Originally published on February 13, 2020, updated March 31, 2020
Are you interested in learning the strategies experts are using to help Amazon sellers and vendors become top performers? Watch the 5th annual Amazon Virtual Summit hosted by Tinuiti and you'll walk away with scalable tactics that will outlast competitors in 2020.
The 2 day virtual event included 6 Amazon experts with live Q&A. eComEngine's Liz Fickenscher discussed product reviews. Here are some of the areas she covered:
You can watch the webinar above or check out the show notes below for the recap and a full transcript.
When potential buyers navigate to your Amazon listings, one of the first things they’ll look at are your product reviews. If you don’t have many, or the ones that you have are negative, you’re putting your chances of success at risk. The reality is that many sellers want to request reviews but don’t know how.
Between the constant changes to the Amazon TOS, widespread confusion, and fear of suspension, it’s easy to bury your head in the sand and hope that customers are motivated enough to leave real Amazon reviews on their own. In this webinar, which was part of the Tinuiti 2020 Amazon Virtual Summit, eComEngine’s Liz Fickenscher answers all your questions. Here are some of the highlights.
There’s no doubt about it: product reviews are crucial to your success. This goes all the way back to 1995 when Amazon started allowing customers to post reviews on the marketplace — but only on Amazon products. In 2000, the marketplace was opened up to third-party sellers, and in 2007 FeedbackFive software was created to help sellers request reviews with less effort.
In 2012, Amazon introduced Verified Purchase reviews. By 2015, Amazon was suing websites that were offering positive reviews for money. As Fickenscher explained, paid reviews go against the whole point of the system. Product reviews are meant to provide a word-of-mouth experience in an online retail setting.
Fickenscher said that there was a time when sellers could offer customers free products in exchange for reviews. It was quickly discovered, however, that during a certain period of time, incentivized reviews had taken over the marketplace. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Amazon began banning sellers from this practice in 2016.
Amazon introduced the Request a Review button in 2019. This has completely changed the way sellers can request reviews through Seller Central.
There are plenty of rules around product reviews, and Amazon's Terms of Service (TOS) can be confusing. Sellers should make every effort to learn about and adhere to them as much as possible, but it can be hard to know where to begin. “The three main pages that I always tell people to bookmark are the Buyer-Seller Messaging page, the Communication Guidelines page, and the actual review guidelines page,” advised Fickenscher.
There is information on all three of those pages that provides guidance about what you should and shouldn’t do when asking for reviews. While all of this has been updated recently, the rules around product reviews haven’t changed much. Here are three things you should know:
Those rules have been around for a very long time and absolutely must be respected in order to protect your account from suspension or other restrictions. We know you care about your business, which is why it’s very important that you read the TOS carefully and do everything you can to remain compliant.
Now that you’re worried about breaking the rules, you might be wondering how to ask for product reviews without getting in trouble. The first thing you should do is make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Are your listings attractive and fully completed? Is your branding consistent across your platforms? Are you providing customers with the details they need to make informed decisions?
If you’ve ever wanted to learn about additional in-depth strategies for getting more reviews, today is your lucky day! In this excellent webinar, Fickenscher dives into the following ways that you can improve your chances of receiving more positive reviews:
Be sure to watch the entire webinar and be ready to take notes. Not only does Fickenscher provide valuable insight on how to request product reviews while remaining compliant, she answers several questions. You can’t afford to miss this one!
Liz: I talk about product reviews on Amazon a lot of the time. So we're going to talk about the rules and the changes, and how to get more use in 2020 without getting in trouble with Amazon, because you can in fact get in trouble with Amazon. It's pretty easy to do.
Liz: So a little bit about eComEngine, we make software for Amazon sellers. So our flagship tool, Feedback Five was the first reputation management software available in the industry. We have a smart inventory management tool called Recipe pro and we've got a fun lookup tool that doesn't cost a whole lot of money called MarketScout. We've got an algorithmic repricer called SmartPrice that is new to market. Okay. So let's use the raise hand tool in go to Webinar for you guys that are hanging out and paying attention, all that kind of stuff. Who has trouble getting product reviews on their listings? If you do, raise your hand in GoToWebinar and just click that little hand button. Do we have a lot of them? Yeah, we do.
Liz: Well, so as of today, product reviews are crucial to your success on Amazon. You know that they impact your visibility, they impact some of your advertising availability. They provide social proof to potential buyers, that A. a product is good and B. that you're reliable and trustworthy. I was just having a conversation with somebody yesterday who said, "I don't even pay attention to Amazon's choice. I don't even pay attention to what's at the top of the screen, I sort by prime and I sort by reviews," and that's the only way this person shops.
Liz: And I was like, "Well, you miss out on a lot of really good stuff because some new sellers are having hard time getting reviews," but reviews are super important. How many reviews for each ASIN, I think that varies. What I've heard is, it's 21 in order to really move the needle in terms of visibility, but then it's also the content and the quality of those reviews. So it's important that you get positive reviews, but it's important that you don't ask for positive reviews. And we'll get into that in a second too.
Liz: So product reviews have a pretty interesting history. I've got a slide here. I'm just going to skip over all this stuff. We talked about how Amazon reviews are crucial to your success. I'm going to give a brief history of reviews, because I think this is fascinating and it shows how quickly and how slowly things have moved, but why some of the changes that have taken place have taken place. We're going to shift into discussing Amazon TOS and then we're going to dig into tips on how to get more reviews. Like actual actionable tips that you can start using today.
Liz: I'll be speaking on this a lot in the next couple months, but if you've got questions as Persephanie said, during this session, just go ahead and submit them. We'll have a live Q and A at the end, but if you've got a question, just go ahead and type it in and we'll queue it up for later. And my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, it's pretty easy to remember. If you've got any questions about any of this content after the fact, just let me know. I'm here and you will see, I love to talk about this.
Liz: In 1995, Amazon started allowing customers to post reviews on products, on the marketplace, but that was Amazon zoom products. In 2000 Amazon opened up the marketplace to third party sellers. Can you believe that was 20 years ago? In 2007, we created FeedbackFive because we knew people who were sending manual requests for feedback and Jay thought, "Hey, there's a way to automate that." So he built it, and that was pretty cool.
Liz: Also, in 2007, Amazon opened up the Vine program to vendors. Verified purchase reviews started in 2012, and then in 2015 Amazon started the big change that we've all seen by suing websites that were offering positive reviews for money, because that's not the point. That's not the point of product reviews, product reviews are meant on a virtual marketplace to provide that "pick it up and feel it in your hand and touch it, talk to other people, get feedback on it," kind of experience. That is one of the reasons that Amazon's been so successful, it's because of reviews, I believe that, and I think Amazon believes that too.
Liz: Black hat stuff was rampant in the marketplace. People were really trying to game the system hardcore. In 2016 something that I informally call Reviewgate happened, where Amazon banned all incentivized reviews. You guys remember if you were selling at that time that you could offer a product for free or at a deep discount, in return for a review and you'll just ask them to leave an honest review. And they would say, "I received this product at a discount for my honest review," or whatever.
Liz: But studies show, and I'll be publishing some content about this later, but one study showed that from February of 2016, until October 2016 when this change happened, the majority of third party reviews were incentivized reviews. So Amazon was like, "Well that wasn't the point." And people had all these little review groups, and there was all kinds of unregulated wild stuff happening, and most of the groups that people were participating in, they were encouraged to leave positive reviews. So it defeated the purpose, because you get this product, you want to look at it, you want to the experience it, you want to leave an honest review. But then you've got a moderator of a group telling you, "Oh, make sure the review is a five star review. So it defeated the purpose.
Liz: So to combat that, Amazon shut down incentivize reviews, but to sort of make up for it, they launched the early reviewer program. We're going to talk about that when we get into tips. So last year at end of last year, Amazon opened up Vine again to third party sellers and we're going to talk about that too, and they introduced the request to review button, which we're also going to talk about. Which is a whole new way to request reviews from your buyers. Liz: So there are still rules around product reviews, you'll notice that... Sorry about that. TOS has changed, terms of service has changed. The three main pages that I always told people to bookmark were the Buyer Seller Messaging page, the Community Guidelines page and the actual Review Guidelines page, because there were relevant things on all three of those pages that applied to... if you're trying to get reviews on Amazon, more of what you can't do, but definitely the rules were in three different places.
Liz: At this point they still kind of are, Amazon recently updated terms of service for Buyer-Seller messaging. They recently updated the community guidelines page. They do this every few often. We are pretty obsessive about checking those pages and then telling sellers any relevant news they need to know, but pretty much the rules for requesting reviews haven't changed or the rules around product reviews. You can't ask a friend or a family, or coworker person to leave you review. You can't ask for a positive review. You can't just ask for reviews from people who've had a good experience, those types of rules have been around for pretty much the whole time.
Liz: And we're actually sharing a product review compliance checklist in one of the assets from today's virtual summit. So take a look at that and if you have any questions, definitely let me know. But especially on that second page, has that big old list of rules that Amazon has in terms of product reviews. And nowadays, if you get one of those types of reviews, if someone leaves you a review and they happen to work with you, or they're a family member, you see it all the time that that review gets removed, or you could even get your hand slapped by Amazon.
Liz: People have been getting restrictions from Buyer Seller messaging because they've broken some rule with Buyer Seller Messaging. Or they've come across a little bit too needy in their email, and something has flagged, what I think is an automated system, that flags messages asking for reviews, and then they're sending out these automatic restrictions from Buyer Seller Messaging. Where you're not restricted from selling, but you are restricted from sending proactive messages in Buyer Seller Messaging for a certain amount of time.
Liz: That's been a pain, it's made people scared to request for reviews, where it's still obviously okay to request them. But in addition to that, in it being difficult and it's hard to get an answer, there is still some seriously black hat players, bad actors in the industry that are making it harder for everybody too, they're leaving fake reviews on ASINs. They're impersonating seller accounts, they're stealing credentials and logging into seller accounts, and upvoting and downvoting reviews in a way that makes Amazon raise its eyebrow and say, "Wait a minute, you must be a bad guy."
Liz: They're turning the behavior around and making it seem like certain sellers are doing those things and they're not, but it's getting them in trouble really fast. It's hard to understand why they're not getting their hands slapped and getting removed from the marketplace, while you might be getting a 30 day restriction, but I do believe it's going to get better. I think Amazon's working hard to identify those bad actors, and I think that things are getting cleaned up on the marketplace. At least, I hope so, I think there's more attention to BuzzFeed News, and Consumer Reports, and Vox, and The Verge are putting a spotlight on third party sellers.
Liz: I think that the general populace has a better idea of what actually comprises the Amazon marketplace. And that's third party sellers and brands, you're not just buying something from Amazon all the time. And I think that several years ago that sort of general knowledge wasn't really present in the consumer world. So I think things are going to get better, and I think that there are some smart consumers that are even policing the marketplace on seller's behalf. I mean, they might not be doing it for sellers, but they're doing it to make the marketplace a better, more open up kind of place.
Liz: That's enough about that. If you've got any questions about terms of service, if you've got any question about how to report bad actors, file cases with Amazon, I've got tons of resources for you. I've got a great person I can send you. So if you've got questions about any of that, just let me know.
Liz: So let's get into strategies on getting more reviews on your listings. These are proven, these are TOS complaint, I will not tell you anything that can get you in trouble with Amazon. My mission in life is to do everything white hat, and even if it makes it a little harder or it makes it a little more... you've got to think harder and be more strategic, and that's okay. Because it's not worse, like I said, in several previous webinars, it's not worth being a cowboy, and getting your seller account suspended forever just because you're trying to get some reviews on your listing. They are important, but they're not more important than your business.
Liz: So first, start with your listing, right? It sounds dumb for me to say that, but if your listing properly reflects your product, you have less of a chance of getting negative reviews. I can't tell you how many times I've heard sellers say that their product reviews prompted them to actually alter their listings. The color, the size, the description, if that's not all just completely perfect, and properly reflects the product somebody's going to open a box and use, then you've got a problem because they're expecting something different. And that goes into the feedback because the item was not as described and it also goes into the product review because they bought something and they're disappointed.
Liz: You can't keep everyone from being disappointed, but you can definitely keep people from being disappointed because they received something that was not what was described to them on your listing. And you can leverage enhanced brand content, now you can use video content, you can have awesome images, lifestyle images, and there are professionals that can help you with that kind of stuff. You can do crash courses and learn how to do it yourself. But your first opportunity for positive reviews is your listing itself, and how you represent your products. I usually start with, your product needs to be awesome, but I'm assuming all of your products are awesome.
Liz: Let's list all these tips out just in case I get away from myself. I do think that you should try the Early Reviewer Program. I heard mixed reviews on it starting way back in 2017 but the more sellers I've talked to, have said that it was definitely worth it. It's not very expensive, it's a $60 an ASIN. You have to have less than five reviews on that ASIN, you don't pay until you get the first review. You're not guaranteed all five reviews, but you can get up to five reviews from this. And the way Amazon does it is that they don't tell someone when they purchased an item, "Hey, this is an early reviewer item." They just reach out to after post-purchase, who honestly purchased the item for their own use, and they say, "Hey, we'll give you a $1 to $3 gift card to review that product."
Liz: So it's been effective for a lot of sellers and I think that as Amazon introduces Amazon's own methods to get more reviews, that you should leverage those in and you should definitely explore those. And at $60 per ASIN, it's really just not that bad. And then there's Amazon Vine. We just actually published an article on our website by our friend David Griffin that explains the Vine program. He was from the vendor side, so he understood Vine from the vendor side and now he understands Vine from the third party seller side. Everybody I've talked to so far has said that they didn't have to pay for Vine, I don't think that you should expect that it's going to be free forever.
Liz: But it was $2,500 an ASIN, on Vendor Central, so right now, get it while it's free and/or low cost and all of the guidelines are on that blog posts that it's the most recent one on our website. But maybe Persephanie, if you could pop that into the chart so everybody can see that. You have to have less than 30 reviews, I know that, and you have to provide the product for free and it goes to a Vine voice reviewer. That's somebody who has been vetted by Amazon, they understand the consumer world, they understand what's expected, they understand how to look at a product and an experience this product they make of an informed decision. So you can expect insightful reviews from these folks, but they won't always be positive reviews, because they've experienced a lot of Amazon products and I guess their standards are higher.
Liz: You're not guaranteed reviews this way, but I do think that if a Vine Voice turns down a product and they're not a Vine Voice for very long, so I think that especially now, strike while the iron is hot and free or low cost. It's definitely something to check out, especially if your product has less than 30 reviews, because it's the only way you can do it.
Liz: You can still ask for reviews. It is 2020, it's February, almost the end of February. It's really flying by fast. You have to follow the rules to a T, so all of those rules in seller central that are on that product review compliance checklist, about not diverting negative reviews and about not getting a friend or a coworker or a family member to leave a review for you - that's all being strictly enforced by almost magical or psychic means by Amazon's machine learning and the internal review that's taking place in the Buyer-Seller Messaging space.
Liz: For instance, I'm going to get into product inserts in a second. But if you break the rules on a product insert, you're going to get caught. If you break the rules in Buyer-Seller messaging, you're definitely going to get caught, if you don't break the rules but you've got something that's sort of in a gray area, you could get flagged and you might have to have a conversation, or you might deal with one of those restrictions, and those are a pain. We've dealt with some of those with our FeedbackFive customers.
Liz: Most of the time we can identify a reason and they can modify it, and then when the restriction lifts, they're fine. But some people are very stubborn and they don't want to change things, and we do a lot of work with our customers to ensure TOS compliance. But you really have to pay attention to all of those rules that we list out on the compliance checklist that are from Seller Central. And you have to pay attention to the Buyer-Seller Messaging policies, too. The restrictions so far have been standardized and consistent, but the explanations that you get from Seller Support are wildly inconsistent.
Liz: So if you get one of these restrictions and you need help, let us know. But I think that we're seeing a downtrend and I think it's because Amazon's also exploring other ways to get reviews, and that specifically is with the Request a Review button. I'm sure you guys have seen this, it's in your orders. So rather than requesting a review via Buyer-Seller Messaging, you basically just click this button next to an order that says Request a Review. And after the appropriate amount of time deemed by Amazon, a message goes out. It's not customizable, it's a message that requests seller feedback and a product review.
Liz: It's delivered in the buyer's chosen language, which is super cool, and it's Amazon's newest thing. So I do suggest if you're not having a whole lot of success using these other methods that you give it a try, and I'd love to know what you find out. There are things that are going to make it a lot easier too, so stay tuned for that.
Liz: A couple of things that I didn't really list on this slide and I didn't really put into my agenda, but I have a little bit more time so I'm going to cover them. Product inserts are a way to ask for reviews and they're also a way to provide value to your buyers. You still have to follow the terms of service. There's this big box, right, that says you cannot ask for a positive product review on a product insert. If you've got, and I'm paraphrasing, but if you've got that in there, in your products, you can return your inventory and take that out. It's not, "Make sure you never do it again," or "We'll take it out for you." Because I mean, who has time for that?
Liz: But they're pretty much saying, if you've got an noncompliant insert in your package, you better go ahead and get those packages back and take it out, because it can get you in trouble. I don't know how they know, but they know. If you have questions about that, let me know, there are cool things you can do. I did a webinar last week with Nick Young from marketplace ops and Seller Tradecraft and Pixelfy.me, He's got a lot of businesses. But he was talking about having a QR code that goes to help documentation back on the listing, or you can, Shannon Roddy from Marketplace Seller Courses talks about doing a QR code that someone can scan with their Seller Central shopping app, and it takes them right to the listing. It makes it easier to leave a review if someone uses their app to buy stuff on Amazon. I do, I use my app, but not everybody that'd be interesting poll too.
Liz: Another thing that I'm going to be talking more about at Prosper next month, is influencers and leveraging influencers, to get your brand message out there. And get your brand seen and get your product seen. They're people that can help you with this, because this is a really tough nut to crack, and you don't want to dive into Facebook groups, and pay PR companies thousands of dollars for an influencer who's not really in your niche, and doesn't really understand your audience. But if you've got someone savvy who's got a great network you don't need an Instagram star with like 2 million subscribers in order for an influencer to help you grow your brand presence.
Liz: If they're in your niche, it can be a much lower follower account, but it can still really, really help you. I think if you get that brand message out there and you get your products out there, then the reviews follow, especially if you're pretty vocal about, "Hey, we love reviews." We can't ask for a positive review, but I think that the more people understand that you have a product, you have a brand that you're putting out in the world, and feedback any way you can get it, it's appreciated, because you're just trying to be the best you can be. You're trying to be like Amazon, you're trying to be customer obsessed, right?
Liz: So the more you can do to get exposure, positive exposure, preferably, the better chance you have of using all of your channels and all of your communication means to make a good impression, and hopefully the good reviews will follow. But the tips that I gave you before are actual actionable ways that you can definitely increase your review counts per ASIN.
Liz: Persephanie, do we have any questions that we could dive into?
Persephanie: Yes. We actually have a ton of questions from the audience-
Liz: I love answering questions.
Persephanie: So, let me go ahead and start from the top. First someone actually was requesting, if you can repeat the three bookmark pages that you recommend for sellers.
Liz: Yes, Communication Guidelines, Buyer-Seller Messaging and then the Customer Product Reviews policy page. And if you want to email me email@example.com, I'll send you links because I have them bookmarked. I also want to mention before we get started with more Q&A, if you want to talk to me about your product review strategy, I am available to do that. So we can talk about your challenges and goals, we can talk about what you've been doing up to date. And this is free, I'm not charging for this. It's just something that I love talking about, and I find that when you take a customized approach to something, you usually find more creative solutions. So email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will do the best I can to help you. So we do have... Key takeaways is next, right?
Persephanie: Yes, key takeaways. Then we do have a couple more questions before the end of the time here.
Persephanie: Did you want to go ahead and do the key takeaways first before we did the Q and A?
Liz: Sure. So product reviews are still crucial to your success on Amazon. You know that navigating Amazon terms of service can be difficult, but there are legit ways to get product reviews on Amazon. It's worth it to investigate every Avenue. It's important to understand the rules, I can't stress that enough. It's so important to understand the rules, even if you see people breaking the rules, they're not going to win. Cheaters don't win, right?
Liz: So definitely follow the rules, and if you have questions and you want to put together a strategy and just sit down one-on-one and talk to me, email me at email@example.com.
Persephanie: Beautiful, thank you Liz. Now we'll probably just dive into the live Q and A. There's tons of questions coming in, so we'll try to do our best to get to all of them. First question that we have here is how do you use the Request a Review function?
Liz: Okay, so you go to orders page in Seller Central, and then you go into the particular order and there's a button that says Request a Review. You click it and it'll tell you if the order is eligible. So if it's not returned and you haven't asked for a review, what that means before, then you'll get a little notice that say this was submitted. And when somebody gets it and I've been meaning to put together some content around this. But when somebody gets it, when a buyer gets it, it's got a product review request and a feedback request.
Liz: And for the product review, they can leave just a rating, a star rating. They don't have to actually write a review. So if you go to a listing, and I'm sure you see this on your own listings these days, and you go and you look at the star ratings, you'll see more ratings and you see actual written reviews. Because this is something that I think Amazon's trying out, because they're assuming that everybody's lazy, I guess. But those written reviews are still super important.
Liz: I do think that Amazon is creating plans to make sure that people still leave written reviews. But if you want a little walkthrough on how to use that Request a Review functionality, let me know and I might have something else I can tell you about making it easier.
Persephanie: Beautiful, thank you Liz. Next question that we have here is, can I ask for product reviews with the product insert?
Liz: Yes, but you have to do it the right way. So you can't say, "my family will starve if you don't leave me a positive review." "Five stars or my favorite amount of stars ever," anything that could be coercive, anything that could be considered manipulative. Just assume that the same people who have open access to all your Buyer-Seller Messages have access to your product inserts.
Liz: They're not the same people that are looking at product inserts. I don't know if it's x-rays, or psychics, or what, or if it's just QA going through and opening, one to check out what's in it. But, Amazon absolutely has busted people for noncompliant product inserts. But yes, you can ask for a review, you can do a QR code. Shannon Roddy, I mentioned him before, has a little article in his course about how to do that. You just generate your own QR code and take it right to the listing, or you can explain step by step how they can leave a review for that item.
Liz: And you can offer some value too, like, "Hey did you know that you can use this product to also look like you've gone in 20 years back in time, or you can also use this product to entertain all the monkeys in the zoo, whatever. You can give some value in that product insert. I know Colleen did a webinar with, I think it was you guys Persephanie, where she showed an insert that she'd gotten and it was a little calendar. And it was right at the first of the year and that was just super thoughtful and like really useful.
Liz: So you can offer value, you can ask for a review. You cannot say "here's a 20% off coupon, please leave me a review" because that counts as incentivize review whether you meant it that way or not. So there are some tricky guidelines around it, but yes you can do that. Not what I just said, but you can ask on an insert.
Persephanie: Perfect, thank you Liz. Next question that we have here is, can I ask for reviews via ManyChat or Facebook?
Liz: I have feelings about that. There are people who encourage you to pull data out of Amazon and then put it into ManyChat and then to Facebook to try to identify people who have purchased your products on social media. I feel like Amazon doesn't want you to have buyer data, that's why they got rid of a lot of that visibility, because they're trying to protect people's privacy and all that kind of stuff. I am a big advocate of pushing your products out via social media, saying, "Hey, if you bought this product, leave me a review and let me know what you think."
Liz: There are ways to target, I don't think that they're on the up and up, personally, but I'm super, super conservative too. But that spray and pray approach, where you have push a product out and said," Hey everybody look at this awesome product," and then you do another, "Hey everybody, I think you're awesome, if you bought my product, please leave me a product review on Amazon so I know what you think, and I can make it better," or whatever. I think that's fine.
Liz: Someone else would have to speak to the actual strategies around doing that, retargeting, because I think you'll get in trouble for it.
Persephanie: Thank you Liz. This next question we have here is for the follow up email, what's the best way to ask for a review and stay compliant at the same time?
Liz: You can go super generic and say, "Thanks for your purchase of purple bouncy widget. Please leave a review, and doing so you would be sharing your opinion with millions of shoppers on the Amazon marketplace. Thanks, have a great day. Loving and kisses, purple bouncy widget company." I do have some sellers that have super creative messaging, as long as the messaging doesn't incentivize, coerce, or try to divert what would be a negative review away from a product review to a different source, it's cool.
Liz: So what we're seeing these days, if somebody says, "I'm completely committed to your success, if you have any problems with this order, please email me before leaving a review so I can resolve your problem." That's not okay, because you're trying to divert that negative review and say, "Hey, instead of leaving me a negative review, go ahead and email me so that I don't get that negative review on my ASIN." That's been sort of like a way that Amazon has refined the intention of the rule, but I think you can get creative, you can be on brand, you can be witty.
Liz: In fact, I encourage that, because people get a lot of emails and your subject line needs to be awesome. The contents of your email can be awesome, but it has to be one hundred percent neutral and you can't offer any kind of incentive or try to coerce anybody in any way to leave a positive review. You can't ask for a positive review. All the rules are on that part of your compliance checklist on the second page, or the first and second page. But if you have any questions or you want me to review your language, I don't care what tool you use, send it over to me. I'll take a look at it and let you know what I think.
Persephanie: I'm sure the audience really appreciates that. This next question we have here is, how can you successfully report inserts and fake reviews, or reports seem to go up... sorry. Our reports seem to go into a black hole and don't seem to get addressed.
Liz: I get that, and that's kind of happening in a lot of different departments right now. I feel like Amazon has grown super, super quick and there might be certain areas that are not moving as quickly as we would like. Because, we're eCommerce people and we would like for everything to move at the speed of lightning. We really do want that, I want that.
Liz: If you don't succeed the first time, try and try again, but be careful how you do because if you're sending the same objection or at the same way over and over and over again, you're going to continue to get ignored. So if one avenue doesn't work, then do the research to find a different avenue. You can email me after this and tell me your exact situation, and I could probably point you in the right direction.
Liz: It's also worth it to get in touch with somebody who really understands how Amazon works and on the inside and how to file complaints. I go to Chris McCabe, ecommerceChris, 100% of the time, I trust him. I think he's honest. He's white hat like me, like us at eComEngine, we're aligned with the whole white hat thing. He's actually talking about that a lot lately. But it's important to report bad actors. I know it's really, really discouraging to not get a response, but get in touch with somebody like Chris, if you want to get in touch with me so I can make an introduction.
Liz: You can learn the next level of the Amazon world that you need to contact if you're just contacting seller support for instance, there are other things you can do to report. And there are other ways you can present the information and more research you can do to make the information more compelling, so let's talk about that. That's something that interests me a whole lot, but don't give up.
Persephanie: Couldn't agree with you more Liz. It seems like we have a lot of questions circling around the insert, so I'm going try to go through these quickly. This one states, where can we find info about having a compliant insert? What can you not do with inserts, and are you allowed to have your brand website, non Amazon site on inserts. So three in one.
Liz: No links. Sorry, no links. Follow the rules about emails and the reviews page where it's got all the rules about reviews. Like you're not allowed to ask for a review from a friend or a family member. You're not allowed to ask for a positive review. You're not allowed to try to divert a review from being negative, all of those rules apply to product inserts. So just don't break any of those rules on your product insert and you should probably be good to go. Liz: I think we have a template on our website, also Buy Box experts does a lot of work with inserts with their clients, and Shannon Roddy with Marketplace Seller Courses does a lot of work with inserts. And if you've got an insert that you have a question about, if you want to send me a JPEG or a PDF of it, I can take a look and let you know what I think.
Persephanie: Beautiful. Thank you Liz. The next question we have here is, when we Request a Review using the functionality on the order, we see an Amazon message stating we don't require you to request review because your system already does that at no cost to you. Is there a way to see the buyer's name in the star reviews, not written reviews?
Liz: No. The short answer to that is not yet or not so far, and not as far as I know is that ever coming? That's the second part, is can you see the name of the person who just left your rating and not a written review? No, not yet. Even when you go to the ASIN and you'd go to the reviews, you'll see that the number of them is different from the written reviews, but you still can't see the names of the people who left you the ratings. So that's interesting and frustrating at the same time.
Liz: Amazon pops up that message because they're saying, we do send review requests and feedback request for your orders. I believe them, and I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon and I don't get an Amazon generated, a product review or feedback request every single order I get. They're just telling you, "Hey, you're sending this and this person might've already gotten a message from us saying, Hey, why don't you review this product?" But because it's on the orders page and because it's an Amazon written, Amazon composed, Amazon control communication, so far you can't get in any trouble for it.
Liz: And wouldn't have put the button there if they didn't want you to click it. So don't ignore what Amazon says to you because it's important, but realize that they're telling you that because it's possible that they did send a, "Hey, please review this product to your buyer."
Persephanie: Got it, thank you Liz. This one's also around Request a Review. Two different verbiages though, can you use the requests to review button even if you have an email sequence? And then another one says, can use the request review button and also an email sequence?
Liz: I wouldn't. Think about yourself as a buyer. They're two completely different systems, right? So in theory you could do that, I don't recommend it. I have a feeling that's probably one of the rules Amazon's going to impose in regards to the Request a Review button. So I would choose one or the other.
Liz: Now I know people that put really important product use information in their emails. They might want to take the review request out of that and send that as a message, and then Request a Review with the Request a Review button. There are different strategies that you can noodle around and think about. But I wouldn't do both at the same time just because your buyer is possible getting a message from Amazon. They're getting something from your email, from your Buyer-Seller Messaging and then they get something from the Request a Review button.
Liz: I find the more requests that I get on an item, the more likely I am to want to leave some nasty feedback. I don't because I understand this industry and I wouldn't do that to any of you, but I don't want three emails about one order, that annoys me. So you don't want to annoy your customers.
Persephanie: I agree with you on that one. This next one states, I was told Vine is invite only not open to everyone, is there a way to apply for the Vine program?
Liz: That's a great question and I don't know the answer to it, I'm sorry. I'm going to have to get back to you about that. I didn't thoroughly read. If anybody from my team wants to Skype me real quick, I've got my Skype open on my phone. But there is a Vine information page that's public I think. Then I think if you follow the breadcrumbs there, you might be able to apply. But if you... I'll find out, and if you want to get in touch with me, firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll find out for you.
Persephanie: There certain requirements that need to be met to be able to participate in it. I think there's about three to five different ones, so that's as far as I know.
Liz: Less than 30 reviews. And I know for a lot of people who want to participate, they already have more than 30 reviews, so they're not eligible.
Persephanie: Got you. This next question states is, can we ask for reviews from purchase older than 30 days?
Liz: Yeah, if you haven't already asked for it. I don't know if you can do it manually, but I know that we can pull up the 90 days worth of orders. I think with the Request a Review button though, it's throttled like that with 30 days. So it'll just have to check in each program, depending on what method you're using through request reviews how far back you can go.
Persephanie: Got you. This next question I have here is, hi we're an Amazon Vendor. We have a Vendor Central account that allows us to sell digital software. The thing is that as far as I know, we're not allowed to contact a buyer, is there any way to encourage people to leave reviews?
Liz: You guys have it so rough, I'm sorry, you can't. You're not the seller, Amazon is the seller when you're a Vendor. So theoretically Amazon's asking for those reviews and that helps the algorithm and then it helps you be more successful. But I think just you monitor reviews and then if you see that I competed... you can monitor any ASIN with reviews proactively. So you can monitor any ASIN on Amazon.
Liz: So if you're seeing that competing ASINS are getting more product reviews, and you've got a Vendor Central rep, which you do, if you're a Vendor. I would talk to them about like, "Look, why is this happening and what are you guys doing to get my product out there?" I know that there are things that you can do with your vendor account to make your products more attractive. So I suggest you talk to a specialist about that. I like Carina McLeod, she runs Vendor Society. But yeah, so talk to your vendor central rep, and then maybe get in with some other vendors to brainstorm about ways that you can make these products stand out, because Amazon's the seller and it's not always exactly how you would do it, is it?
Persephanie: Perfect, thank you Liz. And I think we have time for just one last question and then we're going to go ahead and wrap it up here. This one pertains to eComEngine, so is eComEngine working on an API to automate hitting the requests a review. It seems like the buttons trying to replace automated followup emails, but it's very manual.
Liz: I love that question and I hope you email me at email@example.com. But that's all I can say about that.
Originally published on February 13, 2020, updated March 31, 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.