The topic of product reviews on Amazon is on everyone's lips in the media, with increasing reference being made to the flood of so-called "fake reviews".
Every Amazon Marketplace seller is well aware of the importance of generating product reviews for their sales success on Amazon. Products that receive many positive product reviews have a better chance of Amazon SEO and the conversion rate.
Due to the importance of product reviews, in today's article I would like to present various ways in which product reviews can be generated. These are not recommendations for action, but simply a presentation of different ways to generate reviews.
Since on average only 5% of orders are rated on Amazon, productive support from sellers is needed to obtain as many positive ratings as possible.
What are the advantages of products with positive Amazon reviews?
- Products with many positive reviews are generally favored by the Amazon A9 algorithm and thus displayed more frequently on the first search results page
- The purchase probability of products with positive reviews is significantly higher than for products without reviews
- The advertising costs incurred per generated sale via Amazon PPC are significantly lower for products with positive reviews compared to products without or with average reviews
- Products with positive reviews have an above-average click-through rate (CTR)
Fake it till you make it is not a solution
Before we delve deeper into the matter, one important thing must be made clear once again: A bad product will remain a bad product even with short-term good reviews. If your product is more expensive than your competitors' products, but offers no significant advantages and is not a branded product, positive product reviews will not help you in the long term.
The generation of fake reviews by friends and family is also not a long-term strategy and will sooner or later be recognized by Amazon and can lead to your Amazon seller account being blocked!
So first make sure that your products have a valued advantage over your competitors, otherwise sooner or later you will be squeezed out by other market players from Asia.
What types of reviews are there on Amazon?
Before we look at the different methods of valuation generation, we need to get an overview of the different types of valuation.
The first step is to look at the difference between customer reviews and seller reviews.
What are seller ratings?
Seller ratings are used to assess both the seller and the shopping experience (communication and shipping performance). These ratings are not displayed at product level, but appear on the seller's information overview page. The seller ratings directly influence the sales performance and can lead to the seller account being temporarily closed in the event of poor performance.
What are customer reviews?
Customer reviews are used to assess the product on offer and its features. These ratings are displayed for each individual product. It is important to know that customer reviews do not influence the sales performance!
For customer reviews, we also differentiate between reviews with the addition "Verified purchase" and reviews without this addition:
Reviews with the addition "Verified purchase"
If a customer review contains the addition "Verified purchase", this means that the order was placed via Amazon and that the buyer did not receive a significant discount.
Reviews without the addition "Verified purchase"
In the case of customer reviews without the addition "Verified purchase", the product was either not purchased on Amazon or the customer has paid a price that is significantly lower than the product price currently offered.
The different methods of Amazon review generation
1st Amazon Vine
With Amazon Vine is an Amazon service that was only available to Amazon Vendor Central participants until December 2019.
Since December 15, 2019, however, Amazon Marketplace sellers who sell a registered brand can now also use the Amazon Vine service.
If sellers decide to generate product reviews using Amazon Vine, the following requirements should be met:
- Products must have Amazon FBA be sent
- Products with more than 30 product reviews are not permitted
- Erotic articles cannot be submitted
- Amazon trademark application must have been completed
- They must be new products
If these requirements are met, products can be registered for Amazon Vine. These products are made available to reviewers free of charge.
The reviewers are exclusively top reviewers who have been selected by Amazon to review your products.
The Amazon Vine reviewers then usually write a product review within 30 days of receiving the goods. These are product reviews that cannot be influenced, meaning that negative product reviews can also be written. Subsequent removal is virtually impossible. For this reason, I would like to emphasize once again how important it is to only offer products in perfect condition. Otherwise, these reviews can also have a negative impact on your average product rating.
2nd Amazon Early Reviewer Program
The Amazon Early Reviewer Program is a relatively unknown service from Amazon, which is currently (as of December 2019) not yet available for the German marketplace. The Amazon Early Reviewer Program is currently available to US and UK sellers. However, it is only a matter of time before it is also activated for the German marketplace.
With the Early Reviewer Program, Amazon will automatically send emails to your customers with a review request for a flat fee of 60$. As an incentive, reviewers receive a credit of between 1-3$ per review written.
As soon as you have been activated for the Early Reviewer Program, you can participate under Advertising → Early Reviewer Program. Once participation begins, selected buyers will receive a message from Amazon asking them to write a review for the respective product.
There are also requirements for participation in the Amazon Early Reviewer Program:
- Product price is at least 15$
- Product has less than 5 reviews when participating in the program
- Fee of 60$ must be paid
3. request ratings
It has recently become possible to request reviews at the order level. To do this, go to Orders → Manage orders in Seller Central and select a completed order. On the "Order details" page, you will now find the "Request reviews" button.
I am not in a position to judge whether this type of valuation requirement complies with current case law. For this reason, my customers and I have not yet made use of the function. For this reason, I am also unable to assess the chances of success of a valuation.
4. eMail-Funnel with Refund
One method that has become particularly popular in recent months is the integration of an email funnel with a full refund of the purchase price after a product review has been submitted. Here, potential customers are first sent to a separate landing page, where the first step is an email query. After successful registration, the product is purchased and rated at the normal purchase price. After the purchase has been made and the review has been written, the customer contacts the supplier and receives a full refund.
This method is also against the guidelines and should therefore not be used. The effort required to check the rating and customer data for a positive rating alone seems far too high to me personally.
A similar procedure can be carried out by a Facebook chatbot, or in personal contact via WhatsApp or Facebook.
5. voucher codes for reviews
One option that has been used very frequently in recent years to generate as many product reviews as possible is to award a discount code in return for a written review. A promotion was created for this purpose and voucher codes were distributed. The discount was usually above 50% so that as many potential customers as possible were interested in this product. This approach was already in breach of the evaluation guidelines in the past. For this reason, product reviews in which the sales price was reduced by more than 30% by a discount code (sometimes as low as 20%) have hardly been published since August 2018.
6. external rating platforms
In order to generate product reviews, a large number of review platforms have now positioned themselves to help generate product reviews. These review platforms act as matching partners between customers and sellers. Sellers present their products on these platforms in the hope that customers will be interested in the products on offer. If they are interested, customers receive either the full product price or a partial refund after receiving the review. This method is very common, as the standardized processes mean that the seller hardly has to make any effort. Of course, this procedure violates Amazon's guidelines and can lead to dramatic consequences for sellers.
7. customer reviews of Friends, Family & Fools
A logical and frequently used method is to have friends and family members place orders and write customer reviews. As this is done proactively and the customer reviews are not written objectively, this method does not comply with Amazon's Terms of Services.
8. takeover of customer reviews for products no longer offered
Another option is to adopt product ratings for products that will no longer be offered in the future. As the product reviews are linked to the ASIN of a product, reviews remain even if the actual product is no longer offered. You can now use the existing ASIN and assign it to a new product by simply transferring the existing ASIN to the new product. Of course, the contents of the product listing, such as images, title, etc., must be revised so that they match the new product. The transfer of customer reviews from products that are no longer offered only makes sense if they are similar products. For products that are not similar (e.g. printers and cases), this is obviously not a sustainable method.
Unfortunately, I am currently unable to assess whether the transfer of customer reviews is in line with the Amazon TOS. However, I can confirm that we have already successfully implemented this option for several customers.
9. create product variants to bundle reviews
For a variant product, the product ratings received for all variants are displayed in compressed form. The display of product ratings for all variants can therefore be used to add new products to an existing variant family. This means that the product ratings already received are also displayed for this variant.
It should of course be noted that negative product reviews are also displayed for all variants.
10. package inserts
Most Amazon sellers are familiar with the use of package inserts to generate product reviews. A package insert is used to start communication with the customer and motivate them to leave a product review.
The review rate is very low, so the additional effort is hardly justified. In addition, a customer's proactive request for reviews is not permitted at this time.
11. automatic email dispatch with invoice and request for product reviews
The last method to generate reviews is to automatically send the invoice to the Amazon customer's e-mail address. In addition, the customer is asked to leave a review for their order.
This method also contradicts the Amazon TOS and should also be strictly avoided due to data protection laws in Germany. However, there are still many sellers who are not aware of the potential dangers.
VDifferent methods to remove Amazon reviews
In addition to generating reviews, it may also be sufficient to remove existing negative reviews. Removing negative reviews is much more difficult than generating positive reviews. Personally, I only know two methods that I would like to mention briefly.
1. report violation of product reviews
The obvious way to remove a negative review is to lodge a complaint against a written review. The chances of success here are relatively low. As a rule, only product reviews in which the customer rates the seller instead of the product are removed. As Amazon follows a strict separation of product and seller reviews, the probability of successful removal in such cases is very high.
Negative reviews can also be removed by Amazon in the case of inaccurate factual descriptions.
2. remove product variants with negative ratings
The second method of removal relates to variant groups or product groups. As the product ratings are displayed in compressed form within product groups, negative ratings for one variant can affect all other variants. However, this can be solved relatively easily by removing the variant with negative ratings from the variant group. The negative product ratings are then no longer displayed for the other variants.
Frequently asked questions about customer reviews
Which valuation guidelines must be observed?
Amazon itself speaks of a zero-tolerance policy against manipulated reviews. In the following, I have therefore summarized all types of possible reviews that are explicitly not tolerated by Amazon:
- Reviews from people who have a close personal relationship with the product owner
- Reviews in return for financial compensation
- Reviews from the manufacturer itself
- Reviews by persons who have a direct or indirect financial interest in connection with the product
- A positive review from a friend or colleague in order to receive a positive review in return
- A negative review of a competitor's product
How are star ratings calculated for products?
The star rating for each product is not calculated as a simple average, as perceived by many. For example, a product that has received 4 5-star ratings and one 1-star rating may have a displayed star rating of 3.9 instead of 4.2. This is because Amazon takes various factors into account when calculating the star rating.
The following factors are taken into account:
- Verified purchase vs. non-verified purchase
- Age of the valuation
- How helpful the evaluation of people is accepted
Final note on the subject of product reviews
Since May 2019, violations of the review guidelines can be viewed in Seller Central at Customer satisfaction → Seller performance → Violations of our guidelines for customer product reviews can be viewed.
Conclusion on generating Amazon ratings / reviews
In this article, various options were presented with which product reviews can be generated. Some, such as Amazon Vine or the Early Reviewer Program, are provided by Amazon itself, while others violate the guidelines and can be penalized by Amazon. If you want to avoid penalties from Amazon, you should therefore use the options provided by Amazon and adhere to the guidelines when generating new reviews. If you also accept critical feedback regarding goods and packaging and make improvements, you can increase customer satisfaction in the long term and generate sustainable positive reviews.