How to Get Amazon Reviews Without Incentivizing Customers

Greg MercerAmazon Policies, email best practices7 Comments

how to get amazon reviews without incentivizing the customer

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We Amazon sellers have all been through the end of incentivized reviews together and shared our thoughts, worries and experiences during this change which happened back in October 2016. I have already shared some of my thoughts on the matter, and been open about the fact that change is good, and that we should embrace the opportunity this brings to business owners. 

But what about strategies for moving forward? How do we continue to get (important) reviews, without incentivizing our customers? We asked Ivan Kreimer, an ecommerce business owner, ex online marketing consultant and content marketer to share his thoughts. 

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A history of the end of incentivized reviews…

For years to come, the 3 October will be known as the day Amazon as we know it changed forever.

On this date, Amazon decided to put an end to incentivized reviews, a practice most private label brands use to create a “halo effect” around their brand.

This change came after a study by ReviewMeta discovered, among other things, that incentivized reviews on average rated the product .38 stars higher than reviews that non-incentivized reviews.

These findings were no surprise. There were already many industry experts that were complaining about this problem and were asking for a solution.

Amazon’s reputation at stake

But the biggest problem for Amazon wasn’t just technical or user experience wise. The ReviewMeta study was a big PR hit to Amazon’s brand image: the aforementioned study was cited in many influential blogs and sites, including The Next Web, TechCrunch, USA Today, Business Insider, and Bloomberg.

Since Amazon is famous for its extensive line of products, their low prices, and great convenience, this news put their customer’s trust, one of Amazon’s core assets, on the line. They needed to fix this, or else, their business would be affected.

Their decision to stop allowing incentivized customer reviews cut through this problem, and will probably help Amazon get back on track.

The effect on the private label community

This was also a decision has hit the private label community like a sledgehammer. “Now what?” is the question you see most often around the different Amazon private label Facebook groups. The number one trick that most private labelers used to increase their sales velocity and trust is gone.

But all is not lost. Even though the easy hack is gone, there are still several ways to get non-incentivized reviews and increase the perception of your brand.

In this article, I will show you 3 legit tactics you can implement today to help you get those reviews for your Amazon brand.

 

Tactic #1: Marketing Inserts

Marketing inserts are small advertisement messages added inside the packaging of a product.

These inserts allow you to fulfill several goals, some of which are:

  • Surprising your customers in a cost-effective way, therefore increasing your customer’s loyalty and word-of-mouth
  • Increasing your revenue and average order value through targeted cross-sells
  • Delivering your customers with a personal message, which can help you get product reviews

Among all the different types of marketing inserts, like thank you cards, discounts, and cross-sells, we are interested in asking for a product review. It shouldn’t be the only thing you care about, but it should be your main goal for the purposes of this article. And since Amazon doesn’t forbid this type of messaging, you should take advantage of it.

How to Implement Marketing Inserts

Implementing a marketing insert is a simple and straightforward process.

Step #1: Frame the Review

The first thing you need to do is make sure you ask the question the right way. But simply asking for the review upfront doesn’t add any value to your customer’s life, neither it is effective. Always remember to ask yourself “what is it in for them?”.

The best way to frame the review is by highlighting the value your product adds to your customer’s life. Once you frame the review this way, you can ask them to share their experience with the rest of the world.

 

Step #2: Ask for the Review

Once you reaffirm the value added you have to ask them to leave a review. But even then you need to make the review a no-brainer for them.

In order to make it easier for your customers to add a review, you need to create a short URL that forwards them to your product’s review page. I have found this URL allows you to do so:

https://www.amazon.com/review/create-review/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_wr_but_lft?ie=UTF8&channel=reviews-product&asin=YOUR-PRODUCT-ASIN

Try it yourself with any product you want, and you will be taken to the product’s review page. Once you have the short URL created you will add it to your marketing insert.

 

Step #3: Design the Insert

Once you have framed and asked for the review and created the URL for them to leave that review, you need to design the marketing insert. This shouldn’t be too hard nor too complicated if you have a designer in your team. But even if you don’t, you should try to make it as simple as possible, as long as your branding doesn’t get affected.

thank you for your order card design example

You can find some examples of good marketing inserts for e-commerce stores in this article.

After you get the design done, you need to print it out and add it to your packaging. Most manufacturers that make their own packaging can do this for you. If you, on the other hand, have a separate packaging manufacturer, they will most certainly be able to do it for you.

 

Tactic #2: Email Follow-up Sequences

Email follow-up sequences, also called “drip campaigns”, are a series of messages sent to your customers throughout a period of time after a certain action has been taken.

 

Similarly to the marketing inserts, the goal of an e-commerce email post-purchase follow-up sequence is to provide value to your customers. This “value” can be defined as relevant information about the product purchased, customer support, useful guides related to the product, or any other type of content that makes your customer’s life better.

According to Yotpo, to increase the success rate of your follow-up sequences you should:

  • Add the store name as the sender’s name, which boosts conversion by 3.7% on average.
  • Include words in the subject line that signify a financial incentive to leaving a review (like “coupon, win, free, save, sale, and discount”), which have a positive impact, increasing the conversion rate from shoppers to reviewers by 18.5% on average. If you sell more than one product, you could give your customers a discount for another product. This may not be the best strategy in Amazon, as it may be considered a type of incentive, but it’s something to think about.
  • Include question marks in the review request subject lines, which lead to an average increase of 15.7%.

 

There are a number of tools that will help you set up and send your follow-up sequences, Jump Send is the one I use and recommend.

Important caveat: Make sure you don’t spam your customers with useless messages, as Amazon is under the spotlight for this as well. Just like it happened with incentivized reviews, if the situation persists they may stop allowing email follow-up sequences in the future.

 

How to Implement Email Follow-up Sequences

In order to implement a successful email follow-up sequence, you need to hit on the right timing and message. The words don’t matter as much as the moment in which the customer receives the message, and what they are asked to do based on that moment.

Just as asking for a review as soon as a customer purchases a product isn’t effective, neither it is to take too long to do it. Because of that, I would like to share a 3-email follow-up sequences you can borrow for your own campaigns. Just make sure you modify this structure to suit your own product and company’s message.

amazon follow up email sequence with jump send

Email #1: Purchase Confirmation

Goal: Thank them, be helpful, and ask for seller’s feedback.
Trigger: Immediately after purchase, or within 1 day of purchase.
Message: The idea of this email is to simply thank them for their purchase while giving them tips related to the product purchased.

Although it’s not necessary, I recommend you ask for seller’s feedback on this email, and skip the product review for the following emails. Seller feedback differs from the product review on that the former is about you as a seller, and not specific to a product.

 

Subject line: Thanks for your order of the {{ Product Name }}

Hello {{ Buyer First Name }},

Thanks again for ordering our {{ Product Name }}!

The available tracking information shows that your item is out for delivery today and you should be receiving it shortly.
When you receive your item, please make sure to verify that it was not damaged in transit. If there is any reason that you wouldn’t rate this as a 5-star experience, please let us know. If everything looks fine, we would appreciate if you could take a few seconds to click the link below and rate this transaction.
{{ Seller Feedback Link }}

We have spent a long time creating {{ Product Name }} and would love to know what you think of it.

Some things that may help you enjoy the product better:
ADD TIPS

In the meantime, you can view your order’s progress here: {{ Order Link }}

We will follow up with you shortly to make sure that you are happy with your purchase, but in the meantime don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need anything!
Sincerely,
Your name

 

Email #2: Purchase Follow-Up

Goal: Make sure they got the product right, help them with any problem they may have, and ask for a review.
Trigger: 2-10 days after Delivery.
Message: In this email, you focus on making sure the customer got the product in good condition while looking to see they don’t have any problems with it. This can help you reduce the number of negative reviews you get for your products.

You can also do the same you did in the previous email, and send them some tips to help them enjoy the product better.

Here’s another template you can use for this email:

Subject line: Following Up on Your Recent Amazon Purchase

Hi {{ Buyer First Name }},

Thank you again for your order of {{ Product Name }}. According to our records it was delivered about X days ago.

Please let us know right away if there is anything wrong with it so that we can correct it. And if you have any questions or concerns, we are here to help!

I also have one small favor to ask you, if everything has gone smoothly, I’d really appreciate it if you could take just a few seconds to leave feedback on your buying experience with us. It really affects our ability to sell and be successful and would be greatly appreciated.

You can provide seller feedback here:
{{ Product Review Link Button }}
Sincerely,
Your name

 

Email #3: Product Review

Goal: Help them with any problem they may have, and ask for a review.
Trigger: 10-15 days after Delivery.
Message: This is the final email you send them. In this email, your focus is on getting the product review while making sure they liked the product.

Here’s a final template you can use for this email:

Subject line: I hope you’re loving your {{ Product Name }}

Hi {{ Buyer First Name }},

It’s been a few weeks since you received your {{ Product Name }}. I just wanted to see if you have any questions or concerns about {{Product Name}}. If you do, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Furthermore, I hope you are truly loving our products and are happy with your purchase. As a small seller on Amazon, we are largely dependent on product reviews from wonderful customers such as yourself.

If our product has met or exceeded your expectations, please help us spread the word by leaving a review. You can do so here:
{{ Product Review Link Button }}

Your unbiased honest feedback helps ensure we keep doing things right and encourages us to keep sharing helpful tips!
Thanks again!
Sincerely,
Your name

 

More Emails?

If you want to add more emails to your email sequence, you can do it. However, I wouldn’t recommend it, because that could be considered both spammy for Amazon and annoying for your customers. Also, if you combine marketing inserts with email follow-up sequences, the chances of getting more reviews will considerably increase.

Tactic #3: Get Into The Vine Program

amazon vine program - amazon logo with review starsIn their announcement, Amazon said they “prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program”. This doesn’t mean they don’t allow incentivized reviews anymore, rather it means they want to control them through their own program because “Vine has important controls in place”.

Because of this, the Vine program is the only way to get those reviews we used to get through companies like Review Kick.

Why is everybody freaking out when they can still get those reviews through the Vine program?“, you must be wondering.

Here’s the problem:

  • In order to access the Amazon Vine program, you need to be in the Vendor Express or Vendor Central programs (the latter being invite-only). But that’s not the only problem.
  • According to this article, vendors pay an extra fee which can range from $2,500 to $7,500 per ASIN to access the Vine program. The number of units per promotion is limited from 15 to 100 depending on the category.

In the past, many brands didn’t want to apply for the Vendor Express program because of its disadvantages, including forfeiting pricing control, uncertainties regarding the profits despite the increase of sales volume, and delayed payments.

However, with this new situation, many brands should start to reconsider this, since it’s the only way to get incentivized reviews when launching new products. Brands with better cash flow won’t be affected by this, but smaller brands will. This does nothing but increase the barrier of entry to anyone who wants to launch a new product in the Amazon ecosystem.

Amazon Vine offers 3 level of services including:

  • Basic – Allows enrollment of 5 products
  • Plus – Allows enrollment of 10 products
  • Premium – Allows enrollment of 20 products

The fees to access the program will vary depending on the vendor. However, it has been indicated these fees can range between $2,500 to $7,500 per ASIN.

 

How to Get In Amazon’s Vine Program

According to Amazon, “Vine is an invitation-only program. All Vine products are submitted by vendors to Amazon and distributed by Amazon to the Vine Voices. Vendors have no contact with the Vine Voices, and have no influence over which Vine Voices will review their products.”

Once you are a Vendor and are accepted to the Vine program, the process goes like this:

  1. You enroll your product
  2. You ship the products to Amazon
  3. Your product gets featured in the Vne Monthly Newsletter for Vine Voices so the reviewers can select the product and order it
  4. Amazon ships the products you sent them to the Vine Voices (i.e. the reviewers), who in return post their reviews on your product’s page.

However, Amazon hasn’t stated yet what makes a brand “Vine-worthy” or how to get invited for this program. We could expect this to change in the near future once the interest on the Vine program increases.

Conclusion

We can all agree these 3 tactics aren’t as easy to implement, nor as effective as the previously incentivized reviews. But one thing is guaranteed: everyone in this business will be positively affected.

Customers will get better products on their hands, Amazon will improve its brand, and small business private label brands will be able to differentiate themselves with better quality products. As long as you focus on creating a high-quality product, your company will be safe.

 

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Ivan KreimerIvan Kreimer is a freelance content marketer that helps SaaS business increase their traffic, leads and sales. Previously, he worked as an online marketing consultant helping both small and large companies drive more traffic and revenue. He is also an e-commerce store owner, and a world traveler. 

 

 

Have you ever tried any of these 3 tactics shown on this article? If so, what was your experience like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Greg Mercer

Founder at Jump Send
Founder at Jungle Scout. Loves all things FBA. Digital Nomad. Amazon Data Nerd. Caffeine Enthusiast. Happiness Fanatic. Tweet him @mercer_greg

Comments 7

  1. Thanks for the awesome article! It is great to be able to setup these emails as I launched my first product a couple weeks ago and these emails are starting to go out with each purchase.

    But here is an issue that has come up now that Incentivized reviews are no longer allowed…

    I have been using promo codes to give out a good amount of product at the launch to drive of sales, and then following up with these emails that you mentioned, but today I received a review from someone and they added the ***I received this product at a discount in exchange for a review*** at the end of the review.

    I used these exact emails and never said anything about them having to leave a review. I don’t want my new seller account to get banned, especially since I was trying to do everything right.

    My guess is that this is a reviewer that does not know about the new rule changes. Should I contact the reviewer and let them know about the change and explain that we were not expecting a review in exchange for the discount?

    I don’t want to break other terms of service by asking the user to take down the review. What would you do about reviewers who maybe don’t know about these new changes? Thanks for the great articles!

    1. Amazon tracks gift cards and promo codes now, which means his product review will not show up anyway. You wont get banned, you just wont get the review, especially since they added the fact it was incentivized.

    2. I don’t think that you have to worry.

      There’s an old saying “Truth is the best lie”. I’ve heard of several people complaining about this but haven’t heard of anyone being penalized by Amazon for it.

      Just as me and you understand that you did it the right way then Amazon does as well.

      But I would refrain from contacting the reviewer because then you can open a can of worms. Leave it as is and don’t worry about it.

      That’s my thoughts.

    3. Hey Matt,

      Kym from the Jump Send team here. Did the review get through and displayed on your product?

      Sounds like the customer was still under the impression that discounted products meant you had to leave an incentivized review. Perhaps they just weren’t aware of it. As mentioned by others in this thread, if you didn’t break the rules I wouldn’t worry too much.

      If you did want to take any action, rather than reaching out to the customer, I would recommend reaching out to Amazon support.

      Cheers,
      Kym

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