For anyone who regularly shops online, it’s not such a surprise to hear that 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. Reviews from real customers provide social proof, the perception of reduced risk that if other people bought this product and liked it, I probably will too.
But sadly, only 5% of Amazon customers actually end up writing a review for products that they buy.
For brands on Amazon, this creates a paradox: your product has no reviews, so it gets no sales. And because you get no sales, you get no reviews.
It’s critical to break this vicious catch-22 cycle and begin to build up genuine reviews for your product assortment on Amazon. The good news is that you don’t need all 5-star reviews, and there are a few ways to start building up your products credibility with reviews. Let’s walk through a few methods of getting reviews, our step-by-step process, and cardinal rules to prevent disaster with your account.
1. Product Giveaways in exchange for reviews
This is a popular and effective way to generate product reviews, fast. The concept is nothing particularly new, brands have been giving free samples to journalists, and influential reviewers for a long time. In the world of Amazon, the equivalent of a high-profile journalist is an Amazon Top-Rated Reviews.
Just like how Amazon ranks the popularity of products with its Best Seller Rank (BSR) system, they also rank reviewers, this time by “helpfulness of reviews”. The top 50, 100, 500 and 1000 reviewers all have a badge that shows up next to their reviews on a product page. This typically lends a lot more weight to a review and is likely to be seen as more trustworthy from customers.
Note: This post was written in May 24, 2016, and "product giveaway in exchange of reviews" is not an Amazon policy anymore.
2. The Amazon Vine Program
Amazon has its own program for capturing quality, genuine reviews from their top reviewers, called the Vine Program. The thing is, the Vine program is only available to Vendors (that is, brands selling via Vendor Express or Vendor Central), and Amazon takes care of all the logistics. The catch is that it’s a paid program. It can cost a couple thousand dollars to have Amazon run a Vine Review campaign.
3. Product review services
There are some online services which help you to coordinate product giveaways in very large numbers, using their database of eager reviewers. This can be a good option if you’re in a very competitive category where your competitors have a very large number of reviews.
A word of caution, however. Heavily padding your product listing with reviews from customers who all got your product for free does not inspire much consumer confidence. There has been a small backlash from consumers against brands who are seen to be excessively boosting their product review numbers through such promotions. The website Fakespot allows users to see what % of reviews on a product appear to be “fake” and boycott those brands.
How to tell if a review was written by someone who got the product for free? FTC (Fair Trade Commission) rules state that they should disclose this in their review. Usually you see something to the effect of, “I recieved this product for free in exchange for my honest review” somewhere in the write-up.
Note: This post was written in May 24, 2016, and "product review services" in not an Amazon policy anymore.
4. Post-purchase email follow-up
It’s possible to boost the average product review rate of <5% by sending customers a reminder after their purchase through the Amazon messaging system.
It’s easy to annoy customers with too many post-purchase emails. Amazon themselves send pos-purchase emails to customers, so you’ll want to be short & sweet and provide the customer with a good reason for writing the review. Appeal to the natural human desire to be helpful, support a small business, or perhaps crack a joke or two if that’s coherent with your brand.
How to generate more product reviews on Amazon - our process
The process for running a promotion to gather more product reviews can be quite time-consuming. Here’s the process we follow at Bobsled Marketing for clients in our Amazon Launch & Optimization Service.
Plan the promotion. How many product reviews do you need as a baseline to get started with other promotional activities like PPC Advertising? For most products we recommend 15-20 reviews on each product page to begin with. This seems to be a number that has credibility with new customers.
Create an outreach list. Make a list of Amazon Top Ranked Reviewers and past customers who might be interested in reviewing your product. It should be at least 2X as many people because not everyone you contact will want to write a review. You can often (but not always) find the email address of Top-Ranked Amazon reviewers on their profile page. You could also use a review service to manage this aspect of the process.
Send samples to interested reviewers. You can do this either by creating a Multi-Channel Fulfillment order, by sending product to their mailing address directly from your warehouse or shipping facility, or by creating a special coupon code in Amazon’s system to allow the reviewer to add the product to their cart for free. Make sure your reviewers know that they should disclose that they got the product for free in order not to violate FTC (Fair Trade Commission) rules and potentially have the review removed by Amazon.
Follow-up. Perhaps the most important, yet tedious, part of the process is to follow up with everyone you sent a sample to ensure they actually write a review. This can be tricky because someone’s “screen name” on Amazon might be a pseudonym or otherwise unidentifiable as to who wrote it. You’ll want to ask each reviewer to send them the Permalink to their review.
- Set up your post-purchase email follow-up sequence to increase the number of reviews from organic sales. You can do this manually through the Amazon messaging system, or through 3rd party tools like Salesbacker or Feedback Genius.
Of course, you can skip all the hard work and have us manage a product promotion for you, to get a baseline number of genuine, helpful product reviews.
Before you go, I want to share a couple of cardinal rules with you. These are so terribly important but something that beginner Amazon sellers might assume are ok.
1. Never, ever review your own product on Amazon.
This is explicitly against Amazon’s Terms of Service and definitely not worth the pain of having your product listing (or even entire Seller account!) shut down. In fact it’s wise to not have anyone from the same IP address (e.g. your home or office where you might be using Amazon) review your products.
2. Never, ever offer an incentive for a positive review.
This includes cash bonus, a discount on future sales, entry into a contest… Again, any potential benefit in the number of reviews is not worth your account being shut down.
Don’t leave money on the table
At the end of the day, product reviews can make a huge difference in sales. Getting a baseline of genuine product reviews is a critical component of our own Amazon Launch & Optimization process. But doing it properly, within Amazon’s Terms of Service and also in a way that customers can see as genuine, is terribly important.