The internet has made many things easier for companies, retailers, and customers. There are a number of advantages, especially for customers who have the ability to provide feedback and write reviews. In this article, you can learn why reviews are so important for customers and retailers. We also explain how you can encourage customers to leave a review on your product page.
Reviews can draw attention to a product or warn other potential buyers about it. This gives customers an unprecedented degree of power over retailers and even puts brands in the position of having to explain themselves.
This is particularly true of sales platforms like Amazon, where the review and star rating system is a core aspect of the user interface. Whilst reviews can hurt your sales, they are also a source of invaluable user feedback.
Later in this article, we cover review tracking and the problems caused by fake reviews. We’ll also reveal how you can use both positive and negative reviews to your advantage.
Why are Amazon reviews important?
Amazon reviews are important in a number of ways for both buyers and retailers. They have a huge impact on what sells and what customers avoid.
Customers do not simply read and trust the sales text. Rather, they are interested in what other buyers have to say about a product.
The trust that customers place in such reviews is based on the fact that other buyers have no financial interest in writing a review, i.e. that they didn’t get paid for it and are instead expressing their honest opinion.
This is what is known as social proof. If your product has received lots of ratings and reviews, it is easier to convert visitors to your product page into buyers, even if there are some negative voices among them.
If no one has left a review, on the other hand, this tends to arouse distrust among customers and can have a strong deterrent effect.
Sometimes, reviews don’t just discuss the quality of the product material and how it works. Whilst these factors certainly play an essential role in the reviews, customers will often also review the packaging and the service provided by the vendor.
The quality of the service provided helps decide whether sellers secure the Buy Box. This is a small area on product pages where the buttons “Buy now” and “Add to cart” are located. It is also where other traders who offer similar products are located.
This space is highly coveted, as it provides products with greater visibility to potential customers. The following factors play a major role in getting into the Buy Box and thus generating more sales:
- Shipping method
- Total cost (selling price and shipping costs)
- Shipping time: faster shipping will help earn a higher customer rating
- Order failure rate
- Prefulfilment cancellation rate
- Late delivery rate
- Punctuality rate
- Return dissatisfaction rate
- Average seller ratings – Amazon gives more weight to recent ratings. This means newer positive reviews count more than older negative ones and vice versa.
- Speed of response to customer enquiries – merchants should respond to these within the first 24 hours of the enquiry.
- Are customers dissatisfied after contacting customer service, or was the merchant able to help them with their query? This is one of the questions that Amazon asks its customers.
- If the refund rate is high, this indicates that there is a problem. If it is low, on the other hand, it is assumed that the merchant is reliable.
As you can see, service quality plays an important role, and it would be a serious mistake to neglect it.
What are the guidelines regarding Amazon reviews?
Amazon takes customer reviews extremely seriously and attaches great importance to them. This means that the platform pays close attention to ensure that traders do not gain an unfair advantage and use so-called Blackhat methods. You should therefore follow all of the following rules.
Do not create financial incentives for reviews
In 2016, traders were allowed to offer products cheaper or even free of charge in return for reviews from customers. This strategy helped a large number of sellers to earn lots of reviews and thus gain popularity.
However, those days are now over. Amazon discovered that these incentives led to excessively positive reviews. These positive votes seemed neither justified nor realistic. In the same way, it is forbidden to offer money directly for reviews.
This kind of bribery is also harmful to Amazon: if customers can no longer trust the rating and review system, they might buy via other platforms. Consequently, Amazon deletes fake reviews and praise.
This is especially true of reviews that have not been marked with the “Verified Purchase” label. If Amazon catches the responsible parties, it can lead to them getting banned. A seller who attempts to push their own products using dishonest means has to start all over again and often lose substantial sums of money.
However, some traders remain undeterred and continue to break the rules. In doing so, however, they are permanently blocked and thus lose the opportunity to trade on one of the largest online marketplaces in the world.
Note: The exact criteria that Amazon uses in its searches for false reviews are unknown. Rumour has it that even legitimate reviewers and sellers have had to put up with bans and deletions. Unfortunately, Amazon is not entirely transparent in this regard.
No more cherry-picking of positive reviews
Another strategy that Amazon has put an end to within the last few years is the cherry-picking of positive reviews. In other words, sellers cannot ask customers that they know are positive about their brand for ratings and reviews.
You cannot and should not ignore neutral or negative customer experiences. Deletions of reviews are only permitted when certain conditions are met:
- If the language is offensive or vulgar
- If the reviews contain personal data pertaining to the trader
- If it can be proven that the review is fake
Amazon deletes a review if:
- Only the delivery was rated and Amazon had been responsible for fulfilling the order. In such circumstances, Amazon omits what was written and also publishes a statement that Amazon alone, and not the retailer, had been responsible for the shipping and accepts responsibility for any problems that may have arisen.
- The criticism refers to orders that did not arrive on time or did not arrive at all and had been shipped using the “Buy shipping fee” function. In this case, too, Amazon assumes responsibility and absolves the merchant of blame.
If one of the above applies to a review of your product, you can request for the review to be deleted.
Requesting Amazon reviews
There are several ways in which sellers can generate organic reviews. You can use methods inside and outside Amazon’s management system to encourage customers to write a review.
Amazon’s review request emails
Amazon automatically asks those who have purchased a product to leave a review. This is a standard neutral message sent by email, and it also asks about any problems that customers may have had with the product or service. Amazon only makes one automatic request for a review. For all further requests, the merchant must be more actively involved.
Use Amazon’s request a review button
If you do not receive a review in response to the automatic request, you can click the “Request a Review” button after 4-30 days after a purchase has been made. Amazon will then send another auto-generated email to the customer asking for feedback. The chances that the customer will respond to a second email are much higher.
Tip: It is a bit tedious to work through each individual order and click the “Request a Review” for each. There are special tools for Amazon sellers that make tasks like this much easier and quicker.
Register your product for Amazon Vine
Have you registered your brand with Amazon and received fewer than 30 reviews for a product so far? Then you should use the Amazon Vine Programme. This allows you to send 30 copies of your inventory free of charge to trusted reviewers who then write a review about the item that they received.
Whilst this service is free, Amazon must first approve you for the programme. Shipping must also be undertaken via Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA).
From a purely technical point of view, this procedure could be seen as an incentive, which is not desired or permitted according to Amazon guidelines. The difference, however, is that the reviewers are people who have been selected and verified by Amazon.
The reviews from this programme usually arrive 5-35 days following receipt of the goods. Reviews from Amazon Vine can help newcomers in particular to give their brand an edge.
However, they must expect that the feedback they receive may not always be 100% positive and could even be very negative. Reviewers are encouraged to be open about their opinions.
Messages via the Amazon Seller messaging service
Sellers can also use the Seller Messaging Service or even automated third-party systems to send messages to customers. However, Amazon has limited the number of messages that can be sent using this service. You are also only allowed to send messages to your customers if you are:
- Trying to resolve issues with the processing of an order
- Providing information that is required to process an order
- Asking questions about a return
- Sending an invoice
- Requesting a product review or customer feedback
- Planning for the delivery of a heavy or bulky product and working to ensure that customers receive their orders without problems
Messages like these, on the other hand, are not allowed by Amazon:
- Order and shipping confirmations
- Thank-you notes or indications that the retailer is available to help with any problems
- Marketing and promotional messages, including coupons
- Attempts (however subtle) to persuade customers to write positive reviews
- Offers of compensation, money, coupons, free products, discounts, or other benefits for positive reviews
- Requests to update or withdraw negative reviews
- Repeated requests for a product review.
Creating a contact list
The messaging service is heavily regulated, and so you need to find other ways to connect with your customers and establish your brand outside of Amazon. This also makes sense in business terms, because you’re not just making yourself dependent upon one marketplace and one marketing channel.
A contact or email list is a good step towards independence. You can reach out to your customers or followers via social media platforms. Alternatively, you can set up a business blog and ask your visitors to subscribe to a newsletter or join an email list.
Blog and social media accounts bring other benefits: they enable you to tell your brand story outside of Amazon and away from the product. This helps you build stronger brand loyalty.
Using the email addresses and contacts that you collect, you can freely ask your customers for reviews and without restrictions. Marketing measures, special offers, and discounts that Amazon does not allow can also be sent through these channels.
Be careful not to bother your target audience, as you run the risk of annoying them or scaring them away, which will, in turn, damage your brand.
Using product inserts
A popular way to encourage customers to review a product is to use a product insert. This could take the form of a business card that asks the buyer for a review.
However, there are some restrictions here that you should keep in mind:
- Stay neutral when asking for a review. Requests for five-star reviews violate Amazon guidelines.
- Draw attention to your customer service and communicate useful information about your company and product. However, be careful not to lapse into overly promotional language.
- Financial incentives for a review are also not allowed
Alternatively, you can use this insert to ask your customers to follow you on social media or sign up for an email list.
Note: An insert can only be added to a shipment if you ship your products yourself. In other words, you have to opt for the fulfilment-by-merchant (FBM) option.
Responding to negative reviews
Producing and selling high-quality products is a great way to defuse negative voices in advance. Beyond that, the only thing that will help you is providing a first-class, responsive customer service. Make sure that you are friendly, helpful and effective in dealing with customer queries.
Third-party tools also include features that notify you of negative reviews. However, Amazon no longer allows merchants to comment publicly on reviews and justify themselves.
Note: You are also not allowed to use the Seller Central messaging feature to contact customers who have written a negative review about your product.
Amazon review analysis: the purpose and benefit for your business
Analysing customer reviews provides you with invaluable insights into customer experiences and how people feel about your products. You also stay up to date with developments and changes in the market.
Customers don’t just tell you what they like or dislike about a particular item. They describe what they expect from future products and from the brand, and they often tell you what they miss.
These reviews can be used to identify customer’s pain points and any problems that they might have encountered.
You should use the information provided by these reviews to plan subsequent products and projects that you wish to introduce to the market.
Incidentally, this applies not only to the reviews of your own products but also to those of your competitors. For example, if you look at the feedback that your competitors receive but ignore, you can anticipate problems and gain important advantages.
What are fake reviews and how can you recognise them?
In addition to the honest and helpful reviews, there are unfortunately also fake reviews. Amazon does its best to prevent them, but some of them still fall through the cracks.
In any case, you should refrain from publishing fake reviews or having them published. Whilst they may bring you short-term profits, in the long run you will only damage your brand’s reputation and mislead your customers. Long-term customer loyalty is virtually impossible.
With a little practice and knowledge of the typical signs, you can recognise fake reviews from competitors:
- They often sound unnatural and use promotional language. They also often use the name of the product in the hope of improving their SEO rankings.
- Companies that pay reviewers usually specify certain keywords or keyword phrases to be used repeatedly. If you notice such repetition, it could be a fake review.
- Lack of detail, or very brief reviews, are also tell-tale signs. This is especially true if there are several five- or one-star reviews that are very light on detail.
- The reviewer had a completely different experience with the product than all or most other reviewers.
- If a review offers an obscure alternative, you can safely assume that it’s a fake review from a competitor.
Even with these clues, you will occasionally come across product reviews whose legitimacy is difficult to verify. There are third-party apps and tools like ReviewMeta and FakeSpot that analyse product reviews in more depth and then tell you which reviews seem fake or could be genuine.
However, it is highly likely that there will always be one or two fake reviews for popular products,. You have to ask yourself whether it’s worth reporting them to Amazon. In any case, they cannot greatly distort a product’s overall rating.
The situation is different if there are a large number of fake reviews. In this case, you should consider clicking the “Report abuse” button next to the review in question.
There are several options that allow you to continuously follow and analyse the developments in your reviews and those of your competitors. You can visit your product pages and those of your competitors on a regular basis and examine new reviews.
This approach involves a deep dive into individual customer testimonials and looking at the information that they provide. You can then make decisions about the product, its design, the marketing, etc. on the basis of this feedback.
However, this tactic requires a lot of time and is best suited to small companies that only offer a few products and only has to contend with a limited number of competitors. The bigger the brand, the greater the amount of work and time that is required. Some entrepreneurs use interns or freelancers for this task. Freelancers can prove very expensive, however.
So-called Amazon Review Trackers are quicker and cheaper. You simply enter the URL of the product page whose reviews you want to track. The tool recognises selected keywords and notices when new reviews have been added.
You can thereby efficiently filter relevant data from a multitude of reviews and gain valuable insights into the experiences and mindsets of your customers.