Amazon reviews are a big part when it comes to selling your products on that platform. Yet many people still find themselves falling under some wrong ideas about how to go about it. It is now time to iron those misconceptions out and go deeper into the nature of Amazon reviews. Brenda Crimi from AMZ Alliance tells the truth about how reviews affect your ranking and conversion of sales as well as the policies that surround them. She also speaks about how to and how not to solicit for reviews, how to tell which reviews are which, and how to protect yourself from reviewer abuse.
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Why Reviews Are Important
I’m Brenda Crimi here with AMZ Alliance. I’m here to give you some helpful tips around the Amazon review policies. First, I want to talk about why reviews are even important. There are some misconceptions as to the value of the reviews on Amazon. Reviews help conversion of a product. They give social proof. I’m sure as you’re shopping on Amazon, you’re looking at reviews. You’re reading what other shoppers are saying about that. That gives you the confidence to buy that product. That helps with the conversion of that customer, that shopper into a sale. Reviews do not help your ranking. A lot of new sellers are anxious to get reviews because they think that’s going to help the ranking. I wanted to clarify right off the bat that reviews do not help the ranking. Reviews help the conversion of sales, and the sales will impact your ranking. They have a little bit of an impact on your ranking in a long way around it. Reviews are to provide social proof for your conversion. I want to make sure they’re understood that they’re important, and what Amazon has in place around the policies in reviews.Reviews help the conversion of sales, and the sales will impact the ranking. Click To Tweet
Why did Amazon put policies around reviews? It seems like, “Let us play. Let’s get our reviews up there.” Up until about the fourth quarter of 2016, it was the Wild Wild West with reviews. There is a strategy to get product ranking by utilizing review clubs. There were these clubs out there that you could participate as a seller and as a shopper. You could get all kinds of products for $5, for free, $1, in exchange for a review. What happened was the Amazon platform was inundated with reviews that customers weren’t trusting. Imagine if you go onto a product and you have all five-star reviews and all those reviews came within the last 30 days, you’d suspect, too. As Amazon’s platform is building out, they want their shoppers to be able to rely on those customer reviews.
They started putting some policies into play and made it a critical error to solicit for reviews in exchange for any type of promotion or discount. I’m going to get into a little bit more nitty-gritty around what the parameters and those promotions are and are not available to you. The other side of it is it’s illegal. The Federal Trade Commission, they say if somebody has any type of relationship to somebody who’s leaving a review, that must be disposed of. When you think about it from the shopper’s point of view, as you are talking to somebody or reading a review on a product page, a Facebook ad, or some type of solicitation, and somebody is going on and on about how fabulous this product I, you want to trust that what they’re saying is accurate.
Imagine if they disclosed, “I happen to be Aunt Sally or I was paid for this review.” That changes your perspective on that review. You give it a little bit of different weight. You’re a little bit more conscientious of the information that they’re sharing. You may choose to do some more additional vetting on your own. The Federal Trade Commission has made it illegal to provide reviews without clarifying the relationship if there’s one that exists. Amazon is in alignment with those policies. That’s important, specifically in our industry, we use product influencers, bloggers to promote our product. They should know that they need to disclose that they were given that product to review. That would be according to the Federal Trade Commission’s terms.
Product Review Solicitation Practices
Some of the product review solicitation practices you’ll find on Amazon are asking for a positive review. Amazon has no problem with you asking for a review and encouraging shoppers to leave reviews. What they have a problem with is you giving any indication as to what that review should look like. You cannot ask for a positive review. You cannot ask to change or remove a review. If a shopper puts a review on your page that you don’t agree with, you cannot communicate to that shopper that you wish them to remove or change that review or viewpoint. You cannot attempt to influence a review in any way. Ways in which they consider an influence of review is including a free gift. “Mr. Shopper, if you review my product, I’m going to give you this bonus product.” You cannot do that. You can’t offer a refund or reimbursement for the bought product after the fact.
That’s a strategy some people will use. I’ve seen solicitations to the general public. I had a client that did that after me explaining not to. One of the things I should say right off the bat is if you do not adhere to these policies, Amazon doesn’t ask. They shoot first and ask questions later. They will shut your account down. You’ll have to beg for forgiveness and hopefully get your selling privileges back up. Even if you eventually do get them back up, you could be looking at a loss of at least 30 days in sales. When that happens, the process to get reinstated doesn’t move quickly. They’ve got other things to deal with and it’s a nightmare. It’s best to tread on the side of compliance and abide by these terms of service.
Back to what you cannot do is solicit for a review in any way. You can’t do the prize drawings. You can’t do a discount on future purchases, nor are you allowed to leave a review on your product yourself or ask your mom or Aunt Sally to leave a review for your product. You think back to the summary of what the Fair Trade Commission is establishing. They want shoppers to be informed and be able to trust these reviews are honest. Before Amazon tightened up the review of policies, they allowed little looser guidelines with leaving reviews as long as you disclosed your relationship. Amazon is not even allowing that anymore. That is not even an option. Worse than anything else is trying to leave a review on a competitor’s product.
Any of these types of incentives for review are grounds for getting your account shut down. If you think that they won’t find out, they will. They’ve got those little Amazon spy bots. I know for a fact that if they suspect a relationship. Let’s say, back in the old days we used to have people in our family and close circles purchase the product and leave a review. If those families and acquaintances that made that purchase were all within a certain area, say all the same city, Amazon would be suspicious about that and potentially group you as some type of relationship. Those spy bots are out there. They’re looking for that type of stuff. Don’t even chance it.
If they suspect that there’s a relationship with that review, Amazon will wipe the review out. They won’t even ask. They won’t even disclose that they did that. You’ll go in one day, you have 70 some odd reviews and the next day you go in and you only have 60 some odd reviews. The reason for that is Amazon deemed that that review is out of compliance or there must’ve been some type of relationship or something involved with that. They just wiped out that review. The good news is that doesn’t necessarily affect your seller account. You need to be conscious that that does happen and it happens often. Don’t think that they won’t find out. It’s not even worth taking the risk. I went through all the things that you can’t do. I told you that the reviews were important. What are some of the things that you can do to get reviews?
The good news is the product doesn’t have to have been purchased on Amazon to leave a review. Anybody can leave a review on a product. They simply go to the bottom of the detail page and click on the little link that says, “Leave a product review.” Which is good news because as a new listing on Amazon and you’re trying to get authentic and real reviews on the product to start establishing that social proof. You can reach out to some of your current customers that have purchased the product locally and ask them to leave a review. Remember my guidelines, you don’t ask them to leave a five-star review. You don’t ask them to leave a great review. You ask them to leave an honest review. You can establish your initial reviews through your network of sales that you’ve established locally.
You can get those initial reviews because Amazon automatically sends out the request to the customers. A caveat to that is Amazon sent out an option for customers to opt out of receiving any solicitations outside of that individual product sale. I would say at least 30% to 40% of customers have opted out of receiving those types of solicitations, but Amazon does send them out if they haven’t opted out. Another way that you can receive reviews or solicit for review is through some autoresponders. There’s a lot of third party software out there that will tie into your Amazon account. They’re inexpensive. Majority of them are free for the first 100 units of sales per month. You can buy packages and increments up depending on the volume of sales you have on a monthly basis. I’m guessing $15, $20 a month for this type of an autoresponder.
Amazon doesn’t give you an email for your customers. All the communication for the customer is within the email system of Amazon, it’s an encrypted email. This third party software ties into that system and you can set up some type of email that will go out to the shopper or your customer, the purchaser after certain increments have happened. You could say, “Upon purchase, send this email.” You could say, “Five days after confirmation of receipt, send this email.” Those types of emails could look customer service oriented, like, “We’re the best company on Earth. We want to make sure we’re always providing golden customer service.” In those email systems, do not ever say five-star review. Amazon is looking for some languaging in those email systems to make sure that you’re in compliance. By saying, “If we haven’t earned a five-star review, then let us know.” Amazon will not like that language. You would say, “We always want to provide top-notch customer service. If you’re not happy, we’re not happy.” Those autoresponders allow for links. You don’t have to be a techie to use these. They are easy. They’re templates. You click a button that says, “I want a link to the product here.” You click a button, “I want to link to seller feedback here.” It’s easy for the customer to engage in that email.
You could say simply, “We want to provide our top-notch customer service. It’s important to us that you’re happy. If you’re not happy, you’ve got our attention. Reply to this email and let us know what the problem is so we can solve it for you. If not, we’d love to hear your feedback on your product so that other shoppers can be confident with their purchase. Click here to leave a product review.” That is an email solicitation that is in compliance because you’re approaching it from a customer service basis. You’re not asking them to leave any type of levels of review. You’re asking them just to leave a review. That’s in compliance with Amazon. Note that those can also be opted out of if a customer has chosen not to receive those types of solicitations and they have opted out of it. They won’t receive those, but you aren’t charged for those. You’re only charged for the number of emails that go out. It may be worth your while. I will say that the majority of shoppers don’t leave reviews. People who leave reviews for their products may be 1% to 2%. It’s a slow and daunting process to gather a lot of reviews. If you see a product on Amazon that has a lot of reviews, probably they had been on Amazon selling for quite some time. Put your patience hat on. You want to provide excellent customer service to get those good, honest reviews. Utilize the systems to support getting them a little bit quicker, so this third-party software help.It’s a slow and daunting process to gather a lot of reviews. Put your patience cap on. Click To Tweet
Amazon also has an Early Reviewer Program that they launched. It’s $60 to even enroll, it’s pricey. If you think about when you’re a brand-new listing on Amazon and you want to promote that list, introduce some sponsored ads, you want to have that social proof established on your page first before you start paying for ads. You want to have your chances of conversion the best that they can be. Spending $60 before you spend $600 on ads is a good investment. What Amazon will do, they have an Early Reviewer Program. They will themselves solicit to your purchasers, people who have had to purchase on Amazon your product. Amazon will solicit to them that they will give them a $3 gift card if they leave a review for your product. It’s funny because that’s exactly against the terms of services that we’re talking about, but Amazon obviously is in control of it and they can make sure the languaging as such is not manipulative and it is adhering to all of the policies. For $60, they’ll send and continually send these solicitations for a review in exchange for a $3 Amazon gift card and tell you, “Get your first five reviews.” Once you get the first five reviews, then the program stops. They won’t do over that. This is good for those first initial reviews. If you already have five reviews on your listing, this is not a program for you. The product has to be at a price point of $15 or higher. That’s a pretty low threshold. Most people would be able to qualify for that. That’s the Amazon early review program.
Amazon also has what they call Amazon Vine. It is a pool of reviewers that will review products. That particular program is only available to vendors of Amazon. If you sell your product directly to Amazon, you’re a vendor of Amazon. That program is $1,500 to be part of that review program. Know that that’s available if you qualify for that. To the general public, you’d probably want to do the Early Reviewer Program for the $60 and also reach out to your current customer base that has purchased the products. Ask if they’ll leave an honest review on Amazon for you. Those are within Amazon’s terms of service.
Types Of Reviews
There are a couple different types of reviews that are confusing between sellers. You hear product review and you hear seller feedback. Sometimes people will clump those two together. I want to clarify that for you. Product review is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an actual review of the product and it goes on the detail page of the product. Down at bottom where reviews happen, that is a product review. The other type of review that Amazon solicits for is seller feedback. Seller feedback is based on you as a seller. How did the sale process go? Was delivery on time? Was there any communication? Was it professional? All of those type qualifications as to you as a seller fulfilling that order. When Amazon solicits for both of those, usually it’s within the same email. Shoppers are a little confused as to what those mean and what the difference is between them.
When somebody leaves a product review on your page, that is stuck there. It is not going anywhere unless it’s out of compliance, in which case we’re going to talk a little bit about what to do about that. If somebody leaves a seller feedback that is negative, those are more easily removed. Remove it if it’s about the product. If somebody clicks the leave seller feedback and they say, “This product isn’t what I thought it was going to be.” They leave some type of product review. You can go through the automated system by contacting Amazon, put in the order number, and get that removed. If it is an FBA product versus a Merchant-Fulfilled product, there are some other ways in which you can get negative feedback removed. If it is a Fulfilled by Amazon product and they leave a comment on your seller feedback about it was late delivered or something that was out of your control, it was Amazon’s, those will be wiped out and easily removed.
If it is a Merchant-Fulfilled product and they are disclosing frustration around the order fulfillment, those will have a harder time being removed. Your seller feedback is where you see the stars next to your seller shopper name, your store name. The product review is at the bottom of the page. Let’s revisit the product reviews. What do you do if you get negative product reviews? I told you that it’s almost impossible to get those removed. The very least is you want to comment on them. If you go into the review and you read the view review, which you should be anyway. You should spend once a week, you need to pop onto your detail page and read what these customers are saying about their product. What do they like about it? What don’t they like about it?
You’re listing should be an ever-evolving content of information. If somebody’s saying they’re questioning whether this product has this or that and you don’t have that addressed within your page details, that would be a hint to you to then include that in your page details. Enhance your images to answer those questions. Those are your opportunities to help conversion. Read those customer reviews on a weekly basis. Gather that information and adjust your detail page to accommodate the information and feedback you’re getting from customers. Back to it that has a negative review, at the very least you want to go into that review. Underneath the review is a little box that says, “Comment.” You can click on that comment and type a response to that. In the four and a half years that we’ve been selling, I have never had anybody comment back on the comment. I’m not sure if shoppers ever see it, but the shoppers that do see it are the shoppers that come after.
What I will do is often if somebody says something negative about the product or questions something that they weren’t happy, I make sure I comment there. Remember, this is all about great customer service. “Your satisfaction is of utmost importance to us. Please contact us so that we can make this right.” Something of that sort. What that does is the next shopper that comes through and reads some reviews, sees that negative review and there’s a comment underneath it. They’ll read the comment from us as the brand and they’ll go, “That brand cares. We all know that there’s going to be dissatisfied customers, but this brand always makes it right,” so they don’t give as much weight to those negative reviews. At the very least, you want to make sure that you comment on them and provide great customer service.
I said that their reviews are almost impossible to have removed. There are guidelines for leaving negative reviews. If you suspect a competitor’s sabotaging you and leaving a negative review, or the review is somehow out of Amazon’s terms of service, there is a little button too that you can click to report abuse. That will take you through a process. You can give more information as to why you feel this review should be taken down. It will not be taken down because a customer is frustrated with your product. Amazon considers product reviews information like the free speech thing. Shoppers can express what they need to express as long as they’re not abusive, not cussing and you’re not suspecting it’s a competitor. That review’s pretty much going to stay there.You want to have your chances of conversion the best that they can be. Click To Tweet
Buyers can change the reviews. Back to that email autoresponder thing that we were talking about, if you make great attempts to provide the customer service and make the situation right for the customer, the customer can go back in there and change the review. You cannot solicit to that customer to change a review. If you are providing that great customer service, you might say something like, “Hopefully your view of us has changed. Now, that we’ve provided this great customer service, we would appreciate you telling other shoppers about it,” or something like that. That would be languaging that would be okay within Amazon’s point of view.
When a customer leaves a review, it’s difficult to find out who that customer is and tie it to an actual order where you could communicate with the customer. If you do some digging, you can figure out who that shopper might be, but never, ever initiate a contact through the email system about that review. Keep it in the comments. If that shopper responds back to those comments and follows through with contacting you to make it right, provide that top-notch customer service. Work with the customer within those guidelines. What to do if you get the negative seller feedback? It can be removed and you contact Amazon through the help porthole where you create tickets. There’s an actual box that you check that you want to remove seller feedback, you put the order number and then you give the information about the product or whatever the parameters are as to why you want it removed.
More times than not, it will automatically be removed. Sometimes you’ll get the little response that it needs to be reviewed before it’s removed. It’s not a lengthy process. It’s always worth it to at least try to get it removed. I often get product reviews that are positive within my seller feedback. I leave those, as long as there is four or five-star review that helps our seller metrics. I leave the product reviews in there. Some people will solicit to the shopper who left a product review within the seller feedback. Some people will solicit them. Follow up in email and say, “You left it in the wrong place. Would you mind leaving that feedback on the product page instead? Here’s the link.”
My point of view is that’s a little bit gray. Leave the shoppers alone. They left you the feedback. Be patient with that. If you want to reach out to a few people, if it’s early on, maybe it’s worth that extra effort. Be selective in your languaging and make it all about the customer service and things. The bottom line is you want to think of your reviews as an opportunity for great customer service. Provide that great customer service and abide by the Amazon terms of service and you’ll be fine. Thank you for joining me. I hope that clarified some of the information around reviews and you’re always going to stay in compliance. Until next time.
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