If there’s one thing I can’t stress enough when it comes to selling on Amazon – it’s to do everything by the book. No cutting corners and no blackhat methods whatsoever, it’s simply not worth the risk.
I mean this at every stage – when you supply details to Amazon, when you’re shipping products in, contacting customers, your pictures, etc!
You see it all the time, people saying “oh they normally don’t notice” or “loads of other sellers do it.” Please don’t listen! Unless you want to end up on the Amazon seller forums crying about your account being suspended.
Abide by Amazon’s Rules on Reviews
And it’s not just on Amazon that I’m saying this. No matter what marketplace – be it eBay, Amazon, my own ecommerce store, Google – I’ve always been very strict about not doing anything blackhat (or even grey for that matter!) and it’s served me very well over the years.
And on Amazon it’s even more important as they are ruthless when it comes to suspending and even permanently banning accounts that they deem are operating outside their terms and conditions.
We had the perfect example of this very recently when Amazon suspended over a dozen brands for fake reviews. And these weren’t some small time sellers suspended just to make a point – it includes companies such as Aukey and Mpow, who have huge product lines on Amazon.
In total the suspended brands have sales of over $1 billion.
While at first it wasn’t clear exactly why they were suspended, it soon became obvious it was for fake reviews / for soliciting reviews using methods prohibited by Amazon, including offering free products for 5 star reviews (which is something I see a lot of Chinese sellers doing).
Not only have Amazon suspended these brands, they’ve also started removing a number of their reviews. As tracked by Marketplace Pulse (a great ecommerce news website which I suggest you follow) some products have gone from over 65,000 reviews to 14,000:
A lot of people have messaged me asking what I think about these suspensions and if I’m worried about my own business.
My answer is most definitely not, I’m not worried at all. Quite the opposite actually, I love what Amazon are doing!
Exactly like I said earlier I’m very careful with how I run my business on Amazon so it’s only a good thing if they’re cracking down on brands that are gaining an unfair advantage. It’s this whole idea of putting the customer and product quality first that drew me to Amazon in the first place: Why I’m Quitting eBay Completely – one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my business life!
But okay, now that we’ve gone over why you shouldn’t do anything that could get your account in trouble, does that mean you can’t do anything at all to get reviews and you should just let them happen naturally? Well no!
Amazon customers don’t just leave reviews on their own
You have to play by the rules and encourage good reviews. It’s not rocket science. More reviews = more trust = higher conversion rate = better search rankings = more sales and more profit.
Recently Amazon has started to unify product reviews across all marketplaces, meaning that a single ASIN will show ALL of the reviews it has received, no matter which Amazon website you’re on.
They have also started to categorise these reviews based on the language and added a translation feature so that customers can even read reviews left in another language.
This all sounds good from the customers’ perspective, right? Yes! You get all the combined reviews in one place, which should be helpful in the buying process, especially if it’s a relatively new listing with very few reviews on each marketplace.
If you’re an established seller on Amazon who is using the Pan-EU program, this will also be beneficial for you as your review count will increase without you doing anything.
If however you’re just starting out or only selling on one marketplace and your competitors are selling in multiple regions, then this isn’t great for you. It’s likely that your competitors’ review count will increase (due to merging with other regional Amazon websites), while your review score will stay the same. What’s the solution? Expand your business via the Pan-EU program!
All you have to do is register for VAT in the appropriate countries, translate your listings and you’re good to go! I personally expanded my business at the end of 2019 and did a series of blog posts covering each country separately (Germany, France, Spain and Italy). I must say, it was the best decision I could have made for my business. Currently, more than 50% of my sales come from the EU marketplaces, and that percentage is increasing every month.
If you also plan on expanding via the Pan-EU program, I highly recommend you use VATGlobal.com. It is a company that does VAT registrations and returns for you. I have been very happy with the service they provide, and I have also arranged a special discount deal for my blog readers. To take advantage of that, simply mention this code when contacting them: ANDYVAT2020
Lastly, this new product review merging thing also means that when you’re doing product research, it is more difficult to find products that have a low number of reviews.
When reviews from all websites websites are combined, only very new listings or listings with very low sales will have, say, ten, twenty or even thirty reviews.
Most established listings will have 100+ reviews, and that’s fine. Don’t let this scare you off!!! While reviews are important, it’s NOT the most critical part of the puzzle. Your product and offer are most important, and to prove that, you can search for any product on Amazon, use the Jungle Scout Chrome tool and see that many listings with NO REVIEWS whatsoever will have good sales numbers:
So, don’t think that you can’t launch a product on Amazon and sell successfully starting out with zero reviews. That’s simply not true.
Every week, I receive emails from my Amazon Sharks students sharing their product launch successes and failures, and let me tell you this:
If you have done a good job on product research, branding, offer creation and presentation, you can definitely launch successfully with no reviews at all. And when the reviews do come in, they will only supercharge your conversion rate and sales.
On the other hand, if your product is bad or your offer is weak, you can do alright by buying fake reviews or whatever in the beginning, but over time, when the real/bad reviews start coming in, your listing’s performance will obviously suffer because your RATINGS will go down.
So, don’t let the reviews of competitors scare you off! Put 100% energy and effort into creating an amazing product, brand and offer and the reviews will follow.
I went into this whole idea in more detail in a recent blog post so definitely take a look at that as well if you need some extra motivation: Is It Too Late to Start on Amazon in 2021?
While they’re not the be all and end all of your business, we’ve already gone over how reviews are still important and are of course a factor in the buying decision.
So what are the safe methods for getting reviews?
The Top 3 WHITE HAT Techniques to Get Product Reviews on Amazon
If you want to stay safe and play by the rules, my methodology for getting reviews is very simple:
- Launch your product
- Get into the Brand Registry
- Use the Vine program to get up to 150 initial reviews
- Use Amazon’s “Request Review” feature to grow your reviews from future orders.
And that’s it! No secrets, no magic, no nothing—because you don’t need it! By following this simple system, you will successfully launch products on Amazon in 2021 and won’t worry much about the lack of reviews. Here are some more details on each step involved in this process:
- Launch your product
When you first launch your product on Amazon, you obviously won’t have any reviews (and that’s fine). I recommend you ideally wait to start your PPC campaigns once you get to step 3. Although you can definitely make sales with no reviews at all, your conversion rates will be higher with existing reviews, so it makes sense to be patient and wait for those first reviews to come in before you launch a PPC campaign.
2. Register for Brand Registry.
This step becomes more and more important. I recommend that you apply for a trademark as soon as you have your brand name confirmed, and if you’re using sea freight, this usually means that your trademark is approved right on time, just as you are ready to sell, so you can register for Amazon’s Brand Registry.
DO NOT delay this process, as without the Brand Registry, you won’t get access to the Amazon Stores feature, A+ Content and, most importantly, the Vine program!
3. Use the Vine program to get up to 150 initial product reviews!
This is the best new feature added to Amazon seller central EVER! With the Vine program, you can give away 30 products on each marketplace and get 100+ reviews in a matter of just a few weeks!
I have already done a separate post about how the Amazon Vine program works, but I’ll give you a brief update on the results I received from my experiment.
I got 25+ reviews for every 30 products I gave away, which is a fantastic result!
The Vine program is undoubtedly better than the Early Reviewer Program that I used to recommend, but if for whatever reason you’re not eligible for the Vine program yet, you can still use the Early Reviewer program to get your first five reviews in.
If that’s not possible for some reason, then I recommend you simply use the old-fashioned friends & family method, where you ask two or three people to buy from you and leave a review.
You will want to make sure that you have never shared internet access with each other (so that Amazon can’t link your accounts) AND that you mix these reviews with organic or paid sales (at a ratio of 1 review to 10 sales). This is doable and is a rather safe way of getting your first two or three reviews in if the Vine or Early Reviewer programs are not available to you.
When you get your first reviews in, you can start running your PPC campaigns and switch on the last element of the process:
4. Use Amazon’s “Request Review” feature to grow reviews.
With the recent update to Amazon’s rules, they have basically banned every kind of communication between the seller and buyer that is not directly related to an order, including a ban on PDF attachments etc., which has made our lives super-simple.
There’s basically no need for fancy software anymore to follow up with your customers and ask for a review. You can, of course, use such software, but it won’t make any difference as the rules are so tight now that we can basically send just one email to ask for a review—that’s it.
The reason why we don’t need software anymore is that Amazon has now introduced their own “Request Review” button on the Orders page, which sends out an email asking customers to leave a review.
You can find this feature when you go to the “Orders” page and look at orders with the status “Payment Complete”. Then, you can simply click on the “Request review” button to send out that email to the customer asking for a review.
Now, obviously, you don’t want to send these emails to people who have just bought the item but haven’t yet received it. So, it’s a good idea to filter your orders BY DATE so that you send these emails to people who have 100% received the order. Five or six days after the dispatch date is pretty safe as most people will receive their orders within two or three days.
If you’re just starting out and are receiving a small number of orders, you can easily press the button manually for each and every order. You can do this, say, every Monday or Friday so as to cover the previous week’s orders. You don’t have to do it every day. A few days here and there won’t change anything.
But when your orders increase, it will be time-consuming (and boring) to press that button for each order. Luckily, there’s an automated solution! If you have the Jungle Scout Chrome tool, it will automatically “press” the button for each order, so you won’t have to lift a finger:
By using this feature, you can easily process hundreds and thousands of review requests every week. Just make sure you leave your browser window open after you press that MASTER “Request Reviews On This Page” button as the Jungle Scout software can only run this automation when your browser window is open.
Now, this is still a manual process and takes a few minutes of your time every week. If you do use any Amazon software, like Jungle Scout, which has a built-in email feature, you can continue to use it to fully automate this process. But for people who don’t have access to such software, or who are on a tight budget, using Amazon’s “Request Review” button (even manually) works just fine.
Watching where all this is going, I predict that Amazon may actually prohibit ANY external tools for email communication with customers in the near future, because many sellers are abusing the system and spamming customers. For this reason, maybe it is actually safer to stick with Amazon’s built-in “Request Review” feature, as then you’re playing 100% by the rules and won’t put your account at risk of doing something wrong.
This is what I do, and it works.
Sound too simple? Yes, it is a very simple strategy! I don’t spend my time on fancy tricks to game the system because, in the long term, they never work and only get you in trouble.
Also, I mostly sell low-value items for less than £15, so some of the strategies that could work for others are not really applicable to my business. For example, if you sell more expensive items and your profit margins are higher, say £30 or £50 per item sold, then you can work more with external traffic sources, such as Facebook, Instagram, Google PPC, etc. You can bring traffic to a landing page, capture an email address in exchange for a discount code, and then you can communicate better with your customers and get a higher review score.
But from what I have seen and tested, it really doesn’t work that well with cheap products, unless you want to burn a ton of money. Your profit margins are simply too low for the conversion rate you get from Facebook traffic to be cost-effective. Of course, if you already have a large social following, it’s a different story, but if you need to pay for those clicks, it won’t work.
And yes, there are exceptions and all that, but I’m generalising here as I know how much (or how little) money people usually have when they’re just starting out on Amazon. With a limited budget, you will get much better value from giving away free items with the Vine program than from investing the same amount in Facebook ads.
There’s another thing I want to quickly touch on: what I see a lot on Amazon Seller forums and Facebook groups is that people are wasting so much time looking for tricks to game the system, ways to gain a massive number of reviews quickly, etc. Like that would be the only thing that matters on Amazon. It’s not. Reviews alone won’t make your listing stick high in the search rankings, trust me. Especially if they’re fake reviews!
If only people would spend that time on market research, branding, packaging, and creating a UNIQUE and valuable offer! All of the things I talked about in my “three secrets” post are FAR more important than reviews. If you do the three-step process right, the reviews will come in, and they will be nothing but AMAZING!
Don’t forget that ratings count as much as the number of reviews you get. Your product must meet and exceed customer expectations for you to be successful long term—there’s no way around it. Okay, there is one exception: if you sell face masks during a pandemic, you can sell a totally RUBBISH product and still get sales in.
Another important thing I have noticed from my own business and Amazon Sharks students’ businesses is that once you reach a certain level of reviews, it doesn’t matter that much how many above that level you get. Your sales and conversion rates won’t improve by that much once you hit a certain point.
For example, when you go from 0 reviews to 3 reviews, the conversion rate increases significantly. When you go from 3 to 15 reviews, your conversion rate increases noticeably.
But when you go from say 15 to 40 reviews, you won’t see that much of a difference in your conversion rate. And when you get above 100 reviews, you most likely won’t see any difference.
Then there’s also a psychological element in niches where, for example, most sellers have less than 100 reviews and one seller has 2000 reviews.
Obviously, customers intuitively click on that listing, as for them, it’s obvious which is the most popular product (the Amazon badge also usually supports this choice). In cases like these, those 2000 reviews have a lot of power.
But, on the other hand, if there’s a situation where the top five sellers have:
- 87 reviews
- 56 reviews
- 123 reviews
- 90 reviews
- 144 reviews
I can guarantee you that the number of reviews you have (if you’re amongst those top five) won’t be the main reason people will choose to buy from you. In situations like these, ratings may actually be more important, as people will side with a higher quality product with better ratings (if the price and everything else is +/- the same).
With all this, I just want to say again that you DON’T HAVE TO be obsessed about reviews at all times! In fact, I spend very little time on reviews. Once the product is launched and it gets to, say, 40 to 50 reviews, I know that it has all that it needs to succeed. The next task is to simply optimise the PPC game and rankings. That’s it. Your reviews will naturally grow over time and reach 100, 200 and more reviews for as long as you continue selling the item.
Lastly, be patient. Seriously. I don’t know what it is with all this modern “I want it all, I want it now” (thanks, Queen!) thing. You launched your product two weeks ago and are upset that you don’t have 200 reviews?! C’mon, give me a break! You have barely started the process. You have to be patient and wait for the reviews to slowly come in. It’s not like every second customer will leave a review for you. Ask yourself how often you personally leave a review on Amazon? I bet it’s not that often, if ever.
Then, imagine your customers. Put yourself in their shoes. They buy that small gadget or household item from you for £12. Do you think they have nothing better to do than to spend their time writing a review? No, they don’t care about our stupid reviews!
Using the Amazon “Request Review” button, I find that approximately 2% to 3% of customers leave a review on average. And that’s for cheap, everyday items. Don’t expect a much higher rate as people simply don’t care. You can, of course, spend your days trying to locate your customers on Facebook, then stalk and spam them with review request messages, but in the long term, is that a viable strategy? How does your BRAND look in that light?
Not very good, and that’s why I’m not a huge fan of such strategies. And as I said, once you reach a certain review threshold, it really doesn’t matter that much, so don’t waste your time on things that don’t matter.
Okay, that’s it for today. This is my strategy on getting product reviews on Amazon, and it works well for my business. If you have any questions or strategies you want to share with us, please leave your comment below the post and I will personally get back to you.
Until next time!
All the best,