It almost goes without saying, but we're living in the age of reviews. As products and services have shifted online, consumers are forced to discover and evaluate these products in non-tangible ways. One way consumers do this is by reading product reviews. This is especially true on sites such as Amazon.
As a result, one of the most common questions we get at Reviewbox is "as a brand, how do we get more people to leave reviews for our products?". While our discussion will focus on Amazon, many of these strategies can also be applicablied across your various e-commerce channels.
Before discussing strategies for gathering product reviews, let's quickly review Amazon's terms of service. Specifically let's be clear: do not ever offer discounts or free products in return for reviews (either positive, negative, or anything in between).
This is a relatively recent change in Amazon's policy (made in mid 2017). Before this policy change there was an entire industry built around managing promotional reviews. Unfortunately for that industry, this policy effectively killed that business model.
Here's a link to the full terms-of-service.
So to re-iterate, all of the strategies we're going to discuss will not be predicated on any discounts or free products.
There are multiple strategies that we're going to explore. For each strategy we'll briefly cover how to implement the strategy and discuss some pros/cons. The key thing to understand is that manufacturers are both more limited than Amazon 3P sellers while simultaneously having more options. So without further ado, let's get started!
The VINE program is the only sanctioned method to offer discounted items in exchange for reviews. It is run by Amazon and is exclusive to vendors. Basically as a vendor you can submit your products to Amazon and eventually Amazon will send these items to a curated pool of VINE reviewers. Once a reviewer has received an item, they are obliged to post a review within 30 days.
Reviews that go through this program are specifically marked. Here's an example:
While this a great program, there are a couple caveats: first, VINE is expensive. Typically vendors will pay upwards of several thousands of dollars per product to participate. In addition, Amazon strictly limits the number of units that are shipped (typically 15 - 100 depending on the category). So this means that you'll only be able to generate a few reviews per product via this program.
Because of the cost and unit limitations, VINE may only make sense in a limited number of scenarios. For brands launching new products that need to generate a few reviews quickly this may be a great option (assuming that the price is affordable).
So to summarize:
- Simple to execute
- Will definitely generate reviews
- Cost is high per ASIN and per review
- Not scalable and limited to a few reviews per ASIN
- Not available to brands with Seller Central accounts
- Launching new products
Another strategy that's quite popular with third-party sellers is to send out review solicitation emails after a customer has purchased an item. Typically this is done using some sort of automated solution. There are several great things about this strategy including:
- Controlling how frequently emails are sent out
- Controlling which specific ASINs to send out emails
- Controlling messaging across different customers and orders
In order to employ this strategy, however, you'll need access to the customer's contact information (i.e., you're using Seller Central). Manufacturers that are exlusively on Vendor Central simply don't have access to this information. If, however, you're employing a dual Vendor/Seller Central accounts any orders that come through via SC will be eligible for this strategy.
A couple important points to note regarding this strategy: first not all customers that receive emails will actually leave a review, second if you send too many of these emails the customer may eventually become annoyed. So you'll need to strike a balance.
So to summarize:
- Many 3P tools available to help automate this process
- Will generate verified reviews
- Need a Seller Central account
- If the ASIN does not sell well on the 3P side may not generate many reviews
- Already using Seller Central
- New products not available on Vendor Central
A strategy similar to the previous Seller Central option is to send out automated review requests using your brand's own e-commerce portal. For example, if a customer purchases new shoes from Nike.com they may receive an email a week after they've received the item asking them to leave a review. Assuming the brand wants them to leave the review on Amazon, the link in the email should directly point to the proper ASIN page.
Like the Seller Central strategy, brands are able to control which items and customers receive these emails. Unlike the previous strategy, however, there are a couple important differences.
- You don't need a Seller Central account (although you will need to sell products via your own e-commerce portal).
- Reviews generated by this approach will be unverified. Unverified reviews are often seen as inferior, but are still better than nothing at all. Just make sure that the review mentions where the customer actually purchased the item.
- You'll need to use some sort of marketing automation software that integrates with your e-commerce solution (e.g., Shopify, Magento, Demandware, etc.).
This is a great strategy for brands that are already selling items on their own e-commerce portal. Assuming that you're already using software to send out purchase confirmation emails, this is a relatively simple strategy to implement that can start yielding dividends right away. Another huge benefit to this solution is that it gives the brands direct control over which products to emphasize.
So to summarize:
- Straightforward to get started with quick turn-around
- Does not rely on additional Amazon accounts
- Scales well for products in a variety of different lifecycles
- Reviews are unverified
- Requires that brands sell items on their own e-commerce sites
- Increasing reviews of new and existing products
- Use customized URL tracking in the follow up email to see how often customers click through to leave a review
- Experiment with different lengths of time before sending the follow up email
Last but certaintly not least, brands can insert paper slips into the packaging (or equivalently modify the physical packaging). Most likely you'll want the slip to include additional information about the product including any warranty information. In order to encourage the customer to leave a review, the slip should include the URL to visit to leave the review.
While conceptually simple, this strategy has a couple drawbacks. First, if you aren't including physical slips already in your packaging this might be cumbersome to implement. Second, because the customer has to actually type in the URL manually fewer people will leave reviews. This second problem can be somewhat alleviated if customers already register their items for warranty purposes. In that case, you can even combine this strategy with the previous strategy of sending follow-up emails. So, for example, after the customer registers the item, send them a follow up asking for a review.
So to summarize:
- Unobtrusive customer experience
- May be complex to implement
- Least likely to generate reviews
- Products that already include packaging slips for warranty or registration purposes
- Include a QR code in the packaging slip so that the customer can scan it to register the item and leave a review
As a modern brand, it's going to be increasingly important for you to think about how to manage, curate, and generate reviews for your products. Without an ongoing stream of new reviews, sales will suffer and ultimately competitors will eat into your marketshare.
In this post, we examined a few different strategies for generating reviews that can be widely applied for a variety of manufacturers that are on Amazon's Vendor Central platform.
The key take-aways are:
- Leverage the strategy that aligns well with your existing processes and technologies
- Implement multiple strategies if possible
- Use different strategies for products at different lifecycles
As you're implementing these strategies, it will be important to keep track of what's working by monitoring your reviews via a platform like Reviewbox. If you'd like to learn more about how to do that or want to discuss any of these strategies in more detail send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.