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Top-Performing Product Categories on Amazon

by Colleen Quattlebaum, on November 2, 2017

What you've long suspected appears to be true: some Amazon product categories earn better customer ratings than others.

Our friend, Max Woolf, a data scientist in Silicon Valley, has run the numbers on more than 80 million Amazon reviews and 20 million reviewers. Max was gracious enough to let us cite a few of his statistics in this post, which you're sure to find interesting. We'll also discuss a few ideas for leveraging these trends in your eCommerce business.

You're Not Crazy: Some Categories Rank Better than Others

Product reviews clearly play an important role in the Amazon search algorithm. And rightly so. After all, customers flock to the Amazon marketplace, due in large part to the sheer volume of unbiased reviews. Amazon.com, Inc. ("Amazon") understands this reality, as evidenced by its aggressive protection of review integrity.

With Amazon reviews being so closely linked to product visibility, merchants and vendors alike seem increasingly interested in the subject. So, without further ado, here goes!

Question: What are the top-performing categories on Amazon (based on average product ratings)?

  1. Digital music - 4.58
  2. CDs and vinyl - 4.41
  3. Amazon Instant Video - 4.32
  4. Books - 4.30
  5. Grocery & gourmet food - 4.25

Question: Which Amazon product categories have the lowest average ratings?

  1. Cell phones and accessories - 3.81
  2. Video games - 3.97
  3. Office products - 3.98
  4. Apps for Android devices - 3.99
  5. Patio lawn and garden - 4.01

Question: What percentage of reviewers leave more than a single review?

  • Of the 20.4 million Amazon shoppers in the sample, 48.1% had left more than one review. 51.9% had only written one review.

Question: What is the overall average Amazon rating across all products in all categories?

  • Depending on how you slice and dice the data, the average rating across all Amazon products is somewhere between 4.16 and 4.20.

What to Do with This Information

So, should you rush out and liquidate your cell phone cases and office supplies to focus entirely on CDs, books and grocery items? Probably not. Just because you sell in a lower-ranking category, it doesn't necessarily mean that any immediate action is required. On the contrary, a low-performing category could represent a huge opportunity for innovation. In today's world of private labeling and bundling, what's stopping you from developing your own 5-star (or 4.5-star) product or kit? Not much, other than some time, capital and elbow grease.

Rather than drawing any immediate conclusions, I would instead recommend that you slow down and consider the data holistically. Here are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:

Watch for Problematic Trends: For the sake of discussion, let's assume you're big in the Toys & Games category (which, according to Max's data, averages 4.15 stars). Your top ten ASINs in this category account for half of your revenue; they also collectively average 4.30 stars, which means you stock winners. It's in your best interest to keep the reviews well above the standard 4.15 rating.

Consider Asking for Reviews - Much like seller feedback, Amazon permits sellers to ask for product reviews. (Amazon just stipulates, "Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited.") If you're not soliciting, would doing so feasibly boost an already-stellar ASIN rating? Or, conversely, could asking for reviews lift an underperformer's rating closer to its category average? You won't know for sure until you test a few review-focused campaigns.

Look at Review Data When Restocking - Knowing what to restock depends on many factors. Sales velocity, target quantity on hand, historical profitability and supplier cost are definitely at the top of the list. Just don't forget to also check review trendline data. Is the product consistently exceeding category averages? Is it headed in a dangerous direction? Are there specific quality or warranty issues that your supplier needs to know about? Charting review trendlines can be particularly insightful for your restocking decision-making process.

Continuously Identify Top-Performing ASINs - As any experienced seller will tell you, focusing only on your existing catalog can be a costly short-sighted mistake. Smart merchants are always looking for promising new items that offer greater profit potential and fewer competitive threats. While competitive forces, margin potential and sales ranking are all important considerations, an item's review history is also noteworthy. Does the item have any reviews? If not, why? Does an item's lack of reviews present an opportunity or an insurmountable challenge? These are all questions worthy of discussion.

Stay Tuned for Additional Review Data & Tips

At eComEngine, our mission is to help Amazon merchants like you become more successful. I hope that the data presented in this article is useful for your business. If so, I'd encourage you to subscribe to our blog feed. When future review data becomes available, we'll be sure to post additional updates.

Oh, and by the way - don't forget to claim your free trial of FeedbackFive. Send review and seller feedback requests within a single intuitive platform.

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