Reviews are one of the most decisive parts of being an Amazon seller today. A vital form of social proof, positive reviews show customers that your product is of a good quality, dissuading the fears involved with buying something online. Thus, when you’re competing with a similar product at a similar price point, the one with more reviews and/or a higher average rating is likely to win out.
For a long time, a common practice among sellers was to pay people to review their products. Known as “incentivized” reviews, there would generally be an understanding that the review should be positive (5 stars) as well. The practice was so popular, clubs existed for people to give away free or discounted products and get reviews.
While Amazon began an attack on incentivized reviews with their October 2016 policy change, it appears Amazon review groups may not actually be dead. We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about these groups, and whether it’s a viable tactic for Amazon sellers to get reviews.
What Are Review Groups?
Review groups, or review clubs, are communities made to connect buyers who want free or cheap products, and sellers who want product reviews. The buyer expresses interest in a particular product and in return writes a favorable review. A signup and registration process even means the seller can follow up and ensure that:
- The review was posted
- The review was positive (5 stars)
It could also include a fee paid to the buyer for posting the review, along with a free product.
Around the same time that Amazon started their crackdown on incentivized reviews, they introduced the “verified purchase” tag. This made it tricky for review clubs, as reviews from products provided for free or a heavy discount would hold less weight.
However, most groups get around this by offering a reimbursement for buyers. They buy the product at full price, so it will be eligible for a verified purchase review. Once the review is posted, the seller will send the cost of their purchase back (generally via Paypal), plus a fee.
If this all sounds a little shady… that’s because it is. And Amazon agrees.
Amazon’s War on Inauthentic Reviews
Amazon’s crackdown on reviews started in 2016 and has been ramping up ever since. Not only are they banning sellers who take part in such groups, but they are also banning Amazon accounts of buyers. In a recently announced update to Amazon’s review policy, they made it clear that policy violations will result in anywhere from making a product ineligible for reviews, to legal action and making violators’ details public.
With consumer trust in Amazon reviews dropping, it’s clear that Amazon is serious about fixing the problem. Sellers are still noticing reviews disappearing today, even two years on from their initial policy change. So it doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.
Do Review Groups Still Exist Today?
Despite Amazon’s strict action against review groups and the clear danger to sellers (and buyers) who use them, many Amazon review clubs are still operating. Most exist on Facebook, while there are also several sites still up.
Due to the fact that they are against Amazon’s terms, groups are private and sites need a signup to view. However, it is all too easy for Amazon to have someone sign up and find out if you are using one of these groups. Making it a huge risk to take to get reviews.
The Best Ways to Get Product Reviews
Any kind of black hat tactic in the Amazon space is a bad idea. You’re going all out for a short-term gain. At best, the tactic is unsustainable and will likely be shut down in time. At worst, you’re going to get your account banned and your business gutted.
There are better ways! Don’t resort to desperate measures that could result in your account being banned. The vast majority of sellers use above-board methods to get reviews and do so successfully.
Post-purchase email sequences
Unless there is something extraordinary (good or bad) about an order, many people won’t think to leave a review. So something as little as a polite request for a review could be a way to convert a lot of your satisfied customers into positive reviews.
You will need to put a bit of thought into the wording of your requests. For a start, ensure you don’t sound too pushy. People don’t like to be bombarded with requests or offers after their purchase. Secondly, Amazon has rules about how you can ask for reviews (which just became more stringent). You can’t ask your customers to leave a positive review, and can’t offer any incentive for them to post a review (positive or otherwise).
The best practice observed by most sellers is to send one or two emails at the most. Ask how the customer’s order is, and politely ask if they would leave a review. It’s not perfect, especially since customers have the choice to opt out of communications from the Amazon buyer-seller messaging system. But every review counts.
Amazon Early Reviewer Program
Amazon observes that getting your first reviews can be hard. That’s why they offer the Early Reviewer Program – a service that helps sellers get a product off the ground.
Here’s how it works. Brand registered sellers can pay $60 to enroll one of their products in the program if the product has less than five reviews. Amazon will then select buyers of the product at random, offering a small Amazon gift voucher to the customer if they leave a review. The review may not necessarily be positive, all Amazon asks is that it is an honest review.
Amazon will provide up to five reviews from the program. If you get all five (Amazon will try for a year to get reviewers for you), it puts it at a cost of $12 per review. In most cases, this will be cheaper than offering free products in an illegal review group. And without the risk. It’s obviously not a long-term solution, but can help get things moving.
Build a brand your customers love
In the long run, you need a sustainable way to get a lot of organic, legal reviews. The best way to do that is having a base of loyal customers who want to support your brand.
The first step to doing this is putting out great products, along with excellent customer service. But that alone isn’t enough. You need to win a place in the internal conversation going on in the mind of your customer. Having awesome products, cool packaging & great customer service is a good start. But being on Amazon alone is probably not enough to really accomplish this. The more touch points the better – email, paid traffic, social, SEO content, for example. Tailor your communication to each source, and put out a variety of content. Video, blog, helpful content, entertaining content, and occasional sales or promotions to keep your customers coming back and encourage engagement.
This is where LandingCube can help you out. Amazon limits the amount of contact you can have with your customers post-purchase. But if you capture customers and their contact information before they buy on Amazon, you can start to develop a following – completely within Amazon’s terms. LandingCube also helps you to run discount promo code campaigns, which help you boost sales & rankings on Amazon.
Building a powerful brand is easier said than done. But if you put the work in, it will be well worth it.
Amazon Review Groups: In Summary
Have no doubt, review clubs are still around today. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use them. The prevailing wisdom is they are not worth the potential consequences for your business.
Despite the fact some sellers are still using shortcuts to try and get ahead, any high-level sellers will tell you the best way to get reviews (and keep them) is to do it by the book. Make a lot of sales, craft engaging follow-up sequences, and build a business your customers love.