for the reviews to be 5-star
- Selling price must be over $15
Overall, the Amazon Early Reviewer Program is extremely good value and everyone should immediately enroll their new products. The program is actually cheaper than using ‘review clubs’ but the downside is that the results can sometimes take weeks or months to take effect.
2. Request Reviews from Customers Who Have Left Positive Seller Feedback
Most buyers on Amazon don’t quite understand the difference between seller feedback and product reviews. Most of us have probably seen product reviews left in Seller Feedback at some point. It is essential to constantly review your seller feedback.
Proactively email all customers who have left positive seller feedback, especially those who left product reviews, and request them to leave product reviews. I even include an attachment like this with my emails explaining how exactly to leave product reviews. Only a small minority of buyers leave any feedback and those who have left seller feedback are more likely to leave product reviews.
3. Request Reviews from Customers You’ve Provided Customer Service To
If you engage in a conversation with people and provide great customer service, most people are happy to leave a great review regardless of the product. And I mean real engagement – not some Feedback Genius autoresponder. Engagement can include:
- Questions about a product before a purchase
- Technical support after a purchase
- Returns for a product that is simply no longer needed
- Making an unhappy customer happy
If you have a conversation with a customer and you ask them “can you leave a review?” most customers will happily oblige. The easiest reviews to get are from customers who ask a product question and then order. Check up on them in a week to make sure they got the product. AFTER they respond to your email confirming they got the product then ask for a review.
4. Use Product Inserts
Product inserts can be useful when reminding customers to leave a review although you must be careful not to provide any if/then statements in the insert verbiage, for example, “If you leave us a review then we’ll give you a lifetime extended warranty”.
One effective and relatively risk-free way to use inserts is to ask customers to register their product for an extended warranty (or something similar) to get their email. Afterwards, you can enter them in an email auto-responder series to remind them to leave a review.
5. Use ManyChat to Engage With Previous Customers
If you’re not using ManyChat to help increase your Amazon sales you should be now. The full details of how to setup your ManyChat bot are beyond the scope of this article but you can do it within a few minutes. A sample flow would like the following:
You can use an append service to target previous customers or use an existing audience you have setup (if you don’t use either of these two things you’ll basically be employing a spray and pray approach).
6. Product Giveaways and Discounted Products
By using steep discounts, you can get more sales for your products and increase the likelihood of more reviews. I price all of our prices with a 25% discount when launching them to get stronger immediate sales.
Using Amazon Giveaways is another effective way to get a significant boost of your sales. Giveaways are an Amazon sanctioned program where a select number of winners get your product for free and non-winners get an offer to purchase your product at either full price or a discount (use a discount for maximum results).
There are also discount and rebate clubs which push the boundaries of white hat tactics but are still technically TOS compliant as of this writing. RebateKey is one of the most popular of these services. These services often are more aimed at getting sellers full price credit for sales than reviews per se but a high percentage of purchasers do in fact leave reviews.
7. Launch New Products to an Email List
Hopefully, you’ve been building your off-Amazon email list. If you have an email list, then when you launch new products do not send them links to your website to purchase, instead send them directly to your Amazon product detail page on Amazon. This accomplishes two things:
- You get vital initial sales velocity for your products
- Your email list is more likely to produce satisfied customers who will subsequently leave reviews
Sales velocity is critical for Amazon. There are some who believe Amazon also rewards brands that produce sales on Amazon from outside of Amazon.
Second, your email list is likely to be an audience of people who like your product. Subsequently, they’ll be more likely to leave positive reviews. You can also get into grey-hat strategies and in your email blast ask customers to email you after purchase and offer them some kind of refund via PayPal. You’re not refunding them in return for a review – you’re just offering a product discount. Of course, once they email you, you’ve gotten that critical customer engagement and it’s easier to solicit reviews from them.
Grey & Black Hat Amazon Product Review Techniques
No article on getting Amazon reviews would be complete without speaking about grey and black hat review techniques. I do not endorse these techniques at all (in fact, I would strongly suggest you avoid them all together) but it’s valuable to know what techniques sellers are using to get reviews in today’s Amazon world.
Friend and Acquaintance Reviews
I suspect most sellers have been guilty of soliciting a review or two from a family member or friend. This is strictly against Amazon’s TOS. Amazon is very good at detecting connections between reviewers and sellers (via shared shipping addresses, IP addresses, etc.) so sellers must be careful to avoid having these connections detected by Amazon if using these strategies. If used sparingly, the detection levels from Amazon are low and generally, if Amazon is suspicious of a small number of reviews, they will simply prevent them from being published.
Account Suspension Risk level: Low
Using Email Append Services to Target/Contact Customers
Amazon famously does everything possible to keep sellers from accessing customer information. They hide email addresses and phone numbers. Email appending services take Amazon shipping information and match it against Big Data databases to obtain a customer’s email address and/or phone number. Some services claim a 40% success rate but most are well below this.
It’s a bad idea to contact these customers directly once you get their email but these services can be used effectively to remarket to customers on Facebook/Google/etc. with minimal chances of being caught from Amazon.
Account Suspension Risk Level: Medium
Using Zombie Accounts to Get Fake Reviews (Brushing)
Amazon has a serious issue, especially amongst Chinese sellers, with fake reviews. This is done on a LARGE scale to accumulate dozens or hundreds of fake reviews. Essentially these services use fake Amazon accounts to purchase a seller’s products and then leave fake reviews. This sophistication of these services is mind blowing. Prices range from $1-3 per review depending on the likelihood of these reviews to be detected by Amazon.
Amazon is playing a constant game of whack-a-mole to fight against these fake reviews and they are becoming increasingly better at detecting these fake reviews and suspending sellers permanently who use them. However, you don’t need to dig to find a lot of sellers still using fake reviews with impunity.
Account Suspension Risk Level: Very High
Bribing Amazon China Employees to Delete Negative Reviews
Amazon also has a serious problem right now with employees accepting bribes from sellers to perform a number of nefarious tasks including deleting negative reviews. I am serious – this happens on a relatively large scale, especially amongst Chinese sellers. According to price sheets I have viewed from Chinese vendors, Amazon review deletion services charge around $300 per review deletion so it is not cheap.
Account Suspension Risk Level: Extremely High
The landscape for obtaining reviews on Amazon has completely changed in the last year. Launching products has gotten considerably harder but this can actually be a good thing for many sellers as it keeps out a significant portion of the competition.
What is your review strategy for launching a product? Do you have any tactics not mentioned here? Please share in the comments below.