Amazon Clamps Down on Incentivized Customer Reviews

Howdy E-Commerce Gurus:

Another day, another huge blow to Amazon Marketplace Sellers.   It seems like every few weeks we’re posting news about major modifications that Amazon is making on their platform.

Today’s blow is especially tough for “Private Labelers” who rely on incentivizing sales in exchange for reviews.   Effective today, Amazon will no longer allow product reviews for items that were purchased via incentives or discounts with the exception of items given away through the Amazon Vine program.  (see the Amazon blog for the full update)

This disrupts a huge surge in product reviews with the required “I received this item at a discount in exchange for my honest review” that is prevalent on products that are launched by new sellers or existing sellers with new products.   The strategy in the past has been to use review clubs, lists, or services to offer discount coupon codes so that customers can purchase your items in exchange for an “unbiased” review.

One such review service, “ReviewKick” sent this email to customers shortly after the announcement:

This is a brief but important note:  

Amazon has updated its Customer Reviews policy to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program.  I have written a blog post to update the situation more fully here.

We are still investigating to see exactly how this effects you as a Review Kick seller. However, please note that we are no longer requiring customers who purchase your product on Review Kick to offer a product review.

We believe that there is still a strong correlation between sales velocity and Best Sellers Rank, so your promotional giveaways still have the advantage of improving your organic ranking. We are confirming this with internal tests.

In the meantime, we also believe that email correspondence with customers will be increasingly important to convert customers into reviewers.

At this time, it is in your best interest to ensure that you are running well-timed and relevant emails to your customers.  If you have not set these up yet, we recommend you do so here.

We will be sure to post any updates on our blog as soon as we get them.

Customer reviews have always been a big way to validate products and earn new sales.   Sadly, the overwhelming majority of Amazon shoppers who make a purchase will never stop to leave a product review.   This will make it much more difficult to launch new products and demonstrate validation.  At the same time, many would argue that the “incentivized reviews” were not bringing validation because of the required disclaimer.

How do you feel about this change?  Is it good or bad?  If you’re a private labeler, how will you be proactively recruiting reviews on your new products?

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