On October 3, 2016 Amazon announced that they no longer allow incentivized reviews. The amazon seller community went into a turbulent spin.
I know sellers who gave up.
I know sellers who whine and complained.
And I know sellers who decided to take this as an opportunity.
Several sellers I know personally doubled their sales since that time.
And they have the heart of real entrepreneurs. They saw a roadblock and instead of crying about it, they viewed it as an opportunity and got creative. They hustled. And today they are far ahead of those who spent their energy venting about Amazon.
On their Prohibited Seller Activities and Actions page, Amazon clearly explains what you cannot do.
“[Y]ou may not provide compensation (including free or discounted products) for a review.”
“Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited.”
“You may not ask buyers to modify or remove reviews.”
In other words,
- If a buyer writes a review for you, you may not pay them back for the money they spent.
- You may not ask for positive reviews and you may not ask for reviews in return for a discount.
- You may not ask a buyer to change or remove their review.
Notice what this does NOT say.
- It does not say you may not ask for a review.
- It does not say you may not request a review when a your product is discounted to everyone.
I called Amazon and painfully worked myself up to a high-ranking employee who stated, "Discounts available to the general public are allowed and there is no policy against requesting reviews on a discounted product." The opportunity to differentiate yourself from those who will give up or just wait passively for organic reviews is HUGE.
Does this mean the end of big product releases validated by reviews on Amazon? No way! It's a massive opportunity and here is how you can leverage it:
1. Do a 24 hour flash sale
Talk to people interested in your type of product, create a FBM (fulfilled by merchant) copy of your listing, and then announce a 24 hour sale on the listing.
You are not allowed to tell them, "You get this sale if you review it," but after they buy the product, you may request they review your product since the sale is made available to everyone.
By limiting the sale to 24 hours, you increase urgency and more people will buy. By selling it as fulfilled by merchant, you can control your inventory numbers by making only as many products available as you want to sell. This is really important. You don't want 500 organic sales when you product is going for $1.99!
Selling it as fulfilled by merchant also allows you to keep your product from becoming an add-on item. An add-on item is when your product price is so low that Amazon requires the buyer to buy a minimum of $25 worth of Amazon products in order to buy your product. You cannot control this when selling your product as fulfilled by Amazon unless you use multi-channel fulfillment, which I'll cover in another blog post. But having your product fulfilled by merchant removes this problem.
Here is what an add-on item looks like to your customer:
Here is what it looks like when they put it in their cart.
Keep in mind that if you are a new seller, Amazon might not let you offer free shipping just yet. You need some experience and sales under your belt before they open up more privileges. But if you have been selling successfully for a few months, click on "settings" in the upper right corner of your seller central account.
Click on Create New Shipping Template.
Type in a name for your shipping template and make sure Per Item / Weight-Based is selected.
Make sure Free Economy is selected and choose the 4-8 Days Shipping Time. This allows you to ship any of your products to an address in the North American continent in the US for free at economy rate. If you are in the UK or elsewhere, select the appropriate states, provinces, or regions for your own country.
If you want to ship internationally for your product launch, scroll down and select International Shipping.
Keep in mind that if you offer international shipping for free, it will cost you a lot to ship. You can adjust your settings to automatically charge for this in case you want your launch to be available to countries outside of the Amazon country in which you are selling. However, for launch purposes, I recommend only launching in the country your Amazon store is located because you will be shipping these out via FBM (fulfilled by merchant).
Click save and you can select this template as the shipping option for the new product you are launching.
How to select the shipping template for your product
In Seller Central, go to Inventory, Manage Inventory, and select the drop-down button to the far right of your product.
Click Change Shipping Template in the drop-down menu.
Select the shipping template you created.
How we launched a new product immediately following Amazon's new terms of service
A month ago we released three new fashion products. First, we reached out to lady customers whom we were convinced would love these products.
I’ll give you an example of what my wife wrote to them:
I want you to be able to take advantage of these hugely discounted products from my shop! No strings attached, please read below:
We released 3 NEW products on our Amazon fashion store: X, X, and X.
We are reducing the price for each to $1.99 and free shipping for 24 hours only! All you have to do is:
1) Purchase the three items from our Amazon store in one buy.
2) We ship the items to you within 24 hours.
We would love for you to leave us your honest review for each product, after you've had a chance to try them out!
Because Amazon does not allow incentivized reviews, we have to make this discount available to the general public and cannot require a review, so when the discount starts, buy it sooner than later in case we sell out of stock!
2. Ask for a review seven days after any organic purchase. Send a letter.
Make the letter very personal but professional. Thank them for their order. Tell them you hope they love the product. Request a review. Tell them if they had any issues with their order to reach out to you before leaving a review and you will do everything you can to help them.
If you'd like a list of the top 10,000 Amazon reviewers based on shopper votes, you may download the list at the end of this blog post.
3. Reach out to the top reviewers on Amazon and tell them you have a new product and you are discounting it to $1.99 and free shipping for 24 hours.
Because you are making this discount available to the entire public, you can still request a review after the sale as long as you do not make it a condition for the sale. Remember: it is a general discount—available to anyone on Amazon. This is the same strategy as the first strategy above except this time you are reaching out to reviewers who have more impact on Amazon shopper's buying decisions than any other reviewer.
Have you noticed that when viewing a product on Amazon some reviews show up at the very top, even if they are 18 months old? For example:
The top review for Instant Pot was written over one year ago—yet it still shows up at the top! When Amazon shoppers look at this product, this is the first positive review they will see. How did it receive this special place of elevation? Votes. 10,777 people voted that it was helpful.These reviews carry persuasive power over the sales of the Amazon product, because when shoppers read the reviews, they tend to read only the first few. How did these reviews get pushed to the top?
Amazon shoppers can vote on the helpfulness of a review.
In our coaching program we provide our clients with the best of the best reviewers list which we call the "The Baddest of the Badass Reviewers for your Amazon Product."
This list includes the best 729 reviewers of the top 10,000 reviewers on amazon.com as well as curated reviewers for Germany, United Kingdom, and Canada. These lists include the product types that each of these reviewers likes to review, meaning you have a targeted list you can reach out to.
For example, if you are selling toys, you can reach out to reviewers who like to review toys. This targeted approach saves you countless hours of time, because your review response rate goes way up when you are reaching out to people who already have an interest in your product category.
The list also includes many reviewers with more than 500-strong followers on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, blogs, or Facebook. These reviewers can promote your product to literally millions of followers and many of them will run contests for you which can boost your sales massively.
Do not use these reviewer lists to create incentivized reviews or you may end up with a suspended Amazon account. Honor Amazon but be creative and innovate your strategy! Many reviewers will have no interest in having anything to do with someone asking for review on a product, incentivized or not. But if you use the strategies outlined in this post, there is no reason you can't collect an army of legitimate reviews on your new product.
4. Network with other Amazon sellers.
Ask them to buy your product and review it for you. Amazon has no rules against a fellow seller buying and reviewing your product. More than anyone, fellow Amazon sellers understand your intentions and appreciate what you are striving for.
I do not recommend joining a review club or some kind of Facebook group for reviews. Amazon specifically states that using these kinds of groups for reviews is against their terms of service and Amazon has removed the reviews of thousands of reviewers as well as suspended numerous accounts for acting outside of their policy.
How much would you pay to get your product in front of 8,000,000 people? I am not talking about random TV commercials or radio ads that someone might notice, but people who love a YouTube show and actually love to watch the commercial itself.
Now think about this. When you get a famous YouTuber to review a product for you, the review is the commercial and people love watching it!
Find a someone on social media who loves to review your type of product. For example, let's say you are selling your new brand of jeans. Go to YouTube and type into the search box "Reviews Jeans." Here is what pulled up for me:
In under two seconds I found Miss Louie on YouTube who reviews jeans. She has over 242,000 subscribers.
In 10 minutes you can have an army of potential reviewers on social media outlets. Make sure they have a massive following (I recommend a minimum of 500 followers) and then send them a message. If you are selling Bluetooth speakers you could send them something like this:
Subject: An Early Christmas Gift?
Wow, I LOVE your show!
I'd be honored to send you one of our high end Bluetooth speakers and sports headphones for your honest review. They are designed beautifully and I think you will really love them. These speakers make a huge sound in a tiny space. May I ship them to you for your honest review on your channel?
Tell me where to ship it and it's on its way.
[your first name]
One Amazon seller complained that after approaching a YouTuber with over a million subscribers, the YouTuber requested $300 in return for the review. I responded, "Rick, I want you to think about this. If they have 1,000,000 followers, and just 5% of those followers—whom you already know love your type of product—buy your product on Amazon, do you realize how many sales that is?"
He thought for a moment and smiled, "Fifty thousand sales!"
Make sure you have plenty of inventory before you do this strategy!
What if the Review Never Shows Up?
It will happen. Kind of like you will never get every sale you ask for you, are not going to get every review you request. And that is okay. But...there is something you can do to minimize this as much as possible.
First, be patient. Sometimes it take a few days for a review to be approved. Bobby McJackson could have written you a review yesterday and it not show up until the day after tomorrow. Amazon has to approve the review before it shows on your listing.
Here is the challenge: Most of the time it’s impossible to know if the "reviewer" actually wrote the review because their Amazon public account will not necessarily include their full name. In fact, if they put no name in there it will default to “Review by Amazon customer.” Not exactly helpful.
So I send everyone a letter and the letter is written in such as way that it applies, whether or not they already left a review. This letter is very different than the 7 day letter I send out to organic customers. This letter is exclusively for the 24 hour flash-sale buyers:
I hope you are enjoying your NAME OF PRODUCTS(S).
Hey, I just wanted to send a quick request to give a review on each of these items. We are a new business on Amazon and your review would be a huge help to us.
If you have already reviewed it, could you please email me back a link to your review?
Thanks so much!
I hope this has been helpful for you!
Go crush it!