Amazon Bans Incentivized Reviews: 5 Ways Sellers can Adapt

In October 2016 Amazon announced that incentivized reviews are no longer allowed has left many sellers wondering how to adapt their product launch strategies. In this article I will review what changed, and five ways sellers can continue to have successful product launches on Amazon.

What has changed?

A product on Amazon with no reviews will usually have a low conversion rate. Lacking social proof, customers will often go to another product, looking for 4 and 5 star reviews to convince them to buy. Brand owners and private label sellers have commonly used the practice of giving away their products for free or at a discount in exchange for a product review in order to overcome this hurdle when launching a brand new product.

Many of these reviewers, as required by Amazon, leave the disclaimer, “I received this product for free or at a discount in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.” Customers have begun to notice and have grown increasingly suspicious of these types of reviews. Recently data has been published showing that these reviews are indeed biased. While sellers may have been requesting that reviewers leave an unbiased review, the fact is many reviewers still felt inclined to give a more favorable review.

Amazon has taken notice and has taken action by banning these types of reviews. If customers can’t trust the reviews on its site, Amazon risks losing the customer. Amazon in fact has been working most of the year to bring trust back to the product review process. Several lawsuits have been filed against providers and users of fake reviews. Banning incentivized reviews is just the latest step to assure customers that they can continue to rely on its huge volume of product reviews.

Adapting product launches

So how can sellers continue to have successful product launches? I suggest a 5 point strategy:

  • Optimize product pages - Without product reviews your page content stands alone in selling your product. Optimizing the title, image, bullets and description are critical. They should accurately describe your product, translate features into benefits, and explain the unique value of your product.
  • Introductory sale pricing - Creating a promotional price when your product first launches is a good way to convince a customer to give your product a try. Start with an enticing discount and gradually increase price as sales begin to pick up.
  • External advertising - Promote your product on sites like Facebook, Pinterest, popular blogs and promotional sites. Offering a coupon code to use on Amazon will drive highly qualified traffic to your Amazon page and jump start your sales. As long as there is no way to track whether or not a customer leaves a review after using a promotion code you are still within Amazon’s terms of service.
  • Sponsored Product ads - Optimized Sponsored Product campaigns are still a great way to drive initial traffic and gather data to further optimize your product pages with high converting keywords.
  • Ask for the review - Sellers can still send a follow up email asking buyers for an honest review. No products or offers should be given to encourage them to do so. You can also encourage buyers to contact you with any questions and concerns, before they get frustrated and leave a negative review. Services like Feedback Five and Feedback Genius can be used to automate these emails.

Minimize your risk

Amazon will continue to update its seller policies in order to protect customers from the latest trends sellers are using to maximize their sales. Third party sellers can minimize their exposure to these changes by ensuring they are using white hat strategies, strategies not designed to manipulate Amazon’s systems. Sellers should also evaluate their overall selling strategy and ensure they have minimized risks by diversifying sales channels and enabling their company to react quickly to the ever changing Amazon marketplace.

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