Amazon Review Strategies for Third-Party Sellers

Amazon recently updated their Terms of Service (TOS) around ranking manipulation, specifically addressing common review generation tactics.

Keith-ilovetoreviewLast week, Keith O’Brien, CEO of iLoveToReview and Jeff Coleman, Director of Accounts at CPC Strategy presented an hour long webinar course on how product reviews impact organic rank, traffic, and conversion rates on the Amazon Marketplace.

We also discussed how the update will impact third-party sellers who currently solicit product feedback from customers.

jeff-colemanThere were a lot of questions we didn’t get a chance to touch on, so here they are now with answers from O’Brien and Coleman:

Q. How effective do you find follow-up emails as a way to gain more Amazon Product Reviews?

A. They definitely work. Follow-up email services increase the number of organic reviews but of course a lot is dependent on how well-written the emails are and what that emails look like in terms of content / layout. A/B testing will help determine what works best for a seller’s target audience.

When a shopper completes a transaction with a seller on Amazon, the Marketplace will provide the seller with a generated Amazon email.

The only way Amazon permits sellers to make contact with their customers is through the “Buyer-Seller messaging system” located in Seller Central.

Sellers don’t have to think of follow-up emails as just a way to promote reviews. They should broaden their view of the follow-up program.

For example, if you sell perishable products – you want to follow up in a month or two when your customers are likely to run out and restock.

Q. What is the best strategy to gain more product reviews on Amazon?

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A. Sellers should aim for an approach that will gain as many product reviews as possible. Once a seller has built a solid foundation of reviews, then they can transition to a drip campaign. Sellers should base their strategy off of keywords and research what kind of review volume they need to compete on the first page.

While reviews are not the only component sellers should base their strategy off of, they do help sellers gauge how many reviews they should aim for to compete within their market.

For example, if the first page items have 200 reviews – sellers should implement a strategy to obtain or exceed that amount.

Sellers should put aside certain amounts of inventory to roll out for campaign purposes to help boost reviews. They should also implement a follow-up email strategy to maximize their customer engagement opportunity through each and every sale.

Q. How do you prevent unauthorized resellers from selling a product that they received for free (for review purposes)?

A. For some sellers this has become another way to practice retail arbitrage. According to O’Brien, iLoveToReview has built elements into their system to try and prevent this from happening, but it’s not a perfect scenario.

One of the most effective ways to prevent this from happening is to register your company with the Amazon Brand Registry. The Amazon Brand Registry program establishes you as the brand owner and can help determine what your rights are as a seller.

There is no silver bullet for this type of situation, but one thing CPC Strategy has done is to enroll their clients into Amazon’s Frustration Free Packaging program. FFP ASINs are restricted and only manufacturers or authorized sellers are allowed to sell FFP products on Amazon.

If you are an authorized seller of an FFP product, you can request authorization to sell the FFP product on Amazon. If you are not the brand/manufacturer, you need authorization from the brand/manufacturer to list against the FFP ASIN.

Essentially, if a brand’s existing packaging qualifies for FFP, Amazon will not allow any other unauthorized sellers to bid against that listing (without their approval under FFP). As a result, FFP can provide brands with a significant advantage over the Buy Box and help protect them against unauthorized sellers.

Q. Is there a benefit to publicly replying to negative reviews?

A. We definitely think so. Any way that sellers can engage their customers online, it’s only going to help promote your brand. It’s a great way to show customers you care and that you are trying to work through the problem. It can be a little risky so sellers should make sure that when they do respond to a negative review they shouldn’t be too defensive or let their emotional attachment to the brand get in the way.

Best practice is to sympathize with the customer and show that you genuinely want to address their concern. Ask lots of questions to show that you are interested in resolving the issue at hand – whether that be because of a delivery issue or a problem with the product itself.

Q. In the latest Amazon TOS update, what qualifies as “offering an excessive number of free or discounted products, in exchange for reviews”?

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A. Many Amazon sellers provide product(s) for free or at a discount in exchange for unbiased reviews to help increase their product reviews and seller ranking.

Nothing in the new update changes that. 

Regardless of what you have heard, providing products for free or at a discount in exchange for a review is within TOS and encouraged by Amazon.

In the updated terms, seller support is referring to when sellers provide multiple units to the same person. According to O’Brien, sellers are doing this for two reasons: to manipulate the review and to manipulate the rank.

Amazon will continue to crack down on black hat practices with continued efforts to strengthen their review platform. For more tips on how to increase Amazon Product Reviews, email tara@cpcstrategy.com.

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About the AuthorTara graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Journalism / Business. Her passion for creative publishing and quality reporting landed her work opportunities at several companies in Massachusetts, New York and California. She is a leading voice behind CPC Strategy’s Blog. See all posts by this author here.