Originally published on March 19, 2020, updated April 24, 2020
April 24, 2020: Enrollment in the Amazon Vine program has been temporarily disabled as Amazon focuses on delivering high-demand products due to COVID-19.
Sellers face more challenges than ever when trying to get verified product reviews, especially on recently launched products. They deal with black hat bad actors, fierce competition, and a difficult algorithm.
Watch this webinar for some proven strategies for getting those all-important product reviews. Liz Fickenscher shares:
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
It’s a strange time for our world right now. It feels like things are changing every single day, both in our homes and on the Amazon marketplace — and sometimes they are. Have you been struggling to concentrate? Has all the confusion discouraged you? If so, you’re not alone. Even if your sales have skyrocketed, you might be feeling disoriented.
Recently, Liz Fickenscher presented a webinar about advanced product review strategies and offered some truly valuable insight about getting Amazon reviews. Has your business suffered a bit of a slump during the COVID-19 pandemic? Do not give up! Put your focus on earning positive ratings so you will be in a better position to get through this challenging time. It’s definitely worth watching the whole video, but in the meantime, here are some of the highlights.
Product reviews help increase your visibility on Amazon. “They impact some of your advertising abilities (like the ability to put star rating in your ads). Most of all, they provide social proof. They show reliability in your brand. They show that people like your products,” said Fickenscher. When people shop online, they rely on reviews to make informed purchasing decisions. That’s why it’s so important to make sure your listings have them.
After allowing customers to share their experiences back in 1999, the marketplace opened up to third-party sellers the following year. Since then, many things have changed. In 2019, Amazon added the Request a Review button and opened up the Amazon Vine review program to sellers. Now, eComEngine has given you a way to automate those official Amazon review requests with FeedbackFive.
While we encourage all sellers to request product reviews, we cannot overstate the importance of understanding Amazon’s Terms of Service (TOS). As Liz explains in the webinar, even the biggest brands on the marketplace are not immune to having their accounts suspended for non-compliance.
In the video, Liz goes into great detail about this, so tune in to learn more. In short, it’s essential that you remember that you cannot:
Please don’t try to game the system or ignore the policies. You may not get caught right away, but Amazon has ways of knowing when you’ve broken the rules. Don’t put your seller account at risk — bookmark and adhere to the guidelines!
You need to have a robust collection of positive reviews on all of your product listings in order to remain competitive. Nonetheless, you want to avoid a situation where all you’ve got are comments from people who have an unfavorable opinion of your business. So, how do you increase positive reviews while decreasing the chance that someone will say something negative? Fortunately, the same steps can help you in both areas.
“The way to avoid negative product reviews is to optimize your listings and make sure your listings are set up for positive reviews,” Fickensher said. “You’re going to get negative reviews if the product is not as described, for example.” She also provided an informative overview of additional methods of improving your brand’s reputation:
Can you still use Buyer-Seller Messaging? Yes, you can. This way of requesting product reviews allows you to send customized messages, but it’s important to follow the rules.
The Request a Review button has been added to Seller Central with the goal of helping sellers boost product reviews and ratings in the simplest, most compliant way. It’s easy to use, but you’ll need to send each of your requests manually. That can be incredibly tedious and time-consuming.
FeedbackFive now gives users the ability to automate the process. Campaigns can be scheduled in advance, freeing up time to focus on other areas of your business. Best of all, you can exclude certain types of orders (such as late deliveries or refunded purchases) to create a streamlined, targeted approach.
Take some time out of your day to sit down and listen to the full webinar or read the full transcript below. You’ll learn more about what to avoid during this complicated and ever-changing time while also discovering ways to breathe new life into your business. You don’t want to miss it!
Liz: Hi everybody. We're going to give it just a couple seconds and let people join the meeting. So welcome. I'm Liz. I'll introduce myself again once everybody's here, but people are currently rolling into the meeting right now. So as soon as everybody's here, we'll get started. We're going to talk about product reviews today. I don't have my customary brick background. As you know, times are really, really strange for all of us, so we're doing the best we can, but we're going to get some things in motion for you to be thinking about during times that your sales might not be great. And we're going to talk about some things you can do right now to increase your product reviews.
Liz: So people are still joining. We're going to get started in just a second. Keep in mind, if you've got questions, submit those in the Q&A section of Zoom. It should be in the middle, down at the bottom and your little Zoom bar. You can chat the whole group too, but if you've got specific questions, that's a lot easier for me to manage in the Q&A section. And that way, also, if we run out of time and I need to answer your questions via email or in a follow up, I will have a record of those and I won't be able to see those as well if they're in the chat. So make sure you use the Q&A section.
Liz: And it looks like everybody's here. So welcome everyone. My name is Liz Fickenscher. I'm the Industry Liaison with eComEngine. We're going to talk today about advanced strategies to get new Amazon product reviews. So let's get started.
Liz: Again, this is me. I'm the Industry Liaison here. eComEngine has been around for a long time. I've been here for almost four years, and I work with Amazon sellers to help develop strategies around getting more product reviews, understanding Amazon's terms of service. I do a little bit of help with inventory management and I try to help you connect to the people you need to in order to be successful in your business. So that's a little bit about me.
Liz: A little bit about eComEngine. eComEngine's been around in the eCommerce space for long enough that people say, "Wow," when I tell them we've been around since 2007. Our first tool was FeedbackFive. It was the very first reputation management tool for Amazon sellers. It allows you to request seller feedback and product reviews. And that's sort of why we know so much about product reviews and feedback here, because we've been in the space for so long. We've talked to many sellers, we've helped develop product review strategies and all that good stuff.
Liz: RestockPro is our inventory management tool. It is for FBA sellers. It is awesome. It's such a powerful tool and I like it a lot. MarketScout is a very inexpensive but powerful product research tool. So if you get a list of UPCs from a potential supplier and you're a reseller, you can find out information about whether or not you want to stock those products. And SmartPrice, soon to be available to all of you, is an algorithmic repricer that will help you win the Buy Box and keep it.
Liz: We don't have the hand raise thing that the GoToWebinar has, but Zoom is so cool. Go ahead and say yes in the chat if you definitely need more reviews on Amazon. Let's take a look at that. Yes, look at all of you. That's a yes. All right. Awesome. Awesome. And how many think you're just doing okay and you don't feel like you really need more product reviews? Yeah, that's nobody. It is funny. Yeah. I think we always need more. And I think that we all know why we need product reviews. We're going to talk about why they're so important. I want this to be as interactive as possible. So you guys, don't shy away from the chat and don't be afraid of the Q&A.
Liz: Today we're going to talk about an overview of Amazon product reviews. I've done a deep dive into the history of product reviews. And we're going to talk about Amazon Terms of service then and now, because you know things have changed. And we're also going to talk about strategies to get more reviews and a new way we have with FeedbackFive to get reviews, but it's a new way that Amazon has developed. So that's a hot topic these days and it's something that I think that we should be talking about today.
Liz: I've got Colleen Quattlebaum here with me today. She's going to throw some links out as we're talking about stuff. The session is being recorded. It will be delivered to you via email probably tomorrow. Again, if you're late to join, if you've got questions, submit them in the Q&A section, but don't shy with from the chat if you want to throw a chat out to the group or if you want to chat Colleen privately to ask her a question. Me, I'll manage that the best I can.
Liz: So let's get into the content. We only have an hour, right? So why are Amazon reviews so important? Obviously they help your visibility on Amazon. They impact some of your advertising abilities, like the ability to put star rating in your ads. And they most of all show social proof. They show reliability in your brand. They show that people like your products. And I talked to a lot of, I don't want to call them muggles, but I will say that a lot of people who aren't as familiar with our industry as we are who don't really know the third party seller's space that well.
Liz: But when they talk about how they shop, they talk about the fact that they sort by Prime. maybe not these days, but usually in a normal world, they sort by Prime and then they sort by star rating. So, if the person who doesn't know anything other than they like to shop on Amazon is looking at a product, they're looking at the star rating and they're reading some of these reviews. So they're pretty important for every seller, no matter what kind of seller you are, especially important for brands, especially important for private label sellers. But important to the whole marketplace too, and important to shoppers.
Liz: So let's talk a little bit about the history of Amazon product reviews. Because I got into this industry around 2014 and things have changed so dramatically since then that I got interested in how this works and how it's progressed over the years. So Amazon actually started allowing customers to start posting product reviews before they allowed third party sellers. So they were asking for reviews on their own products. And that was 1995 is when it opened up for product reviews. And then in 2000 that's when the Amazon marketplace opened up to third party sellers. And some of you were there. Actually, throw a yes in the chat if you were selling between 2000 and 2007.
Liz: Right on. It's been a wild ride, hasn't it? It really has. So 2007, the Amazon Vine review program opened up, FeedbackFive was created in 2007, and then in 2012, there was a distinction between just a product review and a verified purchase review. I think you guys know the difference there. A verified purchase review is a review left by someone who actually bought something from you on the marketplace. In 2015 there was a series of Amazon lawsuits against sites that offered paid reviews because people thought, "Hey, these reviews are important, so I'm going to pay people to leave them for me." Unfortunately, it's 2020 and people are still doing that.
Liz: I sent out this webinar invitation and I got an email from somebody who said, "How much will you charge me to leave a review on my product?" And I just didn't know what to say. So up until October 2016, you could offer a free or discounted product in exchange for a review. And there was a whole industry around this. You guys remember there were Facebook groups. There are whole companies that facilitated this with trusted reviewers. And in October of that year of 2016, Amazon put a stop to incentivizing reviews.
Liz: So up until then you would see reviews that were like, "I received this item for a discount or I received this item for free for my honest opinion." And there were studies that showed that the majority of reviews that were being left on the marketplace were by those people that had received a free or discounted product. And that was getting gamed big time. There were bad actors. There were black hat tactics, and there still are, but that was particularly corrupt. And Amazon being a customer obsessed company and customer focused really wanted people who genuinely wanted a product and were willing to pay for that product to leave a review so that other people could make informed decisions on it.
Liz: So because of that, Amazon thought, "Well, we need a way for sellers to still get reviews." So they introduced the early reviewer program, which is really great, but it's only good for products that have minimal amount of reviews, although I have heard that it's very successful for a lot of sellers. 2019, Amazon Vine reopened. I was going to talk a lot about that today, but right now I understand that Vine is closed for the time being because Amazon is focusing on essential items to fight the threat that we have from COVID-19. And we're in a really, really weird time.
Liz: So the Vine program will hopefully eventually be open again and we can talk about that when it is open again. Amazon also added a thing, if you go to your orders page and you go to a particular order, a new button appeared. It says, "Request a review." And we're going to talk about that today, a lot actually. So in 2020, early this year, we added that functionality to FeedbackFive because we wanted it to be easy for you to request reviews that way and Amazon worked with us to make that happen.
Liz: So that is the, in a nutshell, history of Amazon product reviews. In addition to the current challenges that you guys are facing as sellers, there are persistent other threats and challenges and pain points. Black hat people leaving tons of reviews on counterfeit products. I mean, there are actually whole webinars we've done about black hat and blog posts we've done. There are a lot of ways that people try to game the system or hurt other sellers. Somebody said, "I can't resist. How did Liz my grandma's lamp?" I'll tell a story about the lamp if we have time, but it's not actually your grandma's lamp unless there's something I don't know. Sorry about that.
Liz: Also, there have been changes to Amazon's Terms of Service. Some of them have been very apparent changes, like no more incentivized reviews. Others have been very subtle changes into the way Amazon has interpreted their own Terms of Service. And that has caused a little bit of a kerfuffle. That's an understatement. It's caused a great big kerfuffle in the industry. So, we're going to get into that in a second. I have a couple of things to say about that.
Liz: The biggest thing that we saw leading up to the end of 2019, so throughout 2019 we saw sellers getting restricted from Buyer-Seller Messaging. So they were making some sort of mistake in the review request that was being reviewed either by the machine learning in place at Amazon or by a team member at Amazon. And they first started out as a short, just a couple of days restriction. And then it ended up being a blanket 30 day restriction. And some of you I think probably have gotten those. They didn't suspend your selling account or anything like that, but it did keep you from proactively messaging your buyers, which was a big pain.
Liz: So I think that was the impetus behind Amazon coming up with this request a review option that they have that we're going to talk about. And the restrictions were scary, right? I mean, nobody wanted to get one of those. And there've been just a few cases I've heard in the industry where people have actually been banned from Buyer-Seller Messaging and you don't want that to happen. So following terms of service when you're using Buyer-Seller Messaging is even more important today than it's ever been.
Liz: So the rules. These are the rules that Amazon says that they give you about a customer reviews. So there are always three pages that I want you to bookmark, and I didn't send those to Colleen ahead of time and I don't want to go hunting around on Seller Central right now. But in the email that I send you guys with this recording, I'll send bookmarks to those three pages in Seller Central. It's the community guidelines, it's the customer reviews page, and it's the Buyer-Seller Messaging page. And there are actually a couple of more that I've added to my list, so I'll just send you guys a nice, meaty list of Seller Central pages that I want you to bookmark when you're requesting reviews.
Liz: So you're not allowed to review your own product or a competing product, obviously. You can't get family members or employees to leave reviews. And they know, Amazon knows. That's the crazy thing. I have so many anecdotal stories about sellers who have asked a friend or family member to review one of their products and the review either gets posted and it gets taken down or it just never makes it onto the listing page.
Liz: Like we talked about before, you're not allowed to offer a financial reward, discount, or free product for a review. No incentivized reviews at all. You can't refund or reimburse. That's still incentivized. You can't ask anybody to change a review that they've posted, which is a particularly painful thing, I think, for a lot of you because a lot of times you get a review and it really feels bogus. And we'll get into that probably in the questions. But there are things that you can do when you get a review that is obviously not for your product or it's obviously a for a counterfeit version of your product. And I've got resources for you guys for that too.
Liz: You can't ask for a positive review ever. And that's where people have been getting in trouble a lot with their Buyer-Seller Messaging because that rule has developed and grown legs. People used to say, "Please leave me a positive review on Amazon or we love five star reviews, please leave a five star review on Amazon." And then they've quickly learned that they couldn't do that. Thanks, Colleen. Colleen sent you guys the links in the chat and I'll share them via email. Colleen rocks. But now what we saw, and it's been for a couple of years, but we've seen people who have said, "If you had a good experience with this product, please leave us a product review on Amazon. If you didn't, please contact us and we will make it right or we'll do it. We care about you and we care about your experience."
Liz: Those if/then statements started getting flagged as bad and pretty much diverting. Because that's another thing that you're not allowed to do. You're not allowed to divert. And I flipped that too fast so don't read that yet. They're not allowed to divert a product review, a negative review. So you can ask for an honest review. You can ask for ... Oh, somebody said they still get those inserts. They ask for a positive review. Inserts, I'm telling you, inserts are getting more and more attention from the staff at Amazon. And you can't ask for a positive review on an insert. That's just bad, bad news altogether.
Liz: I'm going to move this chat over here so I can keep up with you guys. We do have a question. How does Amazon know if you're getting family, friends and colleagues to leave reviews? That is a really good question, Tyler, and I think that there are a lot of ways they know. So I've heard stories about people who are connected on Facebook and the the theory was that Amazon saw that they were connected on Facebook and therefore just assumed that they were conspiring to leave reviews on Amazon for each other. I actually know of a situation where two people from the same family bought a product from someone and left a review from the same IP address.
Liz: So, I also joke that maybe they have psychics employed there. I don't think that's it. Amazon has been talking about the machine learning that they've been developing for years now, and I think that they've got some pretty advanced screening technology in place to find out where reviews are coming from and how the person leaving a review might be linked to the seller. I would love for some transparency around that. And it's bad, because obviously when you're launching a product, one of the first things that even the best consultants will tell you is get your friends and family to test your product out. But then they can't leave you a review. So it's a real bummer, but unfortunately, I think that that has been abused and that's why Amazon created that rule.
Liz: So let's get into some strategies around getting good product reviews. If you guys have questions, throw them into the Q&A. We've got plenty of time. We'll do Q&A at the end too. But if you have questions about things, remember put those in the Q&A and just keep your chat with each other and your commentary in the chat. I don't want to over complicate it, but I want to make sure your questions are getting answered. So the first thing that I tell people, avoid negative product reviews. And the best way you can do that is to optimize your listings and make sure your listings are set up for positive reviews.
Liz: So for example, you've got a product and it's a certain color and you describe it as a different color. You say it's pink, it's red. I've heard Rachel use that example before. But you're going to get negative reviews if the product is not as described. Also, true representation. Professional product photos are important so that people can look at your listing and then what they receive is what they expected. They're not able to go into a store and pick it up and see what it looks like. So your photos need to be the next best thing.
Liz: If you're brand registered, include videos. This is such a fantastic opportunity to show your product in action, to show what it's like to unbox your product, how-to videos on how to use your product. Such a tremendous opportunity. Use your A-plus content if you're brand registered. And if you get negative reviews, pay attention to those. I mean, yes, it's painful and you don't want to read them, but you have to because you might come up with ways that you can improve your product or improve your listing. And you might actually find out really important things about your product that you didn't know. There's an old webinar that we have on this site that just put the fear into everyone of things that people have found out by looking at their product reviews and realizing that their products were either unsafe or broken or something like that.
Liz: So guys, remember, put your questions in the Q&A. I'm going to answer these anyway. Somebody says there are still apps that send coupons for people to leave a review on Amazon. Yeah. They're walking a thin line and their time is probably limited because there are people reporting those types of apps and sites to Amazon every day, and Amazon takes that really seriously. Somebody asked, what are trends with responses with automated asks via FeedbackFive or FeedbackGenius? Oh, so just using an automation tool, is the tactic worth it? I'll get into that in a second Lou. Yes, it is worth it. But things are changing and I'm going to get into that. Let me ... Just a second.
Liz: Drew says, "My biggest issue with reviews is when an item breaks in transit so the customer gives it a one star review. That's not really an accurate review of the product it's more review of the seller. And if you didn't fulfill it, honestly that's an FBA situation. So is there any hope this can be separated in the future?" I think in those situations, you really should open a case with Amazon because that's obviously, A, if you didn't fulfill it, not your fault. And B, it's a not really a product review, it's more of a seller feedback situation. So I would definitely open a case about that. And if you don't get the results that you want, then engage somebody to help you.
Liz: So Gordon says that he hasn't had many negative reviews, but the listing rules have changed. He had a facial mask, one that was supposed to be used for keeping dust out of your mouth and now it changed. They took down the listings and suddenly suspended account without warning. That is a real drag. Unfortunately, the price gouging associated with face masks has put everybody on high alert and things are kind of a mess right now with everything that's going on in the world and those particular products that sellers aren't allowed to sell anymore.
Liz: Unfortunately, I think we're going to have to give it a little bit of time, but if you're suspended, I really highly suggest that you contact Chris McCabe, e-commerce Chris. He has the highest success rate of anyone I know, and he's dealing especially with people who have had a face mask issues, hand sanitizer issues. He actually put a call to action out on Facebook yesterday about that. If you did lower your price, then that could be why you got dinged. So I would definitely contact Chris about that.
Liz: Someone says that I've had it before when I opened a case about a bad review left for FBA and lost. Is there a way to follow up from there? Try it again. But make sure you're giving all the evidence you can and make sure your email is as detailed as humanly possible. You have to understand that Amazon gets flooded with communications from sellers every single day, and you don't know exactly who's reading your email. So you need to make sure you're as detailed as possible. Include screenshots, include pictures of the product, include everything you can so that the person who's reading it can make the right decision.
Liz: All right, so let's move on. We're going to do more questions at the end. Let's get into our second strategy, which I'm not going to talk a whole lot about because it's Amazon Vine and you can't do it right now, but it is a great opportunity when it is available. And it just recently opened to third party sellers. It was just on Vendor Central before, cost $2,500 an ASIN and it was crazy. Opened up to third party sellers, was free at first. I don't know what it's going to cost when it comes back, but I'll keep you guys updated on that. But it's a great opportunity to get honest reviews on your products from those Vine voices that are experts at reviewing products. You're not guaranteed positive reviews from that, but you're definitely going to ... From everybody I've talked to who's used it, they get reviews.
Liz: The Early Reviewer program. If you've got less than five reviews on an ASIN, this is definitely worth doing. It only costs $60 in ASIN. It's only available in the US unfortunately. It used to be that the ASIN and had to cost at least a $15. Now they've lowered it to $9 and you have to be brand registered to use it. But everybody that I've talked to recently has gotten really great success. We've got a little screenshot here that shows what a review from the Early Reviewer program looks like.
Liz: So it's always a verified purchase because the way Amazon does it is they find somebody who's already bought the product and say, "Hey, we'll give you a $1 to $3 Amazon gift card for reviewing this product. So Amazon's allowed to incentivize them, but you're not. And not everybody takes them up on it, but it's a great program for a lot of sellers.
Liz: So this is kind of like an announcement and a new thing and probably a lot of you have gotten emails from us about this because we're pretty excited about it. Amazon, at the end of 2019, put that request a review button on your orders page, right? What that sends is an email, and I'll show you a picture of it in a second, that was written by Amazon, so it's 100% TOS compliant. It asks for feedback and a product review on the same email. It goes four to 30 days after delivery. And it's translated into the recipient's chosen language, so that's pretty cool because you don't have to pay for translation services. You know that it's completely on the up and up because it's a program that Amazon created and it sends both the feedback and a review request. Recipients can either just click the star ratings or they can actually write both seller feedback and reviews.
Liz: So if you guys haven't seen that, we should take a look. And we actually automated it, so that's available in FeedbackFive. If you're a FeedbackFive user, I don't know how many of you are, but it's in your campaigns, it's super easy, and any of our CS team, our customer success rockstars can show you how to use that. But you really can set it and forget it. And that's a pretty cool thing. It's something that we worked on with Amazon, and we have people that are really seeing an increase in reviews by using it.
Liz: This is what the email looks like. So the recipient gets a your opinion matters, and then they get a place where they can rate the item and then rate the seller. So that's pretty cool. Some people are pretty bummed about this option because they like Buyer-Seller Messaging, and we'll get into that in just a second, but this is what it looks like in FeedbackFive. It's the first campaign. It's got a little Amazon logo on it, so you know about it. And you can actually choose timing within that four to 30 day window, and you can exclude certain ASINs if you want to.
Liz: So product inserts, somebody mentioned product inserts before. You can ask for a product review on a product insert, you can't ask for a positive review. This little screenshot comes from an item that Colleen received in 2018. It had a little calendar on it and we thought that was super helpful. Just offering an item of value without coming off as incentivizing is a good thing to do on a product insert. And you can use a QR code. Shannon Roddy with Marketplace Seller Courses actually has a little video on his website on how to do that. But you can't include a URL, even though it's printed. They know. They know with psychics or dogs that are trained to smell URLs and the word positive. I don't know what it is, but I do think that Amazon occasionally opens packages to see what your product insert says. So make sure that you follow all of the rules when you do a product insert.
Liz: I want to kind of talk about Buyer-Seller Messaging a little bit more than I want to talk about this, but hopefully you're doing some things off Amazon to promote your brand. I don't really like the whole retargeting. Anything that flies in the face of Amazon terms of service in terms of retargeting or using buyer data in any way, I'm not a fan of personally and I don't think you should either. But I do think you should be doing what you can to communicate your brand across all channels.
Liz: And then you can use ... Like say you have a really engaged Facebook page with lots of people who love your product. You can drive traffic to your Amazon listing and you can ask them on Facebook to leave you messages. That's sort of the spray and pray approach. So you, "Hey everybody, here's this product, and then if you bought this product, don't forget to leave me a review and here's a link to leave a review." But it's a lot easier to get buy-in and reviews from people who are already fans of your brand.
Liz: We have a lot of questions, so we're going to get to those, don't worry. I have a love hate relationship with the idea of using influencers. I think that there are certain situations where you have a certain product, a certain brand, a certain situation where it is super beneficial to have an influencer who's advocating and evangelizing your brand, and they can help educate their audience that reviews are important on the Amazon marketplace. I think the more education that goes into the consumer space about third party sellers, and I think that a lot of news outlets have done a great job with this, BuzzFeed News and Consumer Reports, Verge and Vox and all those people are doing a great job of telling the story of third party sellers in making the general populace more aware that third party sellers are a huge, huge part of the Amazon experience.
Liz: I know that I didn't know when I first got involved with eComEngine, I was like, "What is a third party seller?" And then I got obsessed with what you guys do. So that's why I've been here all this time. But if you are going to go the influencer route, I suggest working with an agency or a person who's reputable, who's honest and who's not going to just try to sell you to an influencer to make a paycheck. Because unfortunately, Instagram is full of influencers now. Even people who are not influencers call themselves influencers. They tried to sell themselves to you and you end up not getting a lot of return on your investment in that way. So you need to be really strategic. Find an agency that specializes in matching influencers. I've talked to Bridget with Modern News Company about this a lot. She's getting a little bit away from that space, but can definitely give you advice on what to look for and what not to do.
Liz: So one of the big questions, can I still use Buyer-Seller Messaging to ask for a reviews and feedback? Yes, you can right now. The pros on this and brands really like this a lot, you can send customized messages. That request a review message that goes from Amazon is not customizable. It just says what it says. But with Buyer-Seller Messaging, you can craft your own message. Of course, in crafting your own message, you can also get in tons of trouble if you break the rules. Another cool thing about using Buyer-Seller Messaging is that you can AB test subject lines to help improve your open rates. Obviously we can do this with FeedbackFive. It is getting harder and riskier. You have to be following the rules. It has to be a completely neutral request. I can't stress that enough.
Liz: I've talked to people who say, "Oh, well, I'm a big enterprise seller and I have a lot of orders that go through Amazon every day and they're not going to get mad at me for asking for a positive review." It's not true. I know huge sellers that have gotten suspended just for their email content when they ask for reviews. So it's just really, really not worth it to break the rules. Don't be a cowboy. I learned that phrase from my friend Sean Rose.
Liz: So I want to dig into questions. Our key takeaways are reviews are super important. Amazon's going to continue to change, especially right now. This is super weird time. There are restrictions on you guys as far as what you can send in to FBA. But when things return to normal, that doesn't mean Amazon's going to stop changing. They're just going to keep changing. You have to always follow the terms of service and bookmark those pages. Just get really comfy with the rules. Go through Seller Central and read terms of service. I mean, because it's not just asking for reviews. It's ASIN variations. It's listing that all kinds of things about your listing. There are a lot of rules that you need to follow and knowing those, I mean, you can't really submit a POA to Amazon, plan of action, when you get suspended and say, "Oh, sorry, I didn't know the rules." It's your job to know the rules.
Liz: And if you have any questions about any of that, you could always email me, Liz@eComEngine.com, and I will do my best. If I don't know the answer, I will be honest with you and I'll find somebody who does know the answer. But this is a good time to start thinking about your review strategy and start making your plans for the time that things get back on track with your sales, if they're not right now.
Liz: So I'm offering a free product review strategy consultation. For any of you who want to contact me, Colleen's going to pop my Calendly link into the chat. I'm also going to include that in the email with the recording to all of you. So if you want a half an hour with me where we talk about your challenges and goals and talk about what you're doing now and what you could be doing differently, I'm happy to do that. I did that not too long ago and I ended up having some great conversations with people and I just love to be here for you guys. So that's what I'm offering.
Liz: We've got a lot of questions, so I'm going to do my best to get through all of these and the ones I don't get to, know that I will have them and I will try my best to reach out to you and get you an answer. So I'm just going to dive in. We have this subscription requirement mentioned in the bullet points and product images, not A+ or video, still we get negatives that say, "Oh, I didn't know I had to pay for the service." How do I get the community to help us with these? I don't know that I understand that question. Oh, with Vine specifically? Let's talk about that. Book a consultation with me and let's talk about that.
Liz: Who is eCommerce Chris, how to contact him? Well, Chris@ecommercechris.com. He is a reinstatement specialist. He's an ex-Amazonian and he can help you if you're suspended or if you have a suspended ASINs. And Coleen just posted the link to his website because she rocks. Let's see. Has there been any problems with buyers opting out of Buyer-Seller Messaging, receiving these reviewer requests from Amazon or FeedbackFive? So if the question is, does the request a review email go to opted out buyers? No, it doesn't. If they're opted out, they're opted out. There's no way to get around the opt out. But what we're seeing is that the number of opted out buyers is far lower than it used to be. It's really leveled off.
Liz: Is the request a review button available on all marketplaces? Excellent question, Karen. And yes, it is. Samantha, you can include a QR code on your product insert that links directly to the product page for someone to leave her review, but not a URL. That's correct. So we have someone asking about seller feedback and I actually am remiss because I didn't go into that a whole lot. Feedback is still important and especially right now if your sales are down and you're getting fewer orders. A negative feedback can really hurt your order defect rate. So the cool thing about the request a review button is that it asks for seller feedback and product review.
Liz: And what we're seeing is that people's feedback has increased too, because if you get an email with two sets of stars you can click, aren't you going to click both sets of stars? I mean, I would. Even if I didn't know what it was, I would feel like I didn't finish if I didn't click both sets of stars. So that's one way to get seller feedback. Another way is to send a feedback request through Buyer-Seller Messaging specifically asking for seller feedback. And incidentally, if you want to talk about feedback and book time with me, we can talk about feedback too. It doesn't have to just be a product review strategy session. We can talk about feedback strategy too.
Liz: So about the influencer thing, I do not have a list of reputable influencers. If you've got influencer questions, email me, Liz@eComEngine.com, and I will send you two email addresses for people who are really great at finding influencers for you.
Liz: So this is a great question. Can I use Buyer-Seller Messaging to send frequently asked questions right after getting the order and then send a feedback request through Amazon template on the 14 days from the date of delivery? Amazon doesn't want you to send unnecessary or promotional emails through Buyer-Seller Messaging. I do have some customers though who have very important product instructions that they have to communicate. They're not included in the packaging. I always recommend that you include your product instructions in your packaging, but in situations where you haven't, and they're sending a buyer/seller message with just the product instructions and then asking for a review or feedback via the request a review button. So, so far, I think that works for some people if it's sort of like an order critical you need to know this to use this product situation. But I think that if you've got a rep at Amazon, you should ask them before you do it.
Liz: Someone asked, do we have a compliant template for the customized review asks through Buyer-Seller Messaging? Yes. We do have a completely TOS compliant template in FeedbackFive. You guys are killing me because you're putting questions in the chat, some of you, and some of you are using the Q&A. It's cool. I've never really opened the chat before, so it's my fault.
Liz: Does a product star rating update on a sponsored brand ad as reviews come in? So for example, if a product is new and only has a couple reviews, how does the ad display update? I actually don't know the answer to that, but I have several friends in the industry that are advertising geniuses. So if you wouldn't mind Karen, emailing me that question, I will forward it to a person who can help you with that.
Liz: Having high reviews on products, how can it be beneficial? As I said at the beginning of the presentation, it helps your products have visibility in Amazon search and it helps people know that your products can be trusted and that your brand can be trusted. Is there anything wrong with saying thank you to someone who leaves you a product review? Absolutely not. I encourage that actually. And that's something we didn't talk about earlier, but when you get a negative review, I think that you should respond very politely and explain to the world what happened and what you did to resolve it. Additionally, if you get a positive review, I don't think there's any problem thanking the person who left you the positive review, just, "Hey, thanks for the great feedback. Hey, thanks for the great review. We're glad you enjoy it." Don't say, "You get 20% off your next order." Because then you've incentivized them after the fact and you're probably going to get dinged for that.
Liz: But definitely I think having those conversations on a prior page, unfortunately, and I'll be completely honest about this, the person who left the review won't see it unless they go look for it. And I think that on mobile, Amazon is hiding responses to reviews, but I know that I click the hamburger all the time to see conversations. I mean, I think I've spent too much time on Reddit, but I do think that you should thank people for their positive reviews.
Liz: So what's the difference between request a review and our regular FeedbackFive emails? Is it just the customability standpoint? They're actually going through two different mechanisms. So your standard Buyer-Seller Messaging goes through Buyer-Seller Messaging and the request a review is a completely different section of Amazon that's tied to your actual orders. So incidentally if you're in one of those restrictions from using Buyer-Seller Messaging, you can use the request a review button because it goes through a completely different mechanism.
Liz: I received a one star review from someone who claimed that my product lost its shape and form yet his photo was obviously doctored and staged to falsely show a problem that does not exist. I contacted my account manager as well as support person and a brand support person all replied to me saying essentially tough. Is there anything you can suggest to combat fraudulent fake reviews that are one star? Well, Brett, unfortunately you can't ask anybody to change a review, but it sounds like if somebody went to that much trouble to doctor a photo, that was a malicious act on their part or they're real bored. I would respond in line and say, "Could you give me more information?" Or something like that. Or say we've absolutely never experienced this with our product before, so that people who are shopping know that that's not actually a common problem.
Liz: I would be interested to know what you said to your account manager and seller support and brand support. It might be worth thinking about providing more detail and screenshots, like I was talking about before. People at Amazon are super, super busy right now. So I think that a lot of emails are getting lost in the works. And they might say tough because it didn't violate community guidelines. But if you think that it's potentially a competitor or you think that it's somebody who's purposely trying to sabotage you, I would contact somebody who can investigate that for you. And if you want to shoot me an email, we can have a bigger discussion about that because we're running out of time and there's so many questions.
Liz: Do you recommend putting photos of what the product packaging looks like? If it's interesting or if it needs explanation, yeah. I think that that's probably a really good idea. Can you give your time to discuss advertisement strategy? Sorry, I am ad-dumb. I'm going to be completely honest with you guys. The one thing that I just have not figured out is advertising on Amazon. I've been too busy doing other stuff, but I have, like I said before, a list of trusted agencies that are geniuses with advertising on Amazon. So absolutely contact me and I can hook you up with somebody that can help you with that. Can you ask a customer to remove a negative seller review? Nope. You cannot. I'm sorry. It's a real drag, but you cannot ever ask anyone to change or remove a review.
Liz: So we have a client that sells a very expensive product, and apparently Amazon calls the purchaser to confirm their order. However, purchasers are not aware of any incoming phone calls and those orders get canceled. Can we set something up to let customers know to pick up the phone? That's a really good question. I think that probably we need to have a deeper discussion about that, Tyler, so email me. Someone asked, this is a great question. Is there anything wrong with saying, "I noticed you gave us a low score. Is there anything else I can do for you?" Or can it be interpreted as asking to change the review? I would err on the side of caution and not do that personally.
Liz: Karen answered her own question. The star rating is updated in the ad, so if you've got the star rating enabled in your ad and you get an increase or decrease in your star rating, that will show up in the ad. Thank you for figuring that out. We have an anonymous. I purchased a supplement and it is a very popular item on Amazon with over 7,000 reviews. When I received it, I also received a flyer with a link on it and when I enter the link it directs me to Amazon to leave feedback in return for a free item. Are they allowed to do this? No. No. They're not allowed to do that. If you felt like reporting them, you could, because that is totally against the rules. You cannot offer a free item in return for feedback. That's incentivized.
Liz: All right. What can you do to remove a negative? Unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do to remove a negative review if it doesn't violate community guidelines, and those are just type in community guidelines on Seller Central and you can see what the ... Well, not even on Seller Central. So that would be the customer facing, there are rules for customers about writing reviews too. There are certain things they're not allowed to do, like they're not allowed to cuss at you and then are allowed to post inappropriate naughty content and stuff like that. So if it's abusive, if it contains foul language, Amazon will remove it. But if it's just a negative review, it's there. I would respond in line and say what you did to fix the problem, don't try to get the person to change the review, and then I would try to get as many positive reviews as you can in a TOS compliant way to make up for that negative rating that you got.
Liz: All right. There are a lot of questions about influencers. Like I said, email me if you've got questions about influencers and I will hook you up with some people that can help you. Again, also, if you've got questions about advertising, just contact me and I will give you some options based on your needs of a consultant or agency that's right for you. And if you would like a consultation with me for feedback or for a product review strategy consultation, just use my Calendly link. Colleen posted it in the chat. It will also be in the email that goes out to you guys tomorrow with the recording of this webinar.
Liz: Colleen just posted the Calendly link again. So feel free to use that. We can take just a couple more questions. Let's see. What can you do if someone accuses your product of being fake? Well, you can fight that yourself or you can engage someone to help you fight that. Are they accusing you in terms of the review that they leave for you, or are they accusing you via email? If you can do a little follow up and let me know, that would be helpful. And also make sure that there's no situation where someone has jumped on your listing or your inventory is commingled for some reason, and they didn't get a fake product, so you need to research that too. I think that you can probably contact them and say, "Hey, can you send me pictures? Or can you send me why you think that?"
Liz: Oh, it was in the review, and they said your jewelry was fake. I guess you could respond with the evidence that it's not, so your rating or the ... Words are hard. The certificate of authenticity or something like that, so that future buyers can see that it's in fact not fake. Collin asks is there a way to automate responses to negative reviews? Unfortunately not this time and I think that it's pretty important that you're really reading those in you're monitoring reviews, which is another thing that you can do with FeedbackFive. You can set alerts to when you get a negative review, it will send you an email. If you've got a US based cell phone number, it'll send you a text message and say, "Hey, you've got a negative review." And that way you can go in and take a look and see what's up.
Liz: All right. I'm just checking the chat. Okay. I think that we've run out of time. I set this to be actually 50 minutes long and we've gone a little bit over. How to contact other sellers, is it with seller messaging or elsewhere? I think that you can just go to the seller storefront and contact them that way. If I'm wrong, somebody call me out on that. Is there any message over here? All right, cool.
Liz: All right. Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate how interactive you guys have been and how many questions you have. If I didn't get to your question or if I lumped you into, "Hey, let's talk about that later," definitely reach out to me via email. It's Liz@eComEngine.com. I know that things are super scary right now, and I'm thinking about all of you. I hope everybody's staying safe and we'll weather the storm together. If you got any questions, you need anything at all, we're here for you at eComEngine and we really appreciate your time. Thank you. Bye everyone.
Originally published on March 19, 2020, updated April 24, 2020
This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.