Gathering initial reviews on new Amazon products has become more and more difficult.
You know it, I know it, and Amazon knows it. You need sales to get reviews, and you need reviews to get sales … it’s a vicious cycle.
We’re excited to report that Amazon has introduced a new way to rack up those first reviews: the Early Reviewer Program.
What is the Early Reviewer Program
The early reviewer program incentivizes authentic reviews from Amazon shoppers for new products.
According to Amazon, the goal of the program is “to help brand owners acquire early reviews, which helps shoppers make smarter buying decisions and can lead to an increase in page views, search click-throughs, and sales.”
This is a win-win for buyers and shoppers; buyers get a reward for sharing their opinion, and sellers more easily gain traction for a new product.
7 Things You Need to Know
- The Early Reviewer Program is only available to U.S. brand registered Amazon sellers. You may be eligible to apply for Brand Registry if you own the trademark to your brand name that appears on your product and packaging.
- In order for an ASIN to be eligible for the Early Reviewer Program, it must have fewer than 5 reviews and must be priced above $15.00.
- A seller will pay $60 for each SKU enrolled in the program after the first program generated review rolls in. Amazon will continue to solicit reviews for each SKU for 1 year, or until 5 reviews are received through the program (whichever is sooner).
- Sellers can choose ASINs to enroll in the Early Reviewer Program, but they cannot influence the content or star rating of reviews in any way. Amazon does not modify or remove reviews from the Early Review Program, so long as they are within the community guidelines.
- Amazon randomly selects customers from a list of all customers who have purchased products participating in the program, so long as they have no history of abusive or dishonest reviews and meet Amazon’s criteria. So, not all customers who purchased will receive reward offers.
- Reviewers will receive a small reward (a $1-$3 Amazon gift card, for example) after submitting their review that meets the community guidelines. The reward is a token of appreciation for the genuine review, regardless of the star rating.
- Early Reviewer Program reviews are denoted with an orange badge that reads “Early Reviewer Rewards.”
Why Amazon Offers the Early Reviewer Program
Reviews can be one of the largest barriers to entry in a given market. Without a competitive number of reviews, it’s difficult to drive sales and compete with top sellers.
Not too long ago, initial reviews were fairly easy to gather for a new Amazon product. Sellers could give away products in exchange for “honest” reviews. Complaints about manipulated reviews rolled in, and Amazon shut it down.
Last October, Amazon banned incentivizing product reviews. This change rattled the seller community, as sellers no longer knew how to gather reviews to successfully launch new products.
Sellers are able to send email follow-up sequences to gather reviews. Again, Amazon got complaints, and in March they offered the ability for Amazon customers to opt out of all Seller Communication, which makes generating reviews even more difficult.
Sellers have been left wondering how to grow their review base to compete with established products. The industry average review rate is estimated to be around 1%. But with an optimized email follow-up sequence, a seller may see around a 5% review rate.
So even with a stellar email strategy, a seller may only see 5 reviews come from 100 sales. For an established product, that sounds pretty tough. But for a brand new product, it sounds almost impossible.
We often get this question: “I just launched my product and am seeing 1-2 sales/day. How in the world am I supposed to reach 5-10 reviews so that others will feel confident purchasing my product?”
Some sellers were asking friends and family to leave reviews, which is against TOS. Amazon has been serving policy violations and suspensions for this tactic, and we highly advise against it!
Typical suggestions within Amazon’s TOS include: run PPC, drive external traffic, run a promotion, and of course send follow up emails. But for a brand new product, those are expensive and/or slow methods of gathering reviews.
Amazon understands this uphill battle and is giving sellers a little boost. (It’s also working in their favor, as this program will likely draw more people into their Brand Registry Program). The Early Reviewer Program will speed up the process of gaining those initial, essential reviews, AND those reviews will be genuine.
If you have a terrible product, your reviews are going to be terrible. If you have a great product, your reviews will likely follow suit. No extra perks for a positive review. No risk of backlash for a negative review. Buyers will leave their honest opinions for other Amazon shoppers to consider in their purchasing decision, and this is exactly how Amazon wants it to be.
How to Enroll in Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program
Gather 5 initial reviews by enrolling in the program. Here’s how:
1. Enroll Your Brand in Amazon’s Brand Registry
To be eligible for the Early Reviewer Program, you must be brand registered. Once your brand is enrolled in Amazon’s Brand Registry, you can access the Early Reviewer Program portal in Seller Central.
2. Prepare Your CSV Template
For brand registered sellers, the Early Reviewer Program portal can be found in Seller Central under the Advertising tab. To submit products for enrollment, sellers will upload their eligible SKUs through the template shown below, provided by Amazon. Up to 100 SKUs can be uploaded at once.
Product eligibility requirements include:
- Must have fewer than 5 reviews on the listing
- SKUs must be parent-level or stand-alone. No variations can be enrolled. Child SKUs are automatically enrolled with the parent.
- Offer price of each product must be greater than $15. If the offer price falls below $15, we may cease requesting reviews from customers.
3. Upload Your Products Into the Early Reviewer Program
A seller will then upload the completed template containing eligible SKUs. Each enrolled SKU is $60, charged upon receipt of the first Early Reviewer Program review. Amazon will stop soliciting reviews when 5 reviews are collected through the program, or after one year, whichever happens first.
4. Refresh Submission Status
Finally, a seller can view the status of his or her submission within the portal. The uploaded file, along with the number of accepted products, number of products not accepted, and total uploaded products will show up in the Submission History & Product Enrollment Details section at the bottom of the page.
Does this program mean that getting reviews is now super easy? Unfortunately, no.
But, it does show us that Amazon hasn’t left you all alone in the jungle to fend for yourself. If you’re launching a new product and are struggling with the need sales/need reviews cycle, Amazon is offering a helping hand to break you out of the cycle.
Perhaps now instead of driving 100-150 sales for 5 reviews, you’ll only need to drive 20 or 30. Amazon is incentivizing those reviews for you, which is an awesome opportunity for new products that need a little push.
As always, just be sure your product, listing, and customer service are outstanding. This will set you up for a great customer experience, which will help translate to positive reviews.
If you haven’t already, enroll your brand in Amazon’s Brand Registry. The Early Reviewer Program is one of the many benefits of being brand registered, and we’ve got a good feeling there are more benefits to come.
*Note: after you register your brand, it may take up to 72 hours before you can access the Early Reviewer Program portal.
Are you brand registered? Are you enrolled in Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program? What do you think of Amazon’s new review program?
We’d love to hear from you! Leave your comments below.