For many years, reviews were a central component in ranking and launching a product on Amazon.
While reviews are still important for marketing your products on Amazon, the best practices surrounding them have changed significantly.
Over the last several years, Amazon determined that many of the practices used to solicit reviews were diminishing the reviews’ reputation on its platform.
As a result, Amazon has made many major changes to actively monitor the site for manipulation.
This includes changing the rules for how we are permitted to reach out to customers to collect reviews and what kind of incentives we can offer.
Amazon has worked hard to strike a balance between legitimate solicitations for reviews and preventing fraud.
Customers’ trust in Amazon reviews is a top priority to protect the platform’s reputation.
Because Amazon is a dynamic and ever-changing ecosystem, it is important to regularly check for updates and changes to the terms of service and marketplace guidelines.
In this article, we will discuss some of the most important information you need to know when it comes to creating a product review strategy on Amazon for 2021:
- Fundamentals of reviews.
- Amazon programs to help you get legitimate reviews.
- Introduction to the “Request a review” button and ratings.
- Using third-party software to request reviews.
Everything in this article is based on Amazon’s policies at the time of writing.
However, policies can change quickly. So make sure you double-check them to ensure that what is being recommended here is still the current policy.
Fundamentals of Amazon Product Reviews
Reviews are important to your product only in so far as they are credible.
When your product has many positive reviews, customers feel at ease knowing that the product will meet their needs and expectations.
Oftentimes, the question most sellers struggle with is this:
How many reviews do I need for my product to be successful on Amazon?
It depends largely on how commoditized or competitive your product category is.
The more competitive your category, the more reviews your product will need to compete against similar products.
On the other hand, if your product is very niche, you may only need five to 25 reviews to be retail-ready.
Amazon recommends at least 25 reviews for a listing before you start scaling advertising.
Reviews can be an important part of your listing optimization strategy, not only in converting traffic that comes to your listing, but also in increasing traffic that comes from the search engine result page (SERP).
Keep in mind that your product rating score will show up in the SERP as well as in your ads, and customers can also filter their results by average reviews.
Feedback vs. Reviews
One common point of confusion for new sellers is the difference between feedback and reviews.
“Seller Feedback” refers to the customer’s experience with the seller and not the product itself.
Sellers are rated on factors such as shipment times, packaging, product accuracy, and significant customer service experiences.
Seller feedback is found on the Seller Central dashboard, on the seller store page, and on the product detail page by clicking the offers link.
Product reviews specifically rate whether the product met the customer’s expectations.
They include both a star rating from one to five and a description of the customer’s experience.
These reviews will appear on your product page and are regulated by Amazon’s Community Guidelines.
Product Reviews are located at the bottom of the detail page, while the total of both reviews and product ratings are displayed at the top of the listing, below the brand name.
It is important to note that it is against Amazon’s Terms of Service to have family, friends, or employees review your product or a competitor’s product.
Reviews that violate community standards can be flagged for removal.
Recently, Amazon started allowing customers to provide ratings without giving a review.
These have the same star rating as reviews (one to five), and they count toward your overall customer review totals, but they do not have any accompanying text.
Programs to Help You Get Legitimate Reviews
Amazon has implemented a couple of tools to help sellers get reviews, especially newcomers to the platform that need those coveted first reviews.
Early Reviewer Program
The Early Reviewer Program was designed to help sellers get their first five reviews under their belt.
This program is available to all sellers, and there is a $60 flat fee to participate.
Even though its purpose is to generate five reviews, we have seen sellers get up to 20 reviews from this program.
Amazon reaches out on your behalf to those who purchase your product and gives them a small incentive.
Because Amazon controls the outreach and selects the customers, there is no concern about manipulation.
Here is what Amazon says about the Vine program:
“Amazon Vine invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make informed purchase decisions. Amazon invites customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which is a reflection of the quality and helpfulness of their reviews as judged by other Amazon customers. Amazon provides Vine members with free products that have been submitted to the program by participating vendors. Vine reviews are the independent opinions of the Vine Voices. The vendor cannot influence, modify, or edit the reviews. Amazon does not modify or edit Vine reviews, as long as they comply with our posting guidelines. A Vine review is identified with the green stripe Customer review from the Amazon Vine Program.”
Vine reviewers are handpicked by Amazon due to their expertise and history in reviewing a certain product category, so expect extremely detailed and honest reviews.
In this Amazon-coordinated program, you send customers your product, and in return, they give you a review.
Before enrolling in the Vine program, it is essential that you be confident that your product will surprise and delight your customers.
Amazon Vine reviewers are notoriously detailed and honest. Negative reviews from a Vine user can be especially detrimental because of the length and detail.
Introduction to ‘Request a Review’ Button & Ratings
In 2020, Amazon released a new tool to sellers in the form of a button for each order that a customer has placed in the last five to 30 days.
Sellers can now simply click the “Request a Review” button, and an email will be automatically generated and sent to the customer.
As a seller, you simply click the button, and the buyer is sent an email soliciting a star rating for both the product and the seller.
The email is not customizable, and it is sent to customers by Amazon itself, so you don’t have to worry about making sure your wording complies with the terms of service, but you can still request reviews on all your orders.
Using the Request a Review button can be done with the following steps.
To send your customer a request for a seller and product rating go to Seller Central > Orders > Manage Orders.
If you are primarily Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), then make sure it says “View Seller Fulfilled Orders”, if it says View FBA orders, click that link.
This allows you to toggle between the fulfillment methods.
Then find the order you want to request a review for and click on where the order number is displayed.
Then click the Request a Review button.
This must be done manually for each individual order.
However, new tools have been emerging over the last six months that let you automate this process.
Tools like Jungle Scout and Helium 10 offer Chrome extensions that allow you to press the Request a Review button automatically as soon as the order is eligible.
As more sellers have begun using this tool, we have seen an increase in the number of product ratings without accompanying text.
After the Request a Review button was released, Amazon quietly changed Reviews at the top of the listing to Ratings.
Using Third-Party Software to Request Reviews
Third-party tools still have a place in your reviews strategy.
There are some great tools. However, you want to make sure that whatever tool you use complies with the terms of service.
Amazon can suspend your account for violating terms of service, even if it was done by software working on your behalf.
Feedback request tools are still effective, but not as effective as they were five years ago.
Once Amazon started allowing customers to opt out of email messages, fewer and fewer customers received those third-party software requests.
And with tightening regulations on how you are permitted to phrase your requests for reviews, Amazon has made it more difficult to stay within the terms of service.
Many of the tools that provide these third-party software programs for Amazon reviews have updated blogs on how best to craft your message to make sure that it is compliant.
While reviews are not as important to a product launch as they were five or six years ago, they still play a key role in your conversion rate, as they provide customers the ability to identify whether your product will be a good fit for them.
We recommend that you use all of the tools that Amazon offers to increase the total number of legitimate reviews for your product as quickly as possible.
Using these strategies can help you gather the reviews needed to optimize your sales on Amazon and reduce your overall ad costs.
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All screenshots taken by author, November 2020