In February 2019 FTC brought it’s first case against an Amazon third party seller who was paying for fake reviews.
Almost in every Amazon related conversation I have with brand owners product reviews come up. There is a lot of information floating out there about role that product reviews play in Amazon algorithm, some true, some not.
Considering that I thought it’s time to get clear on what are truths and what are myths when it comes to Amazon product reviews.
Myth: You may not ask customers for product reviews on Amazon
Truth: You may ask customers for their honest review, however, you may not provide them an incentive to leave a review, or a positive review only.
Let’s look at how Amazon itself articulates that rule (from From Amazon Seller Central guidelines, bolding is mine):
“For example, you cannot offer compensation for a review, and you cannot review your own products or your competitors’ products. You can ask buyers to write a review, but you cannot ask for positive reviews or ask a reviewer to change or remove their review.
Amazon further clarifies what falls under incentive:
- Payment (including money or gift cards)
- Refund or reimbursement, including through non-Amazon payment methods
- Free product
- Entry to a prize drawing or competition
- Discounts on future purchases
- Other gifts
However, asking a customer for their honest review is very much within Amazon TOS (Terms of Services), and every brand should do that.
Myth: you always have to have more reviews in order to grow sales. If you are not getting more reviews, your sales will not grow
Truth: Importance of quantity of product reviews varies depending on the stage of your Amazon business, competitive landscape, and other factors.
When somebody comes to me often one of the first questions is ‘we need more reviews’. When I dig deeper it usually means they want more sales, and read somewhere that without getting more reviews they will not grow sales.
It is important to keep in mind that more often than not product reviews is not a businessgoal in itself. Reviews are a post-purchase reflection. It’s a lagging indicator, not a leadingindicator.
For example, if your average review rating is below 4, then true question is understanding the root cause of lower rating of reviews (is it fulfillment, product development issue, lack of user instructions, or inconsistency between what’s described on a product page and what they received?). That points to an issue that is outside of product reviews, with the root cause earlier in a customer journey.
If your product review take rate (i.e how many customers that purchased left a product review) is below (1-2%) then a true question is not getting more reviews, but getting more customers that bought from you leave reviews. While you may say it’s semantics, often truth gets lost in semantics.
While in general having more product reviews is better, it does not mean it should always be the focus or a goal in itself. It’s important to keep in mind that it is a lagging indicator, determine if it is a roadblock to growth at the current stage. If yes, determine appropriate strategy based on the right KPI (quantity of reviews, average rating of reviews, higher rate customers leaving reviews).
In some scenarios there is a question of reputation management: a common example is a bad production run led to products defects, which were not caught in time. In this scenario the right objective is not to remove reviews, but increase rate of customers leaving reviews. Which means needing to generate sales.
Myth: With all the Amazon rules it’s impossible to get product reviews nowdays
Truth: There are multiple, Amazon compliant, ways to solicit reviews
- As you already saw in the 1st myth the simplest way to get a product review is to ask a customer for one. There are many 3rd party tools that can automatically send a product review email to customers after a purchase. This is really a ‘must’ for any brand selling on Amazon. In our experience implementing this process can as much as double your product review take rate.
- Package inserts. Add a postcard in your Amazon packaging asking customers to leave a review, with easy to follow instructions on how to do it (since there will be no link for them to click)
- Outside traffic. Send your social media audience, or an email list to Amazon for a one time or occasional purchase, with a clear request to leave a review after they buy. You can also ask them to simply leave a review without a purchase, if you are just starting out with no product reviews at all.
Myth: All product reviews are equal
Truth: History and type of a review contribute to overall review rating in a specific way
Reviews are part of the biggest factor in Amazon algorithm: sales performance history (in other words, how well do your listings convert will largely define how your future organic rankings will stand). However, there are two factors we need to consider:
- Recency of a review. Recency does matter. If you have a batch of bad reviews (like in our example above of a defective production run not caught in time), the more recentyour positive reviews are, the less influence those bad reviews will have on your overall review rating.
- Verified or unverified reviews. Reviews tied to an Amazon purchase are called verified.
Reviews that are left without a prior Amazon order are unverified.
In 2016 Amazon started using Verified Purchase badge as part of their search algorithm. In other words, it is better to have verified purchase reviews than unverified.
Verified badge are also tied to higher conversion because of higher trust factor.
Myth: You can not do anything about bad reviews
Truth: While you can not have a bad review removed you can decrease impact of bad reviews to further sales
This one is really more of a perspective shift. Yes, Amazon rarely removes reviews, however, we have found that to combat impact of negative reviews it is more productive to focus on increasing positive reviews. Sometimes it means addressing issues that caused negative reviews, or increasing product review take rate.
And here are truths and myths about product reviews. In the end we always have to keep bigger picture in mind: reviews are very important, but they are rarely an objective in itself. Depending on other factors, such as stage of the business (growth, defense, new market, etc.), competitive Amazon landscape product reviews can play different role of importance in positioning and sales growth on Amazon.