The Amazon Early Reviewer Program: A Solution for Private Label Sellers Coping With the Loss of Incentivized Reviews
This is post was written and researched by Liran Hirschkorn.
Ironically, what is now the hardest part of private label operations was once the easiest part. I’m talking about incentivized reviews, of course. Prior to October 2016, getting reviews was as easy as posting in a review group on Facebook or using a review service that had buyers ready and willing to buy your product at 50-90% off in exchange for an “honest” review. But after Amazon got hammered with bad publicity in the form of data showing that reviews exchanged for discounts had higher overall star ratings, Amazon pulled the plug on incentivized reviews.
With incentivized reviews off the table, private label sellers were now challenged with figuring out how to get reviews, particularly when launching a new product. Amazon, too, recognized that getting those first initial reviews had become quite challenging and the retail giant wanted to find a happy medium that kept the integrity of reviews while helping sellers (and themselves) at the same time. That’s why it created the Early Reviewer Program.
Enter the Early Reviewer Program
In the wake of discontinuing incentivized reviews, Amazon announced the upcoming release of an alternative: the Early Reviewer Program. After a beta period of six months or so, the Early Reviewer Program is now live in your Seller Central account (under the Advertising tab).
Here is how the program works: If you’re a brand owner, you can submit any SKUs that are currently over $15 and have fewer than five reviews. Amazon will then email buyers who have recently purchased your product (as well as future buyers shortly after their purchases), asking them to review your product. Amazon will offer those customers a $1-3 Amazon credit as a thank-you for leaving a review. As a seller, your cost to enroll a SKU is $60, however, you don’t get charged until Amazon gets you at least one review for that SKU. Amazon will continue to email customers for a period of up to one year, or until you get five reviews through the program. When you enroll a SKU, you want to make sure you enroll the parent SKU so that all children will be included, in that enrollment fee.
Isn’t that the Same as Incentivized Reviews?
Wait—first, Amazon ended incentivized reviews; now, mere months later, they’re paying customers to leave reviews? Correct. But here is why these reviews shouldn’t be considered incentivized; the difference comes down to the fact that everything happens post purchase with the Early Reviewer Program. When customers purchase your product, they are not getting a discount on that purchase price and they are not aware that they might get an offer to leave a review post purchase. On top of that, they are also being offered a very small amount of money to write the review, $1-3 in Amazon credit, which is not the same as the 90%-off offers customers were getting for incentivized reviews prior to October 2016. $1-3 (in credit to be spent again at Amazon) is not likely to sway a customer to suddenly write a glowing review about a terrible product.
How’s the Early Reviewer Program Working Out So Far?
I enrolled 12 new products into the program and within just one day I got my first 5-star review from the program! So in my early experience, this does work and it is well worth enrolling your SKUs in the program. Your first initial reviews (assuming they are 4 or 5 stars) can help your conversion rate with Amazon Sponsored Products ads (grab your free eBook on this topic) and on Lightning Deals so that you can pick up sales velocity and generate even more reviews, which in turn generates more sales and higher rankings and better organic placements. Of course, you still need a great product and a good email follow-up system (I have great results using Feedback Genius) in order to have the best chance of getting those additional reviews, but the Early Reviewer Program definitely helps.
In terms of launch strategy, I recommend going big in an effort to sell as many units as possible and to get as many positive reviews as possible. For me, this means using the Early Reviewer Program combined with starting at a lower sales price, running lightning deals, and being very aggressive on Sponsored Products ad spending. If you have a product that you really believe in, spend a little money now in order to make a lot more money going forward. Accept a higher ACOS (advertising cost of sales) initially as part of your launch strategy and move forward intent on not only recouping quickly but profiting as you reap the rewards of the halo effect.
About the Author
Liran Hirschkorn is an Amazon seller and mentor who, in 2016, shifted his focus to private label products and built a seven-figure brand. Liran also coaches and mentors other sellers. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City.
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