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Amazon’s paid review ban – expert advice (exclusive)


(Ed. Note: This post applies to you only if you sell your own private label product on Amazon and/or if you are souring a wholesale product to sell on Amazon and you're tasked with getting more reviews for the product. This won't apply to you if you sell used books/online arbitrage/retail arbitrage goods. "Private label" means sourcing mass produced goods and labeling them with your own 'brand'. "Wholesale" means sourcing mass produced goods that are already branded by the manufacturer.)

As you know already, Amazon has banned incentivized reviews. In short, it's now against Amazon policy for you to offer a discounted or free product to an Amazon customer in exchange for them leaving a review unless you use Amazon's own invitation-only (=hard for sellers to get into) Vine program.

This has everyone freaking out but I'm actually relieved it happened. The true experts weigh in below, but here's why I'm happy: I never liked the 'dishonesty' of incentivized reviews. 

By using incentivized reviews, you're paying someone with a discounted or free product. That means they're (likely) going to leave a positively biased review. If your product is really crap, you're going to be misleading customers. If your product is great, but your competition has a crappy product and deeper pockets than you, they're going to have an unfair advantage over you.

Let me repeat that:

If your product is really crap, incentivized reviews can mislead customers. If your product is great but your competition has a crappy product and deeper pockets than you, they're going to have an unfair advantage over you.

But don't take any of this from me. See, I feel extremely fortunate I have direct access to the smartest, most honest Amazon selling experts. So I asked them for their best advice for you, the aspiring Amazon seller. Here's what they said:

"About once or twice a year Amazon makes a big change that causes brand owners to freak out and panic. Its going to be ok. Just remain calm and let the dust settle. I remember a few years ago Amazon removed all customer images and made the announcement their decision was well thought out and final. Everyone freaked out. Two weeks later they replaced the customer images and everything went back to the way it was before.

If you are using Amazon promo codes to get reviews, its wise to stop and look for a new launch strategy. Its not that Amazon sees this process as wrong or immoral because Amazon still has plans to grow the Vine program.

We are pivoting to a new launch strategy that you can follow:  1.) Discount the product for everyone on Amazon, 2.) promote via social media; 3.) Ask for reviews after the transaction." - Brad Degraw, Amazon private label expert and founder of AmazonSherpa.com.

private label expert scott voelker
 "Don't panic...Take a deep breath. Yes...reviews are important, but more so in competitive markets. You can still launch products and receive sales with low reviews if you select the right products. I would focus on building your own internal customer email list and use it to get sales whenever you want to spike sales. This will help you rank for keywords, which is really a BIG part of receiving organic sales.
I would also make sure to have an email follow up in place to all Amazon customers that will help in receiving REAL reviews.

Finally, remember that once you build your own email list, you now have an asset forever." -- Scott Voelker, founder of TheAmazingSeller.com (Get Scott's free "How to Find a Great Private Label Product" workshop here.)

ecommerce expert Will Mitchell"Stop being nervous! I think these changes will end up hurting the get-rich-quick style hijackers that give real sellers big headaches. For real Amazon Sellers who sell great products that help customers - these changes will only help. I see this as a move to protect honest sellers like us. Nearly half of Amazon's sales come from third-party sellers like us, and I see this as a move to help us - not hurt us. It may be a little tougher to launch products now, but decent products can easily be launched with PPC with greater effectiveness (and profits). Bad sellers with bad products just got pushed out of the market." --Will Mitchell, co-founder of StartupBros.com. (Catch their current live free training here or a recent replay here.)

wholesale expert Robyn Johnson"Create a quality listing using keywords, filling out as much structured data as possible, maximize your photos, and make your bullet points "benefit driven".  Use the sales and traffic reports [available in your Amazon seller central account] to ensure your listing converts well with an artificially low price or promo.  Then drive additional traffic using Amazon Sponsored Products [also available in your Amazon seller central account].  Amazon has great videos on listing creation and sponsored products for free on their YouTube channel Amazon Seller Education." - Robyn Johnson, BestFromTheNest founder (Get her free 'Getting Started' resources here)

Private Label Expert Will Tjernund"I'm giving the same advice I gave before the sky started falling: Sell a good product at a good price. You have to know that if you game the system or find a loophole, your success will be temporary. Sell a product that is in a growing niche, that is low competition. Unless you have lots of cash, you cannot compete with the best sellers. So focus on being the biggest fish in the smallest pond and finding a 'niche within a niche' that you can dominate." - Will Tjernlund, million-plus Amazon seller, founder of AMZHelp.com

Private Label expert Greg Mercer"This isn't actually THAT big of a change. You can still offer promotions to increase your sales velocity.  You can still send follow up email campaigns asking all buyers to leave reviews.  The new launch strategy will probably look something like this:  3-10promotions/day for a few days to boost sales velocity, turn on PPC and make sure you’re sending follow up emails to everyone who purchases your product.  Its my understanding that people who purchase your product at a discount can still leave reviews, you just cannot exchange the discount for a review or expect a review for all discounts.  Amazon is still an incredible opportunity!  Don’t sweat it 🙂 - Greg Mercer, founder of JungleScout (Get a free trial of his product research web app here.)
Amazon private label and wholesale expert Skip McGrath
"I don’t recommend chasing reviews with giveaways. I use a service like Feedback Five to send every buyer a low-key email with a link where they can leave feedback or a product review. I don’t get a ton of reviews, but I do get about 3 or 4 per week." - Skip McGrath, eBay and Amazon selling expert (get his free sourcing tips and ideas here.)

"I personally think this is very positive news. Sellers who try to build a brand and pay attention to quality and customer service will have an advantage now. Will it be harder to get reviews and boost rankings? Yes, but it will also mean that those that are trying to make a quick buck will fail. That means more room and profits for us hard working peeps... The many months you spent on perfecting a product sitting in front of your computer trying to come up with an additional value for your customer or how you can deliver better quality products are finally appreciated...You can still do giveaways (just don’t ask for reviews), run lightning deals or drive external traffic to your listings...When I launched [one of my products] I didn’t even send it out to my lists, post it on social media or active PPC (to this day). I got organic sales from day 1 and sold out within a couple of weeks (500 units). So: don't worry too much about getting your product on the map if you have either: 1) A superior product and listing 2) A product that is highly in demand (just follow trendy websites and you will find those niches) 3) Social media to drive traffic to your listings. Reviews will eventually come. And those reviews will be a reflection of the hard work you’ve put into your product." -- Manuel Becvar,  author of the Free Import Bible and founder of Import Dojo.
Private Label expert Ryan Reger"I believe Amazon's new policy is a good thing. It levels the playing field. Gone are the days of mega sellers being able to launch sub-par products and have 500 5 star reviews in a matter of days. The sellers that adapt to this change and move forward are the ones that will be successful.'. - Ryan Reger, of Private Label The Easy Way Mentoring Group

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Ken Mason October 7, 2016, 9:04 pm

    I have very few (okay almost no) reviews. Have I been tempted to offer something to get more reviews? Yes! I just figure that I offer prompt service and great products to all my buyers. I work hard to maintain a clean image, if my buyers are too lazy to spend a few minutes to review my product I will have to be satisfied with their money.

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