Amazon has once again changed its review policies. It is now against its terms of service to provide a free or discounted product in exchange for a review. This is the end of incentivized product reviews for third-party merchants. You can read about the change in several different places on Amazon.com. I believe the Seller Central message sums it up best:
“Amazon no longer permits providing free or discounted products in exchange for reviews.”
What does Amazon mean exactly?
Can I use third-party services to provide free or discounted products to reviewers?
No. The policy applies regardless of whether you compensate reviewers directly or through a third party.
When and how will this policy be enforced?
The policy is effective immediately. If you continue to offer free or discounted products in exchange for a review, your Amazon privileges may be suspended or revoked.
Can I continue to provide discounts and promotions to customers?
Yes. You may continue to offer discounts and promotions as long as they are not in exchange for reviews.
What constitutes a review “in exchange” for a free or discounted product?
“We do not allow any benefit to be offered, requested, or provided in exchange for a review.”
Why is Amazon doing this?
Amazon released a statement on the About Amazon blog explaining its rationale. Reviews are valuable on Amazon, including incentivized product reviews. Amazon merchants face a catch-22: No reviews mean no sales, and no sales mean no reviews. Incentivized product reviews, as long as they are honest, can make a sound foundation for quality Amazon products.
Over the past two years, there have been many of platforms created to help Amazon merchants get reviews in exchange for giving a product away for a discount. Most of these platforms allowed merchants to select reviewers individually and only select reviewers who would leave favorable reviews. Some programs even kicked out reviewers who consistently left negative reviews. These tactics forced Amazon to change the rules to ensure the integrity of the marketplace.
What does this mean for merchants?
Like it or not, Amazon is not going to allow merchants to give products away in exchange for a review. To help get initial sales and reviews, merchants will need to drive traffic to products using various marketing techniques like sponsored products off-Amazon advertising. Merchants can then follow up with those sales offering excellent customer service and asking for an honest review of the product. These reviews will have no implied contract of review for a discount, and the reviewers will not be required to have a discount disclaimer.
What will happen to existing incentivized product reviews?
Amazon has offered very little information about this. We believe it may remove some reviews they consider excessive, but only time will tell.
If I sell a product with a coupon code, and the buyer leaves a review, will it get removed?
Discounting products on Amazon is not going away. It is a very effective form of marketing and helps drive sales to products. Amazon will more than likely look at accounts that have excessively discounted reviews and may consider removing some. Currently, Amazon has not been that aggressive in removing discounted reviews. The amount of the discount, the ratio of reviews and the frequency will all play into this. Millions of products are going to be purchased with discount codes. Many of them will get legitimate reviews. We don’t believe Amazon will be deleting all of those reviews.
How should I get reviews now?
You need to use a tool like Feedback Genius to follow up with shoppers offering excellent customer service and ask them to review your products. You will also need to find effective ways to drive sales to your products like Amazon PPC advertising.
We have been a big supporter of allowing anybody to review products, and not introducing selection bias toward sellers that only leave positive reviews. We have left the platform open to anybody because we believe that shoppers want to hear from regular users, not just those who have worked their way up the Amazon ranking system.
We do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written;
We have always required honest reviews, and not penalized reviewers for being critical.
This is one item that we haven’t done specifically. Our pricing has indirectly influenced this, but we’ve never enforced a maximum, which, in hindsight would have been reasonable, but probably would not have changed their decision.
Watch or listen to the webinar replay to learn more about how this Amazon policy update affects sellers.