Rincentivized Review Policy Update 10 24

Amazon Incentivized Reviews Update – October 24, 2016

Yesterday, October 24, 2016, Amazon sent an email to its Marketplace sellers stating that anyone selling products that have received incentivized reviews in the past will get their Amazon privileges suspended or terminated if they attempt to acquire additional incentivized reviews moving forward.

This shouldn’t be a surprise considering Amazon already told sellers this already on October 3, 2016. But receiving an email directly from Amazon will certainly provoke sellers to take another look at the Terms of Service to ensure they are in compliance.  

We have received questions as to what Amazon considers acceptable and this email clarifies a lot of those questions.  

Prohibited Amazon Seller Activities

  • You cannot provide a free or discounted product, gift card, rebate, cash payment, or other compensation in exchange for the review.
  • You cannot provide or withhold free or discounted products or other benefits in the future based on whether the customer writes a review.
  • You cannot use a review service where reviewers’ continued membership depends on writing reviews.
  • You cannot use a review service where you can rate customers based on their reviews.
  • You cannot use a review service where customers register their Amazon public profile so that you can monitor their reviews of your products.

Approved Amazon Seller Activities

  • You may offer discounts that are generally available to all Amazon customers, such as Lightning Deals.
  • You may give out free products at trade shows, conventions, or other similar venues where you are unable to monitor whether the recipients write a review or provide or withhold any benefits based on whether a review is written or the content of the review.

Actions Snagshout Has Taken to Uphold Compliance with Amazon

October 4, 2016

  • Notified all shoppers that they are no longer receiving deals in exchange for a review.
  • Notified sellers they should no longer expect reviews from Snagshout shoppers.
  • Removed the requirement to leave a review to get more snags; shoppers get more snags every 5 days.
  • Updated Snagshout terms of services and FAQ to reflect these changes.
  • Published alerts and notifications to Snagshout to ensure that shoppers and sellers were clear on the changes.

October 12, 2016

  • Took Snagshout offline to roll major updates and to ensure every shopper and seller was aware of the changes.
  • Removed the ability to track reviews within Snagshout.
  • Removed the requirement for shoppers to link their Amazon account to get deals.
  • Updated the messaging and design to transition into a deals-only platform.
  • Relaunched Snagshout as a deals-only platform.
  • Launched Syndicated Deals allowing sellers to advertise their deals on other deal platforms.

Moving Forward

We have taken—and will continue to take—every necessary step to ensure that our business practices and platform remain completely in line with Amazon’s policies. Amazon has made it abundantly clear it does not want sellers to offer products where there is any obligation—direct or implied—to leave product reviews. Amazon also doesn’t want platforms where shoppers are rated based on their reviews or are required to supply their Amazon profile information in order to join. We have eliminated these aspects from Snagshout to ensure our customers are following the Amazon policy.

We will continue to update our customers and readers with our insights whenever Amazon makes a policy update. Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.


Amazon’s Email to Marketplace Sellers

Hello,

We recently updated our policies to prohibit incentivized reviews, including those posted in exchange for a free or discounted copy of the product. You are receiving this email because products you sell have received incentivized reviews in the past. If you attempt to acquire incentivized reviews going forward, your Amazon privileges will be suspended or terminated.

We consider a review to be incentivized if you have influenced or can influence the review directly or indirectly, including by monitoring whether a review is written and providing or withholding any future benefit based on whether a review is written or the content of the review. Below are a few examples where a review is considered incentivized and is not permitted:

You provide a free or discounted product, gift card, rebate, cash payment, or other compensation in exchange for the review.

You provide or withhold free or discounted products or other benefits in the future based on whether the customer writes a review.

You use a review service where reviewers’ continued membership depends on writing reviews.

You use a review service where you can rate customers based on their reviews.

You use a review service where customers register their Amazon public profile so that you can monitor their reviews of your products.

Incentivizing customer reviews violates our policies and may violate the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The following actions are generally allowed, provided you comply with the above restrictions:

You may offer discounts that are generally available to all Amazon customers, such as Lightning Deals.

You may give out free products at trade shows, conventions, or other similar venues where you are unable to monitor whether the recipients write a review or provide or withhold any benefits based on whether a review is written or the content of the review.

The above changes apply only to product categories other than books. We continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

For more information please visit the following Help pages:

Prohibited seller activities and actions:

https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/200386250

About Lightning Deals:

https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/202043200

About promotional content

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=202094170

Thank you for selling on Amazon.

Brandon Checketts

Brandon is one of the co-founders and main data geek for Seller Labs. He started Seller Labs after finding no other tools that could provide the flexibility needed for his used-book business. He no longer sells online, but now guides Seller Labs as the lead innovator to make sure that our products remain on the cutting edge.

  • Matt Hopkins

    The issue I see facing SnagShout is the snag limit. If I have reached my snag limit, the rest of the discounts are not generally available to me like Lightning Deals would be. Also, it seems the only explicitly approve method for distributing free products is in person at trade shows, conventions, etc. SnagShout would only be able to offer discounts up to 99%, theoretically.

    Thoughts?

    • Paul Johnson

      The issue Amazon is trying to prevent is merchants with holding deals until reviews are left. The Snag limit is kept to ensure that people are actually purchasing the product and not just trying to resell it on other marketplaces etc. It has nothing to do with reviews anymore. We don’t believe the Snag limit conflicts with Amazon policy or their intentions. Snagshout deals are generally available you don’t need to be approved or submit any type of reviewer information etc. Amazon has been in communication with us and they are aware of our changes. If they inform us the Snag limit is an issue we will of course remove it but as of right now we believe we comply with their policy. Also if you use the syndicated deal type in Snagshout which only allows general use codes it does not count against the Snag limit and those deals are also being syndicated to other sites besides just Snagshout.

      Regarding the discount question I think it’s a good idea not offer product for free any more. We still allow merchants to set their own price but we are no longer asking shoppers to leave reviews and you should only be selling your product to buyers who are willing to pay for them.

  • Unholyvoid

    Hello Paul,

    Could you please tell me;

    Offering promotions is still allowed right? yes.

    if a customer leaves a review after buying a promotion item, is that still allowed? According to current policy if there is no attempt to influence or manipulate that reviews, it is still allowed.

    So, if a customer leaves a review after buying an item via coupon code, how does amazon decides/knows if it is an incentivized review or not.

    Will amazon call or send an email to the customers and ask them “did you buy that item in exchange for a review?”
    Thank you.

    • Paul Johnson

      That’s a good question

      Short answer:
      You can still discount products and it’s ok if some of those sales result in reviews as long you can’t influence the buyer to review. Products with lots of discounted reviews may have reviews removed.

      Long answer:
      Time will tell how Amazon responds to these types of situations. I imagine it will work a lot like it did in the past. Amazon will have bots that delete some reviews that were purchased at a discount. I don’t believe Amazon is going to start suspending accounts if you get reviews on discounted products, that would be absurd but if high percentage of your discounted sales end up getting reviews that may trigger some inspection. I imagine that if you discounted 200 products and got 190 reviews it may set off some flags in Amazon. If Amazon discovered that type of activity they may send an email asking you to explain any services or tactics you use etc. As long as you were not using any type of platform that allows you to monitor shoppers reviews or incentivizes reviews I believe you would be ok. I think what will see more off is some discounted reviews getting removed by bots etc. I also think the shopper account and the price paid will factor whether Amazon removes discounted reviews. That said I don’t have great data where the thresholds will be, I’m relying heavily on my past experience on how Amazon deals with this sort of thing. I also know that Amazon really loves reviews but they also need to ensure the trust in their marketplace.

  • Grant Healy

    I have 3 questions/comments that I don’t really see being addressed:
    Q: Can I approach a buyer after sale and ask if they would review my product? I can ask for feedback so why can’t I ask for a review? I’m straight up asking for a review and not offering any incentive.
    Q: Let’s say I offer a coupon….the buyer buys……then like above I ask for a review. Again shouldn’t I be allowed to do this? Again I’m not offering any incentive.
    Q: Would these cases, if they are allowed, be considered as “verified purchases”?
    Just my 3 cents worth.
    Grant

    • Paul Johnson

      Yes you can follow up after the sale even if the buyer purchased with a discount. You can ask for a review but you can’t ask for a positive review. It’s best to do this follow up as part of the order. That’s why with Feedback Genius you can send messages based on actually delivery events like when the item is delivered. You can then send a message like:

      It looks like your item was just delivered please let us know if you have any issues by replying to this email. We would also love to know your opinion of our product please click here to leave a review.

      That is of course a simple message, you can test various copy to see what works best but you want to make sure you are providing great customer services. You want your messages focused on the customer and not just asking for reviews.

      Concerning the verified purchase badge Amazon often removes that badge for various reasons. Depending on several factors including item price, rating etc your review may or may not contain the badge. I don’t have a lot of data on when Amazon gives the verified badge but we will probably do some more research on this and publish the data in a future post.

  • Hilary

    Have you specifically told your shoppers to not add the disclaimer at the end of their review if they leave one? I believe that will be the biggest alert to Amazon. And I’m concerned that your shoppers are so used to doing it that they will still do it and not realise how badly that could affect the seller.

  • Carl

    Very Interesting site/plug-in to check for incentivized reviews.
    http://fakespot.com/