Disclaimer or No? FTC Guidelines on Reviews Left on Discounted Amazon Purchases

We are back with more information surrounding Amazon’s latest TOS update. I really don’t intend on “milking” this subject, but there is simply so much misinformation/rumors, it’s crazy. This misinformation leads to poor decisions and more misinformation, so I would like to do my best to clear up everything as quickly as possible. The team and I have had a good number of questions/comments around the FTC’s guidelines for reviews on products purchased at a discount. While I am not a lawyer, it seems pretty clear to me that reviews left on discounted purchases DO NOT require a disclosure statement to be left. Below, I break things down a bit further with quotes from the FTC.gov website, specifically pages around Endorcements.

As always, I do not expect you to believe me simply because I’ve said it. I am obviously a biased party here, so I have included links and quotes to help you make informed decisions and interpretations for yourself (but again, it seems pretty clear to me)!

 

Logical Breakdown

At the heart of it all, the FTC is concerned with reviews that are left by experts/bloggers/reviewers/etc. who were provided some type of compensation for the review. The intention of promotional services is simply offering discounts on Amazon products, period. Whether or not those buyers happen to leave a review is beyond our concern. Obviously we hope they leave a review for your sake, but it is beyond our company’s scope. To comply with Amazon’s TOS, we simply cannot track whether or not a buyer leaves a review. This is also not to get confused with email follow-up services, which are completely separate.

Think about popular deals websites like Slickdeals or RetailMeNot. Do you find any kind of language on their sites that let you know, “If you use one of the many coupons you find on our site and chose to leave a review, you must use a disclosure or else you will be violating the FTC’s guidelines.”? No, you do not. Nor do you see stipulations when reviewing products on other websites (ex. Walmart.com) that require a disclosure on products purchased with a discount code.

So simply by omission, I can assume that a disclosure is not required if you did indeed purchase/select the product yourself. The only reason this was ever a thing on Amazon is two-fold, 1) Amazon’s terms required it, and 2) when products were given away in exchange for a review, the FTC saw this as an endorsement which then warranted a disclosure statement.

If the product was given in exchange for a review, you were provided some form of compensation before or after, or you have some type of connection to the company, then the reviewer HAS to leave a disclosure allowing the reader to know the given circumstances.

Viral Launch is not giving products in exchange for a review. We are not providing compensation to buyers to leave reviews, nor do our buyers have connections with you as a seller/marketer. Therefore, there is no need for buyers of discounted products on Viral Launch to leave a disclosure statement.

 

Quotes From the FTC

This one seals the deal in my mind. On a very clear and concise page that covers common questions around endorsements on the FTC’s website, we find this question under the headline: “WHEN DOES THE FTC ACT APPLY TO ENDORSEMENTS?“.

For the sake of our topic, replace the word “blogger” and “blog” with “reviewer” and “review”. (The highlighting/bolding is my emphasis.)

“I’m a blogger. I heard that every time I mention a product on my blog, I have to say whether I got it for free or paid for it myself. Is that true?”

No. If you mention a product you paid for yourself, there isn’t an issue. Nor is it an issue if you get the product for free because a store is giving out free samples to its customers.

The FTC is only concerned about endorsements that are made on behalf of a sponsoring advertiser. For example, an endorsement would be covered by the FTC Act if an advertiser – or someone working for an advertiser – pays you or gives you something of value to mention a product. If you receive free products or other perks with the expectation that you’ll promote or discuss the advertiser’s products in your blog, you’re covered. Bloggers who are part of network marketing programs where they sign up to receive free product samples in exchange for writing about them also are covered.

 

As you can see, it is pretty clear that there is no need for a disclosure if the buyer/reviewer pays for the item. There is also no need to provide a disclosure if the product is given for free, so long as it is not given with compensation or in exchange for a review.

Hopefully, that makes you feel comfortable with the fact that the FTC does not require a review to contain a disclosure statement if the reviewer purchased the product at a discount from sites like Viral Launch.

As further examples, I’ve included a couple other quotes from different pages on the FTC’s website.

 

If you visit this link here, you will be taken to the U.S. Government Publishing Office discussing “GUIDES CONCERNING USE OF ENDORSEMENTS AND TESTIMONIALS IN ADVERTISING”. This is a bit harder to understand and has the traditional lawyer speak that you may expect. Going through all of their given examples under the headline “Consumer endorsements” and “Disclosure of material connections”, you will find only examples where compensation is provided either before or after the fact. There are no examples provided in which a customer purchases the product at a discount and is required to leave a disclosure.

 

On a page labeled “THE FTC’S ENDORSEMENT GUIDES: BEING UP-FRONT WITH CONSUMERS”, we find these two quotes.

 

Quote 1:

“… marketers who are compensated to promote or review a product should disclose it.”

Quote 2:

“The Endorsement Guides also state that if there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.”

 

These both show that only when compensation is provided or the product is given in exchange for a review is the disclosure statement needed.

 

Using Follow-up Services

Is it within Amazon’s terms of service to solicit a review after a customer has purchased a product? YES. As I mentioned in our previous blog post, we have confirmation from Amazon’s legal department that following up with a buyer asking for a review is completely within Amazon’s TOS so long as it is done correctly. How do you follow-up correctly? That is another post in itself, but briefly, do not incentivize, require, or manipulate the review/reviewer in any way.

One thing that I want to point out is the fact that you should NOT tell reviewers that they cannot leave the disclosure statement in their review. By telling a reviewer they cannot leave the disclosure, in my mind, you are manipulating the content of the review by telling the reviewer what it can/cannot contain.

Our approach to this situation is to inform the buyer that Amazon’s TOS is no longer requiring the disclosure statement, “I purchased this product at a discount in exchange….”. We also let them know that the product was not given in exchange for their review and that they may choose whether or not they decide to review it.

It is simply a question of semantics, but can be critical when adhering to Amazon’s TOS.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this brief discussion on the FTC’s rules clear up any rumors and/or misinformation that has been floating around. As always, it’s our goal to help you make the most informed decisions possible when it comes to operating and growing your Amazon business.

Overall, it looks like this is further proof that a major intention of Amazon’s latest policy update was simply to rid reviews of the disclosure statement so as to improve the perceived integrity of their review platform to consumers.

 

If you have any other questions, curious about rumors, or anything of the sort, please post them in the comments down below so I can address them for you!

As always, I wish you the best in growing your Amazon business!

An Update on the Update – Clarification on the Amazon TOS Update 2016

In my original post, I posed a lot of questions around how exactly Amazon would interpret and enforce their latest TOS update moving forward. As is too common in this space, we’ve heard an insane amount of rumors. Be careful what you believe and guard who you trust. Thanks to a friend of mine with direct contact to Amazon’s legal department, we have some much appreciated clarification. I’ll update this post in the next couple of days with a link to a post by this friend where he will give exacts from the conversations he has had directly with Amazon’s legal department.

To many, the clarification mentioned below was already common assumption. Personally, I prefer to speak on the facts and make decisions based on data, which we simply did not have just 24 hours after the TOS change was posted.

So what is the clarification? What is the information directly from Amazon’s legal department? 

 

The two largest takeaways are:

 

  1. It is okay for 3rd party websites to distribute discounted claim codes on behalf of Amazon merchants.
  2. It is okay for merchants to follow-up with the discounted buyers asking for a review, so long as they abide by all other review policies and stipulations (ex. Don’t ask for only a positive review, do not force the customer to leave a review, do not monitor whether or not they were able to leave a review, etc.)

 

What does this mean? Well, for Viral Launch specifically, we will continue to operate as we have for the last year or so. Fortunately, we had the foresight to position ourselves away from the review group model, which has had incredible benefits for our customers. Largely the only change we had to make post TOS Update is the removal of all language from the site around “reviews”.

What does this mean for you as a seller? Hopefully this helps to ease concerns and increase confidence in the fact that Amazon allows you to run promotions and to ask customers for reviews after purchasing your products at a discount. Hopefully this helps to convince you that the private label world is not dead. That there is still plenty of hope in a bright future moving forward!

As history has shown and as time progressed, we have come to find out that another TOS update did not have such severe an impact as we initially expected. With that said, the landscape has definitely changed, and depending on your previous launch strategy, launching a product has become quite a bit more difficult. As we’ve always preached, you need to do all things GREAT in order to outsell your competition (and sometimes even survive), now more than ever! If you find yourself having a difficult time getting ahead of the competition, launching a product, or even maintaining sales, look around to see just how well you are executing every aspect of your private label business.

So all in all, the dust seems to have settled for the most part and we are all free to go on our merry way, building scaleable private label businesses on the world’s largest commerce platform! Sounds like a great time to be an entrepreneur to me! 🙂

Side Note: With all of this, I feel like this news has definitely confirmed the suspicions I posed in our initial blog post regarding what net affect this would actually have on the market and what Amazon’s true intentions are (you can read them in here).
As always, we will keep you updated as new word comes out and we wish you and your business the best!!

Ultimate Amazon Private Label Guide to Success – Post Amazon TOS Update 2016

The Amazon space has changed and while we are still waiting for the dust to settle, there are some basic truths we do know like the fact that we CANNOT give products away at a discount. No more 80%+ review rates from discounted product sales. It’s going to change the fundamentals of how sellers can quickly get products up and selling. So the Viral Launch team is putting together a comprehensive Amazon private label guide to successfully launching products on Amazon with the new rules brought about by Amazon’s latest Terms of Service update. It’s epic and incredibly beneficial to all levels of experience on Amazon.

Spoiler Alert! Selling on Amazon Is NOT Over! It’s Not “Too Hard” Now. If That’s Your Mindset, Change It! Life As An Entrepreneur Has Its Challenges. It’s The Strong That Survive, And Together, We’ll Help You Thrive!

Each day we will feature a new step in the process of selling private label products on Amazon with specifics on how each step has been affected by the TOS change. We are super excited to help you navigate the process based on our extensive knowledge and experience in the space of running over 11,000 product launches and working with high level sellers selling between $50-$100 million per year on Amazon.

You can find our Ultimate Amazon Private Label Guide to Success landing page here. Each day we will add a new section and topic! Our first day we discuss product sourcing and how to make intelligent decisions when souring especially with the new market conditions following the TOS update. The page can be found here!

Are you excited about our guide? What topics would you like us to cover?

Always Moving Forward – Amazon TOS Change 2016

We all saw the writing on the wall didn’t we? Today marks yet another Amazon TOS change that set the private label world on fire and sent everyone into chaos. 24 hours later and it looks like things have largely subsided. While many of the industry’s leading review services have posted their interpretation of the rules and how they wish to proceed, I am still not completely convinced of their conclusion and I’ll explain it all.

So what does it mean for you as a seller? What does it mean for Viral Launch and its platform? What does it mean for the Amazon market in general? 

In this post we’ll cover the facts we know around the Terms of Service change, what this policy update means for you as a seller, what it means for the Viral Launch community, and what it means for the private label world as a whole. 

While we are not 100% sure, nor do I think we will ever be (Amazon can be pretty ambiguous with their terminology and can lack uniformity in how they enforce and interpret their rules), I do think we have a pretty good grasp on the impact this TOS change will have moving forward. We will continue to update this blog post with new information and case studies as they come up, but at the very least I wanted to comfort some nerves and hopefully add some peace to the frenzy that has ensued. 

Facts Around the TOS Change

So let’s begin with the actual content posted on Amazon. Firstly, the post that has caused the chaos. Thanks to our friend Chee Chew, VP of Customer Experience at Amazon, we have this “blog post”/“featured post” from mid-day EDT on Oct. 3rd: 

Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews.

Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.

Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with feedback from customers and vendors. Here’s how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product. Vine has important controls in place and has proven to be especially valuable for getting early reviews on new products that have not yet been able to generate enough sales to have significant numbers of organic reviews. We also have ideas for how to continue to make Vine an even more useful program going forward. Details on that as we have them.

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

Thank you.

– Chee Chew, VP, Customer Experience

The post can be found here

If you follow the link to the Community Guidelines as referred to by Mr. Chew, you’ll see some updated language. Previously, Amazon had very specific language regarding giving discounted or free products in exchange for a review and the stipulations around it such as making sure the product was offered before the review was left, etc. 

If you read the customer guidelines for yourself, you will now see the updated language which attempts to dispel any kind of hope that products can still be given away at a discount in exchange for a review with language such as: 

Promotions and Commercial Solicitations

In order to preserve the integrity of Community content, content and activities consisting of advertising, promotion, or solicitation (whether direct or indirect) is not allowed, including:

  • Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your (or your relative’s, close friend’s, business associate’s, or employer’s) products or services.
  • Creating, modifying, or posting content regarding your competitors’ products or services.
  • Creating, modifying, or posting content in exchange for compensation of any kind (including free or discounted products) or on behalf of anyone else.
  • Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.

To answer all questions more definitively (well for the most part), we also have in the FAQ section of Seller Central these relevant FAQ’s. 

FAQ

Why are we making this change?

Please see our recent announcement.

Can I use third-party services to provide free or discounted products to reviewers? 

No. The policy applies regardless of whether you provide compensation to 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 offer discounts and promotions to customers? 

Yes. You may continue to offer discounts and promotions as long as they are not offered 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.

 

Looks pretty black and white, right? 

So according to this: As sellers you CANNOT give free or discounted products away to reviewers in exchange for compensation, BUT you CAN offer discounts and promotions to customers as long as they are, again, not offered in exchange for reviews.

The only way to know exactly how Amazon will choose to enforce these rules is time. Time enough to understand just how they distinguish promotional giveaways from a product awareness standpoint versus giveaways in exchange for reviews.

Mr. Chew mentions that all ‘incentivized’ reviews are prohibited unless they are run through their Amazon Vine Program. The Vine program is expensive, open only to Vendors, limits the number of products a brand can enter, and has a ceiling of around 100 units to give for a review depending on your product’s category. This is obviously a significant difference from what some sellers are used to, especially in competitive markets.  

He also mentions that there will be updates to the Vine program coming soon, but is not very specific as to what it will entail. Will they remove the Vendor requirement to join the program? 

TechCrunch also published an article giving a statement from an Amazon Spokesperson saying, “reviews that were received prior to the policy change are only being retroactively removed if they are excessive, and don’t comply with prior policy.” As well as, “if it [Amazon] finds anyone is attempting to manipulate reviews by tying reviews to discounted products, it will take action against them, starting today.”

What does “tying reviews to discounted products” mean exactly? To me it sounds like you better make sure that customers receiving a discount do not leave a review. Again what does “excessive” mean? 100? 1000? A function of the percentage of monthly organic sales? We’re left to chance to find out only once the line has been crossed.

Why I Have A Hard Time Trusting The Current Industry’s Interpretation of the Amazon Policy Update

My biggest apprehensions are two-fold: 

  1. How does Amazon know the intent of the seller handing out coupons? 
  2. And, just because now reviews won’t have the disclosure “I purchased at a discount in exchange…” in them, doesn’t mean that the reviews are now legitimately unbiased. If you pay $1 for something, you are going to be inevitably biased in how you review the product. So that would mean Amazon’s new TOS update served no purpose but to remove the disclosure from reviews essentially. Seems sneaky by Amazon to hide the fact from their buyers.

I am in no way advocating the behavior mentioned in this paragraph, but for example’s sake let’s say I run a promotion giving discounted products to customers without asking for reviews and 30% of them choose to leave a review of their own choice. That seems completely legitimate according to both Amazon’s terms and how review services are interpreting Amazon’s policy change. But, how does Amazon know whether or not you told the customer they were receiving the product in exchange for a review? If that is the case, then theoretically, a seller could still give thousands of products away at a discount in exchange for a review without getting in trouble just so long as the reviewers do not state in the review that they received the product at a discount in exchange for a review. 

Amazon cannot be in on every conversation on the internet to know whether a product was given in exchange for a review or not. To Amazon, a review left on a discounted product looks the same whether it was offered in exchange for a review or not (so long as the customer does not state the fact of course). So how are they able to enforce this rule if a seller coaches their own VIP list not to leave the disclosure in the review? They can’t!

This leaves two possibilities. 

  1. Amazon released this statement as a show of good faith to their large consumer audience. The holidays are coming up, so it is an important time for them to reassure buyers that reviews are still priority when making informed purchasing decisions. However, as I mentioned before, reviews from discounted purchases are likely still biased even under the new regulations. Although they may not be able to enforce it to the standards they speak of, they still want to publicly display their position.
  2. Amazon is not interpreting the terms the same as our industry leaders (and Viral Launch) and may start to enforce these new updates in ways that are likely unfavorable (suspensions, etc.). 

Why Amazon Will Not Suspend You For Getting Reviews From Promotional Sales

Again, this is all my interpretation and logical thought process on the information I’ve received. We are currently running 200+ launches a day and will have enough data to talk in definitives here soon.  

I have a hard time seeing Amazon punishing sellers who are running promotions that just so happen to also generate reviews. If that were the case, the door would be flung wide-open for competitors to use  “ghost-accounts” (accounts that have been well seasoned by sellers to appear legitimate to outside eyes) to post reviews to their competitor’s listings after purchasing. This would be hard to detect whether it was a legitimate customer or not and could be devastating. 

Another example: let’s say you run a 30% off holiday discount and a percentage of those buyers leave a review because they love your product. Is Amazon going to punish you? Seems unlikely.

What History Tells US About Amazon TOS Changes

For those who don’t recall Amazon’s, “the sky is falling announcement” back in August of 2015 we recap it here. There was just about as much chaos and concern caused by their latest TOS announcement, but how did affect us? What devastating impact did it have on us and our clients? LITERALLY NONE!! Sure it had an impact in terms of fear, etc. But it did not actually affect any of us. We saw not one complaint to our clients running white-hat honest businesses. 

So for better or worse, it eases my concerns as to the impact this change will have. From what we’ve covered already, I don’t see this as having too much of a real impact on the Viral Launch platform and our clients directly, but we’ll get into that more further along in this blog.

How This Affects You As A Seller

Are Review Services Dead?

So does this mean that review services with 80%+ review rates that were requiring their user bases to leave a review in order to get access to more products are dead? Yes. After reading Amazon’s TOS, I’m not sure how you can interpret it any differently. A few times they mention ‘incentivized reviews’ as being prohibited while explaining that ‘incentivized reviews’ are reviews posted in exchange for a free or discounted product. In Amazon’s FAQs (listed above), they very explicitly state that you cannot give products away at a discount in exchange for reviews.

The majority of review groups that have announced their interpretation of the policy change and how they will proceed will continue running promotions but are removing the requirement to leave a review post purchase. They will no longer hand out coupons with the agreement that the product is being given in exchange for a review. The services are now focusing on leveraging promotional sales to focus on “sales velocity”. 

If you sell in markets where a competitive number of reviews on page one is around 100 reviews, or even under 500 reviews, then this update doesn’t seem like it will have much of an impact on you. Sure it may slightly decrease the speed at which you can get a product up and selling at a high level organically, but with a little extra time, strategy, and work, you’ll get there just the same. 

If you sell in markets where a competitive number of reviews is in the thousands…it looks like you have your work cut out for you. Impossible? Not at all. More expensive and time consuming? I am afraid so. Making intelligent decisions on which products to source is now more crucial than ever! We have a new tool dropping by the end of the month to help you do just that! (Don’t worry we’re not trying to replace any current tool you’re using like Jungle Scout!)

The days of giving away thousands of products through review groups (Viral Launch is not a review service) to compete with page one sellers in a matter of a month or two are likely over. 

Adjustments To Make..

  • Make sure you do not have any “drip” campaigns running on review services (not Viral Launch) still giving products away in exchange for a review which you are currently subscribed to and cancel any campaigns that are supposed to kick off soon. 
  • Keep your eyes out for new information! Facebook groups are incredible news aggregators for Amazon news. I will also be updating this post with new information and case studies as they become available.
  • Be weary of rumors!! Oh goodness how rumors spread in this space. We actually have a whole blog series planned on busting common myths in this space so watch for those! But check your facts and even feel free to check with our free-of-cost Account Executives if you have a question regarding a rumor. Unfortunately we see a lot of sellers misled by “authorities” in the space that are sometimes misinformed themselves.
  • OPTIMIZE YOUR FEEDBACK SERVICE’S EMAIL FOLLOW-UP SEQUENCES!!! – I cannot stress enough how important having a highly optimized feedback service is! If the only way to generate reviews now is through organic sales, you better put everything you have into converting those organic sales into customer reviews!

Is The Gold Rush Of Amazon Private Label Over?

So overall what does this mean? Are we/sellers going to pack our bags and go home? Is the Amazon gold rush over? Are your chances of a self-sustaining Amazon lifestyle business over?

NOT AT ALL! And I really hope I don’t hear that from any of you. As entrepreneurs it’s our nature to overcome the obstacles we find before us! We can’t give up because the rules of the game we’re playing change. If that’s your mentality in life, you’ll never survive. You’ll never achieve your dreams of running a successful business no matter if you’re selling on Amazon or working in another industry. We have to fight for our success!

When changes arise in the market, we have to look at it as opportunity. Yeah, things are shaken up and may seem to be more difficult for you, but they are shaken up for everyone and just as difficult for your competitors as well. That means you have to figure out the new rules of the game, adjust with tact and move forward full steam ahead. If you hang on to the past, you’ll be left behind. 

I’m extremely confident that we’ll be able to successfully navigate the market after Amazon’s new policy update to launch products to success! We always will! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the mindset of true entrepreneurs. I hope that you’ll ascribe to that way of thinking with me!

How This Affects the Viral Launch Platform

Short Answer: This has a very minimal affect on us and the effectiveness of our platform. For starters, we are so much more than a promotional giveaway platform now. We have also never been a review service. We have never required our users to leave reviews. Our focus in promotional giveaways has always been on providing a platform for sellers to help drive promotional sales targeted at improving keyword ranking, and we will continue to operate almost exactly the same! (Read below to see what change will be made)

Looking at Amazon’s FAQ…

Can I continue to offer discounts and promotions to customers? 

Yes. You may continue to offer discounts and promotions as long as they are not offered in exchange for reviews. 

It looks like everything is good to go for promotions to drive traffic and promotional sales which we all know help improve a product’s keyword ranking in search results.

We have completely removed all language around reviews on the Viral Launch buyer’s side. We never required or incentivized reviews as many of the review services did. We did however offer a kind reminder for coupon grabbers to leave a review on the products they purchased, but that has now been removed. Therefore, based on Amazon’s direct language, the Viral Launch platform should be compliant with Amazon’s new TOS update.

I have to say “should be”, because with any rule made by Amazon, they are ambiguous, or at the least, leave unanswered questions. 

Two of those unanswered questions: 

  1. By “…promotions to customers” are they referring to a specific set of people? 
    1. By “customers” are they referring to your past customers? 
    2. Amazon “customers” only? Meaning lightning deals, etc. 

I think I may be thinking too hard about it, but at the same time with how vague Amazon can be, I’d rather be safe than sorry. 

  1. How will Amazon determine whether or not the discount was offered in exchange for reviews? How do they know the intent of the coupon distributor?

My honest inclination is that they do not care so long as the reviewer is not posting in the review that they got the product at a discount in exchange for a review AND so long as you are not actually offering products in exchange for a review.

Questions I continue to ask:

  1. Are they looking at the buyer account of product’s purchased at a discount? Meaning if it is a buyer that frequently leaves a review on a discounted product, Amazon assumes it was given at a discount in exchange for a review? Seems grossly inaccurate and unlikely. 
  2. Are they looking at products that have reviews posted saying, “…purchased this product at a discount in exchange for my unbiased review”? Again seems grossly inaccurate, but more likely. If this is the case it’s likely just one method of identification. The largest issue here is if sellers coached reviewers not to leave the disclaimer, they could potentially rack up thousands of reviews very quickly still.
  3. Are they monitoring referrer traffic? Meaning, “did this purchase just come from reviewsite.com? Okay it must have been in exchange for a review.” This would be the worst case of the above mentioned because it would be incredibly inaccurate and would be devastating for a lot of sellers and service providers.

 

What If You Lower The Price Of A Product For A Couple Hours Then Run Traffic To The Product So Reviewers Can Buy For Low And Still Leave A Review?

We will absolutely not being doing this! This seems like review manipulation and we are not that type of company. This is the type of activity that seems to have a high probability of you ending up being sued, suspended, or banned from Amazon. Viral Launch will stay far away from this. 

Moving Forward

If all of the hype is exactly as it seems to be (no reviews left in exchange for a discount), we are going to be coaching our clients on a completely new launch strategy designed to help you succeed with a new set of parameters. For seasoned sellers with a solid review foundation, the launch strategy is unlikely to change. For sellers just bringing a product to market, depending on what that market looks like, we will put together an updated launch strategy which we will be covering later this week. Getting off the ground successfully without the ability to gain traction with initial reviews is going to change the name of the game, but it will be your ability to adapt that will help you beat out competitors trying to do the same thing. 

This is an opportunity for those of you who are focused on building a well rounded business to overcome those sellers who were spending money to take the shortcut. The Viral Launch arsenal is now more valuable than ever, allowing you to build an incredible private label business from the ground up. If you were looking to take shortcuts, you were already in trouble. Its time to double down and get ahead by doing everything better than your competitors.

We are working harder than ever to help optimize email follow-up campaigns to help increase the review rate driven by feedback services. We’ll keep you updated as we see advances. In the meantime, we highly suggest finding a feedback service that works well for you and optimizing it to drive as many reviews as possible from organic sales. 

To Summarize

I know this was about 10X longer than most posts, but I’m more of a skeptic and with the limited amount of data we’ve been able to gather over the last 24 hours, I want to make sure we do not mislead anyone. I also think it’s important to question and discuss the market we all work and thrive in to constantly increase our perspectives of it. It is only going to help to make you a better seller and entrepreneur in the space.

  • Viral Launch will continue to give coupons without incentivizing reviews as before, but will be coaching reviewers on Amazon’s new review policy guidelines.
  • We will continue to monitor the space to help enhance our perspective and hopefully reinforce our confidence in our interpretation by providing definitive data or cases. 
  • Optimize your feedback sequence! We’ve always pushed email follow-up sequences, but now is the time to leverage a feedback service with a killer email sequence to maximize the number of organic reviews you are able to drive.
  • Should go without saying, but don’t give products away for free or at a discount in exchange for a review.
  • Now more than ever, the key to success on Amazon is not a silver bullet. You need an arsenal to effectively attack every aspect of private label selling on Amazon. You need to focus on each element of your business to outsell your competitors.

At the end of the day, it’s our mission to help our clients achieve success. You can guarantee we will be vigilant in staying on top of this situation, but if history repeats itself (which it often does), then we are all pretty safe and know exactly what is going to happen moving forward. 

Our focus at Viral Launch is to be your launchpad to success, whether that entails promotional giveaways or simply coaching. We’re are an incredibly dynamic team of 15 with a large breadth of skills, experience, and knowledge in the Amazon space. This is our focus and we are here to help in anyway possible.

We would love to hear your thoughts, your perspective, and your interpretation of the update and our position on it in the comments! I’ll be open to talk as always!

Listing Dojo – The Best Way To Increase Profitability on Amazon

Thank you all for keeping up with the latest launch from the team at Viral Launch. Over the past couple days we’ve promised you something new and big that we’ve been working on. Something that will dramatically change the way you sell.

Well today is the day…..I would love to introduce to you, Listing Dojo. A listing optimization tool that allows you to train your listing to optimize for maximum profitability. Listing Dojo allows you to test nearly every element (title, price point, images, description) of your Amazon listing in order to determine which options make your listing the most money.

It’s sort of like a data driven crystal ball that shows you exactly what customers shopping for your product want. What price point will get the most sales? Which main image will drive the most clicks into my detail page and then drive conversions? What can I put in my title to lure in the most potential customers? Listing Dojo helps you answer each one of these questions definitively with hard cold data!

Like I mentioned yesterday in my blog post, the results have been incredible! Checkout this graph from a real user who tested four different price points. She spent no money and is seeing a net increase of over $6,000/month. This could be you!

Why Optimizing For Profitability Is So Important

Today when creating a listing, we create a listing that we intuitively feel is “good”, but we don’t KNOW how “good” it really is and what kind of impact is it’s actually on sales! Even if you’ve done an extensive amount of research, each product is perceived differently by potential customers. Without data to tell you exactly which variation is best, you can be leaving HUGE amounts of money on the table.

For example, you may set your widget’s price point to $19.99, but little do you know, changing your price to $19.95 could increase your sales by 10%. Or, actually increasing your price by $1.50 to $21.49 could increase sales by 50%! We’ve seen these kinds of results and it has surprised us.

Listing Dojo allows you to test any possible option for price, title, images and description and reports beautifully displayed stats back to you letting you know EXACTLY how each tested value affected your gross sales, net sales (accounting for returns, FBA fees, and the Amazon marketplace fee) page views, sessions, units ordered and total order items.

Listing Dojo will show precisely how to optimize your listing for maximum profitability!

Is This Only For New Sellers?

Absolutely not. This tool can be valuable for all sellers, new and seasoned.

For established products that are ranking and selling well: Your listing is already getting many impressions each day by potential customers in the search results. This allows you the perfect opportunity to test different price points, main images, and titles that may help you drive more of that traffic away from competitors and on to your listing. Just because you have used the same price, image, and title for the last few months and it has worked well for you, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still missing out on a ton of money. The worst part is how you will never know unless you have concrete data derived from actually testing what does and doesn’t work for your listing. You are already making money, so why not see just how much more money your listing can make without spending a dime.

For sellers just getting started: In order for Listing Dojo to work its magic and provide valuable data, your listing needs to have some amount of traffic in both search results and to your actual listing. It’s hard to know which cake people like best if nobody shows up to the party.  So if you’re not already ranking well for relevant keywords and you haven’t utilized sponsored ads, you’ll want to take care of that aspect first, and we would love to help you get there quickly.

If you have some decent traffic and organic sales, but are still trying to understand the market and how your product fits, Listing Dojo is perfect for helping you find the most profitable product detail page based on pure data.

How Does Listing Dojo Work?

The system is designed to be very intuitive and user friendly (we’re always open to feedback to help us create a better experience for you 🙂 ).

 Step 1 – Granting Listing Dojo Access to Your Account: In order for us to pull your product catalog, make updates to your listing, and pull sales reports, we need access through Amazon’s Marketplace Web Service (MWS). In order to pull click, session, units ordered, and total order items data, we need access to the business reports section of Seller Central. 

 Step 2 – Developing A Hypothesis: To begin, we suggest testing your price. It’s the simplest to test and can have one of the largest impacts. Come up with four different price points you would like to test. We suggest testing both above and below your current price.

 Step 3 – Create A Campaign: It’s time to put that hypothesis to the test. When in Listing Dojo, select the product you want to test, click on “Campaign”, and choose the element you wish to test first (price in this example). We suggest allowing each variation to test for a minimum of 7 days. Finally, press “Schedule Campaign”!

 Step 4 – Let Listing Dojo “Train” Your Listing: At midnight every 7 days (or however often you specify), we will programatically update your listing with the new test element. Each day at midnight, we will go and grab your updated data so you can continue to monitor the stats if you so choose.

  Step 5 – Increase Profits: We will send you an email report after testing each variation for its 7 day period so you can quickly and easily spot the profit optimizing opportunities.

Early Findings And Tips For Testing:

From our beta tests, we are see the most beneficial elements to test are your listing’s price and main image. These have had the largest impact on increasing/decreasing sessions and therefore have the greatest impact on sales. The entire image has shown to have a significant impact on conversion along with main image and price again as well.

    Price Point: We suggest testing at least four different price points. We like to try two options below what you are currently selling at, and two options above. If you space the price points out by $1 or $2 increments, you can later go back and test on a more granular level.

    Image Set: Your main image is the most important factor in your image set. Try testing different angles as well as with and without your product’s packaging. The goal is to catch your potential customer’s eye to get them to click into your listing. From there, test the order of your images. Test quantity of images. If you don’t have lifestyle images, test with a couple to see the benefit. I know of an amazing service that can help you with those images, wink wink 😉 (okay I’m done pitching, promise!)

   Title: Test a couple of titles to see just how you can improve conversion. Test more keyword heavy titles to understand how that may or may not affect conversions. Its all fair game here!

   Description: Test a couple of different description layouts and content options to see how you can leverage this section to effect conversions.

Over the coming week, we’ll be providing more information on how to get the most out of Listing Dojo along with a slew of tips and best practices for split testing!

Why We HAD To Launch Listing Dojo?

  1. It has high potential benefit at a super low cost to the sellers we work with. If we can help you see a significant increase in sales while putting in little effort and money on your part. You can bet we’re going to do it!
  2. We’re creating an insane amount of listings and photo sets, so we wanted to better understand how to optimize our client’s listings for maximum profitability! Again, data is the ONLY way to do just that.
  3. We see plenty of products that have less than optimal listings, and Listing Dojo can provide the data necessary to help optimize and improve their sales!

Why Is Variation Testing The Largest No-Brainer On Amazon?

Three main reasons:

  1. You spend no money to increase profitability on Amazon.
  2. The system is set and forget, allowing you to essentially increase profitability while you’re focused on other important tasks.  
  3. There is potentially BIG money you’re missing every day, money that can be captured by even the slightest tweaks to your listing.

So let’s get training! Let’s help you increase your listing’s profitability for FREE and start kicking butt on Amazon! Right now we are offering a 30-day free trial with no limit to the number of products you can test simultaneously. This is INSANELY valuable so for your own sake, please take advantage of it! 

Get Started Here!

Throughout the next week, we will be posting more information on how you can take advantage of Listing Dojo to increase profitability to the nth degree!
So what do you think? Please share your feedback in the comments as we are dying to hear your thoughts!

Increase Net Sales By Thousands on Amazon While Spending $0. Literally.

The headline definitely looks/sounds like click-bait, but its 100% true. I mentioned in the last blog post that we’re “pretty excited..the results have been blowing our minds”, I wasn’t joking. Some beta testers of our new tool are literally seeing increases in their monthly net sales of over $5,000/month on Amazon.

There are three main reasons I love this platform, which I’ll discuss below while trying to not give too much away.

    It’s Not A Spend Money To Make Money Platform

With Viral Launch promotions, the more units you give to improve your sales history the better the improvement in keyword ranking you’ll see. This creates a system in which the players with deeper pockets are able to rise above the competition leaving those with smaller budgets to have to fight with tact and can still leave them with the table scraps. Essentially, the more money you spend, the more money you can make.

One of the greatest facets of our new tool is you don’t have to have a big budget to increase your sales. Apart from the cost of using our new tool (beyond the free trial), you can see improvements in the thousands of dollars per month on your net sales spending $0! Its incredible! Black-hat? Grey-area? Magic? No, no, and no. Its completely white-hat and honestly a no-brainer once you see what it does exactly.

    Data For Days

We’re obsessed with knowing everything about selling private label on Amazon. We have to in order to properly help the sellers we work with kill it in the market. The only way to truly understand the marketplace is through vast amounts of data! We put out a blog post recently on how we’ve aggregated over 1,000,000,000 data points on Amazon largely around product launches and the immeasurable benefit that data has had for us. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” With this new tool, we put crucial data in front of you that will help you to better understand what your customers are looking for and help you make the right decisions to increase profitability.

   Money, Money, Money

Everyone is selling on Amazon to make money. Whether its to supplement your income to help make ends meet, or you want the financial freedom so you can spend more time with family, free up time to travel, be you own boss, etc., you’re here to make money. This tool is designed to help you make more money, and potentially LOADS of it. From our beta tests, we’ve had multiple products see an increase of $5,000+ in net monthly sales. One beta test in a low volume market saw their sales triple! Again, they spent $0 dollars to achieve this. Its absolutely insane if you ask me!

These are just the main benefits of our platform. There are many more!

Know what it is? Have an idea? Post it in the comments, and if you get it right, we’ll give you an extra month’s access for free (if you’re a beta tester or its been mentioned to you, please don’t spoil it for everyone else 🙂 ). The unveiling is tomorrow! Stay tuned!

Continuing to Help Amazon Sellers Grow Their Profits and Businesses In New Ways

It has been approximately two months since we launched the new positioning of Viral Launch and it has been absolutely incredible! Instead of simply helping sellers get ranking, and leaving the rest up to them, we’ve been able to come along and help our clients through every crucial aspect of driving sales. Its been amazing, and extremely rewarding to be able to work and build some of the most successful brands/products on Amazon. The Viral Launch team and I get energized by being able to help our clients increase their sales, profits, and overall business on Amazon. And we’ve been able to do just that, to an even greater extent with all of our new services and capabilities. It has been incredibly beneficial to the sellers we have the pleasure of working alongside. With that said, its not enough. Its never enough. We’re always hungry to leverage our vast knowledge and data to spur growth in new ways and greater capacities.

So in our quest to help Amazon sellers grow their sales, their businesses and achieve their dreams of financial freedom and internet success we’ve built a powerful new tool completely separate from Viral Launch which happens to be launching…..in just two days!! (Wednesday the 28th)

“What exactly is this new “powerful” tool and how is it going to help you increase your sales and improve your business?” For the answer to that, you’ll have to check back in tomorrow for more info; this is just the teaser! 😉

On the edge of your seat? Let me know in the comments if you are as excited as we are!! (spoiler alert: we’re pretty excited considering we’ve been working on this for the last three months and the results have been blowing our minds.)

Talk tomorrow!

The New Viral Launch Has Landed

Originally Posted: 7/28/2016

 

“If everyone is moving forward together; then success takes care of itself.” –Henry Ford

In order to compete in the expanding market that is today’s Amazon, there is no magic bullet for success. In this market you don’t need a bullet, you need an arsenal.

Today is the Day! As promised we have a huge announcement for everyone regarding the future of the Amazon Private Label World and what I believe to be the future of building a successful business within this space!

Launch Day Is Here!

On behalf of the entire Viral Launch Team, I’m super excited to announce that starting today The New Viral Launch Has Landed (note: you may have to refresh the page once to clear browser cache 🙂 ). I’m proud to introduce the world’s first comprehensive Amazon marketing and promotion platform designed specifically to meet every aspect of your businesses and listing needs. We have developed a true end-to-end platform designed to partner with you along every step of the Amazon sales process. Starting today you have full access to this huge scope of world class services.

The New Viral Launch | Your Launchpad For Success.

As of this moment, in addition to our industry leading product launches, we have dramatically expanded our services to become your customized solution for every aspect of your product and listing needs.

Introducing the new Viral Launch suite of creative services and data driven solutions.

Breathtaking Commercial Quality Product Photography. Successful sellers know that DIY product photography is no longer cutting it. Now you can easily get stunning professional product photography for all of your products in one convenient location.

Professional Graphic, Label, And Package Design. As Steve Jobs was fond of saying, “design is marketing.” Cheap graphic design and bad use of typeface is an Amazon epidemic. We are now offering exclusive packaging and label design that will make your products boldly stand out from the competition. As more and more shoppers make the switch to e-commerce, their expectations for design are increasing to rival those of box store brands. Now you can meet and exceed those expectations taking your brand to a whole new level of success.

Keyword and Conversion Driven Listing Content. Customized keyword research and listing content that is optimized for your product and category’s unique needs. Listing content optimized for both elegance and effectiveness is the key factor in boosting conversion and improving keyword ranking.

Data Driven Email Follow Ups. Email follow ups are an overwhelmingly wasted opportunity for sellers. One of the largest competitive advantages on Amazon is reviews; a calculated email follow up campaign is a highly effective way of driving new reviews and curbing negative reviews.

Viral Launch Flight Crew. A revolutionary new profit sharing model that will give your business unlimited access to all these features at no upfront cost to you. Flight crew members will enjoy exclusive access to new features as well as front row access to powerful new software tools that are currently in development.

Over the last two years I’ve had the privilege of developing Viral Launch into the premier Amazon promotional platform that it is today. Along the way I have learned countless lessons from sellers, insiders, and yes, even competitors. With all the lessons learned and over a billion data points acquired, I am convinced more and more each day that there is no single secret to Amazon sales success, rather there is a precise and diversified plan of attack and excellence.

Truly successful sellers are not merely checking off boxes on their to-do list but investing time, creativity, and passion into every element of their brand, listing, and product presentation. This process can sound overwhelming to some which is why we are so thrilled to be able to announce that help and partnership has arrived. Not a magic bullet or one time sales gimmick that promises overnight success, rather a true partnership.  A full creative and data driven arsenal that addresses every angle of your branding, marketing, and customer experience.

The new Viral Launch is obsessed with creating the most outstanding photography, the most eye catching designs, and the most keyword driven and sales inducing content available. We believe that excellence in all these areas is the key to dividends beyond your wildest dreams.

As the Amazon market continues to evolve, truly competitive sellers are going to have to evolve with it. That is why I’m so thrilled to unveil what I believe is your jumpstart to a long-standing successful business on Amazon!

Related Posts:

What a Billion Data Points Has Shown Us About Amazon

Originally Posted: 7/26/2016
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein

Working with thousands of brands across Amazon has been an incredibly insightful journey. We’ve generated over 1,000,000,000 data points and garnered an incredible amount of experience. We’ve worked with thousands of sellers in a wide variety of capacities. Sellers ranging from $100’s/month in revenue to $100m/year in revenue and capacities ranging from simply running promotional giveaways to managing entire accounts. It’s this data and experience we leverage to build insights into the Amazon market and make decisions for our clients and Viral Launch as a company.

How Amazon is Shifting

(I want to first preface with the fact that these insights are largely regarding private label merchants and product manufactures as they comprise approximately 97% of our customer base.)

A few years ago selling on Amazon was easy. If you sourced it, they would come. Meaning, if you threw a product up on Amazon, with little to no work, you could capture a healthy portion of the market. Standing out in the spacewas easy.

Fast-forward to present day and now everyone and their mother is in on the gold rush called Amazon PL. With some search terms having thousands even millions of results (please save yourself a mistake and thousands of dollars and do not get into the cell phone case market), standing out above the competition can be insanely difficult.

Go back to 2014 when simply having your product ranking on page 1, meant you were selling well. Back then what was the trick to ranking page 1 for your keywords? Keyword stuffing your product title, running some decent PPC campaigns and getting a couple of friends and family to buy and review your product. Depending on your market, it could take anywhere from a week to a couple of months to get a product up and selling well.

In late 2014, Viral Launch and other promotional giveaway services came into the market and started to expedite the ranking process by driving high volume sales. At this time landing your product on page 1 almost always meant a major increase in sales. We were literally helping people get rich overnight!

At present day, landing your product on page 1 no longer guarantees a major increase in sales. Has Viral Launch become worse at doing our job? Not at all, we’re actually really good at this and have become more effective as you can read here.

How Viral Launch Fits In

Viral Launch’s job has always been to increase the keyword ranking of your product, which can still do quite easily. By improving ranking, we increase exposure to potential customers and give your product more opportunity to sell. Driving the actual sale depends on a multitude of factors, only you as the seller can control.

We’ve seen it time and again, and more frequently, where a product lands on page 1, but the product does not take off in sales.

We’ve also seen older products and brands watch their sales start to slip and new competition moves in and quickly dominates the market.

Standing out becomes even more difficult when you realize that the majority of your competitor’s products are relatively the same. If you search on Amazon for fish oil, you’ll see 100,000+ search results. Most of those results are relatively the same offering at approximately the same price.

Amazon’s Magic Bullet

So what is the secret magic bullet to getting your product to stand out and sell insane amounts of units? Why were you never able to turn your existing products into successful big earners? Why is competition passing you by? How can I streamline my product launches?

We have the data and experience to tell us exactly what that magic bullet it is.

We’ll give you all the answers tomorrow…(and hint: there is no secret magic bullet..)

Talk again soon!

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Houston, We Have An Announcement

Originally Posted: 7/25/2016

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results” – Unknown (not Albert Einstein)

For nearly two years we’ve been helping business owners achieve their dreams by launching their products, brands, and businesses to Amazon’s coveted page one.

It has been an absolutely incredible experience to listen to elated client feedback and see the results of our hard work impact thousands of business owners. We love it. We thrive off of it.

To date we’ve:

  • Performed over 9,000 product launches
  • Worked with over 4,000 various products
  • Built a user base of over 200,000
  • Aggregated over 1 billion data points on the Amazon marketplace
  • Helped thousands of business owners reach page one of Amazon search
  • Been featured on industry leading webinars and podcasts
  • Have been asked to speak at industry leading events/conferences
  • Helped a single company reach the $100,000,000/year mark on Amazon!
  • Learned a ton about Amazon and our clients
  • Never been more hungry and well equipped to help Amazon sellers take their businesses to the next level!

The figures are great, but we’ve never been completely satisfied.

 Why? 

Because we aren’t able to help our clients enough!

Of course landing a product on page 1 of the world’s largest e-commerce platform is nothing shy of amazing, but selling well and being successful requires so much more than just ranking for particular search terms. And that is where we want to come alongside our clients to help them achieve new levels of sales and success.

With the incredible amount of data and experience we’ve garnered over the last two years, as well as the team we have assembled, no one is better positioned to help you dramatically increase your sales.

Tomorrow we will talk more about the changes we are seeing in the Amazon market and what steps we believe successful sellers will need to take to stay ahead of the curve.

Talk soon!

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