2020 was a difficult and challenging year for everyone.
The COVID pandemic has disrupted everyone’s lives and completely changed the way we live, socialize, work, shop… Social distancing was the phrase of the year and it seems that 2021 will not be that much different.
The biggest change is that we now, more than ever, do everything online. And the eCommerce industry has benefited the most with global retail eCommerce sites experiencing unprecedented amounts of traffic in the past year.
In June 2020, retail websites have generated a record 22 billion visits, an increase of 31.7% from the same time the year before. And can you guess which online retail website is leading in the rankings?
Amazon, who else? Out of these 22 billion visits in June 2020, Amazon has registered unique 5.2 billion visits and is 3rd most popular online marketplace, behind Taobao and Tmall.
Great news for Amazon sellers – or not?
On the other side, higher demand requires increased supply, meaning that more and more people and brands will turn to eCommerce to offer their products and services.
And that means increased competition in an already extremely saturated environment.
So now every seller has to work on their offer and business model in order to attract and retain customers. And we all know that the one key factor in consumer decision making are their majesty – product reviews.
In this article, we’ll take a look at why are reviews so important and provide a comprehensive guide on how to get authentic positive reviews without getting banned.
Product reviews – the number one metric
In the Amazon marketplace, everyone knows that product reviews are the most important aspect of the selling business. And they are 10x times harder to acquire.
What was once word of mouth, today are reviews. Research shows that 79% of people trust online reviews as much as they trust their friends’ and family’s personal recommendations.
So it’s clear how important reviews are for your business. Conversion rates are fueled by positive reviews, leading to higher rankings and sales.
Positive reviews can turn your business into a prosperous venture. But with 92% of people deciding not to use a business after reading negative reviews, it can drive it to the ground. And the latter happens much more often.
A product review should be an honest, unbiased display of the buyer’s satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It should accurately portray the products’ benefits and flaws so that all the other potential buyers could make an informed buying decision.
Is it all that simple?
In reality, many sellers struggle getting reviews at all on Amazon. In such a busy marketplace, it’s difficult to make your products visible.
To make this worse, many sellers are dealing with a fake reviews problem.
Fake reviews are a black-hat and illegal method of acquiring positive reviews and some companies, especially new ones, are resorting to it. They either pay for fake reviews (a $1000 investment can improve sales by 50x) or incentivize them by offering free products in exchange or ask friends and family to write them.
A 2019 report estimated that 30% of Amazon reviews are unauthentic.
The result is that these companies are generating hundreds of positive reviews very quickly. This way they’re turbocharging their search position, burying other fair-playing companies, and decreasing their sales.
Furthermore, people would bump their competitors’ older negative reviews by marking them “Helpful” so they would be seen higher up on the product page, having a bigger impact on the average rating calculation.
These are examples of bad competitive behavior and Amazon claims they have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. In 2016 they made it clear in their TOS that asking for reviews in exchange for free or refunded products is not allowed and will result in a ban.
How effective they, that’s another story.
But, this should not discourage you. There are many ways to acquire positive product reviews ethically and without breaking any rules.
Let’s see how.
Getting Amazon reviews the white hat way
So we’ve seen what is not acceptable on Amazon – buying or incentivizing reviews.
And even though it may be tempting, especially if you’re a brand new company or releasing a new product, we strongly advise not to resort to these illegal approaches. It’s not worth being banned because of it.
The legitimate ways may be more difficult and take longer, but they are authorized and approved by Amazon, so you never have to wonder if you did something wrong.
That’s why as a preparation phase, get familiar in detail with Amazon’s rules regarding reviews and their TOS from your Seller Central account.
Knowing how much the sellers’ businesses depend on reviews, Amazon has put in place three programs to help them out.
The automated follow-up system
Amazon has taken it upon themselves to follow up with buyers with one request per purchase and encourage them to leave honest reviews and report if they experienced any problem with the product or any other part of the shopping experience.
Request a review
This is another option for sellers to send a follow-up email to their buyers, not earlier than 4 and not later than 30 days after the purchase.
It’s located in Order Reports found in your Seller’s Central account.
Sellers who have products that are Amazon brand-registered and less than 30 reviews can enroll in the Vine Program.
Amazon invites who they call Vine Voices, reputable reviewers based on their review rank, and provides them with free products submitted by the sellers. Their reviews are identified with a green stripe indicating a review from this program.
The sellers can submit up to five products that can receive up to 30 reviews in total from the Vine Voices, meaning that if the product already has prior reviews, it will receive Vine reviews up to 30.
These reviews cannot be influences or manipulated in any way, and they should represent the most objective product review.
Getting reviews on your own
These Amazon programs are very helpful in getting reviews and getting you started, but they’re not enough to keep your business going.
A big part of your business plan should be a carefully thought-out review acquisition strategy. Let’s see what it should entail.
Release only great quality products
This is a step that should be taken before you even enter the Amazon marketplace.
Like we said, competition is fierce and you can stand out only if you have an amazing product to offer. If your product is low-quality, not unique in any way, with clear flaws, it will get reviews but not those that you want.
So before everything, make sure that you’re launching a product that is really worth your effort and time.
Have great product listings in place
This feature helps you more when it comes to visibility and attracting customers, nevertheless, it can also affect your buyer’s willingness to leave a review.
If your product listing is well-written, with a detailed and accurate description, high-quality photos depicting every important part of the product, the buyers will be pleased when the listing matches with the product they receive.
This increases customer satisfaction and therefore their motivation to leave a positive review.
Develop your brand off Amazon
Having an already existing brand presence outside of Amazon can make your potential customers perceive you more seriously.
When they see you have a well-designed website and engaging social media channels, they won’t necessarily think of you as a newbie and be more trustful when deciding to buy your products.
Later, you can use some of these channels as a part of your review acquisition strategy, which we’ll cover later on.
Interesting product packaging
You might think, how can product packaging influence buyers to leave a review? It does, very much.
When a product has interesting, unique, and playful packaging, the buyer will certainly notice that. People are visual creatures and you just imagine the look on their face when they receive a package that isn’t looking or feeling cheap, something they’re already used to.
Also, product packaging is an important part of your brand identity.
This is another way to leave an impression and enhance the shopping experience, and we all know that customer satisfaction is directly linked to the increased number of reviews.
The power of product inserts
Product inserts are notes in the forms of cards, pamphlets, etc. that you can insert into the package and communicate with your buyers.
The most common are simple Thank You notes that can also have your other information listed like your website, social media, etc.
You can also include a review request that is neutral and not pushy. As we said, avoid asking directly, manipulating buyers, and offering incentives for positive reviews.
Utilize your social media channels
We’ve already talked about how chatbots are a great way of increasing the number of reviews without violating the rules.
That’s why we have pointed out earlier that having an existing social media presence can speed up the review acquisition process.
You can place neutral reminders on your Facebook and Instagram page about how reviews are a huge part of every seller’s business and how much leaving a review can contribute to the success of their favorite products.
These could be in form of posts, stories, bio, highlights, etc.
Old but gold – emails
Some think emails have become an ineffective way of communicating with customers. Well, they’re wrong.
Sending out follow-up emails that are naturally and thoughtfully written, that address the customers by their name, and are not spammy can be a great way to generate reviews.
The only catch is that Amazon doesn’t reveal customers’ emails. That’s why you have to build an email list first.
There are several ways to ask people to subscribe to your email list:
- on your website;
- through social media (chatbots are a great way of getting subscribers);
- on your product inserts;
- on your blog.
Building email lists are time-consuming and boring, but the end result is a precious resource that opens the door to your customers.
Hard work that pays off
Implementing a review acquisition strategy can seem daunting, requiring a lot of time and effort. So if you’re impatient and want to kick-off your business immediately, it may be tempting to resort to black hat methods.
If you invested time and resources in building your brand, it would be a shame to employ these short-term methods that will result in a ban guaranteed.
A long-term strategy is the only viable way to grow your business both on and off Amazon, earning a stellar reputation along the way.
About the author:
We are Codedesign – a multi cultural, award-winning digital marketing agency . We define as a search-led, innovative digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC, social media ads, content marketing and data analytics. We are trusted with growing the online presence of companies on a local, national and international scale. We work very closely with our clients’ team to understand how best to meet their needs, utilizing the diverse talent within our team to create highly innovative marketing campaigns.