How to Get Amazon Reviews: Automated Review Conversion from Viral Launch 

Email Follow-Ups. Are. Dead. 

     As an Amazon seller you know first-hand how difficult getting product reviews can be; as well as how important they are to the success of your product. Reviews are the social proof that many shoppers ultimately base their purchasing decisions on. With feedback being so vital to a product’s performance, some sellers even resort to less-than-legitimate ways of generating reviews such crafty email follow-ups that contain manipulative messaging. Sellers may offer a free product in exchange for an “honest review” and some may even go so far as to buy product reviews through a third-party (these practices are against Amazon Terms of Service and could result in account suspension.) 

     Of course, not all sellers are violating ToS with email follow-ups that use these kinds of black-hat tactics. In the past, a legitimate email follow-up was arguably the best way to get real reviews from your customers. However, the rules around the type of language that is appropriate for email follow-ups changes frequently and staying on top of the current allowed verbiage is very difficult. Luckily, in Q4 of 2019, Amazon quietly released a feature within Seller Central that is disrupting this outdated method and offering much better results. Not to mention, this practice is 100% Amazon-sanctioned! 

Amazon’s ‘Request a Review’ button

    As some of you may have noticed, there is a new button located on your Order Details page within the Seller Central dashboard. You can find this by navigating to a completed order, clicking on “order details,” and then in the upper right-hand corner should be a button labeled “request a review.” This button will send an email, from Amazon, requesting feedback. See figure below. 

     Once this button is pressed, Amazon will prompt you with a few notifications as they send an email to the customer requesting a product review. The messaging is simple and straightforward allowing for quick feedback from the customer. The email customers receive allows them to simply leave a star rating (a 1-5 star rating with no written review) which greatly increases the likelihood of product feedback. 

     Reviews can only be requested on orders that are completed and can also only be requested once. This limits the amount of messages customers are receiving and prevents sellers from abusing this feature by spamming past buyers with emails. Shown below is an example of a product review email a customer might receive. 

VL’s programmatic solution to requesting reviews

     Since the “request a review” button is found within the orders details of each individual purchase, even medium-sized sellers would need to navigate hundreds of unique pages in order to request reviews for daily purchases. However, Viral Launch has automated this process with the release of Review Automation. As an add-on to the Market Intelligence chrome extension, VL subscribers will have the functionality of requesting reviews for all eligible orders with just a few clicks!

The first step is to grant permissions in order for the extension to function properly. From the “Manage Orders” page in Seller Central, click on the extension icon and follow the prompt to grant permissions. From there, you can begin requesting reviews in bulk for all of your eligible orders!

Click “request reviews” to have Amazon reach out to your customers on your behalf and request product feedback. Then just sit back and watch the reviews and ratings start flooding in!

     With this new capability offered by Viral Launch, sellers are able to request reviews from individual orders without navigating into the order details for each. To simplify things even further, sellers can request reviews from all eligible orders within a specified date range! The extension will then denote which orders have a pending review request as to make sure sellers aren’t attempting to send more than one email. 

What impact will Amazon’s ‘Request a Review’ button have on my business?

     There are several ways this new feature will impact sellers. Converting sales into reviews has never been easier so it’s something everyone should be taking advantage of to help better their product’s positioning in the eyes of potential customers. Our take on the impacts of this update are as follows:

  • Email follow-ups will quickly become old news…
    • Review rates from email follow-ups have always been very low and relatively ineffective compared to the early results of Amazon’s new ‘Request a Review’ button. 
  • New products will be able to build a solid review base much more quickly… 
    • With review rates being up to 5x higher than traditional email-follow ups, new products will gain traction in their markets and become legitimate competitors.
  • Review counts for high-volume products will skyrocket… 
    • While new products will find it easier to build an initial base of reviews, top sellers will see review numbers increasing at an exponential rate. 
  • Average product star ratings will begin to improve… 
    • Since feedback is often left when a shopper has a negative experience, the ease of leaving a 5-star review will balance out the average rating on less-than-stellar products. 

     A study done by Marketplace Pulse is reinforcing some of our theories around the impacts this new feature will have. Since September (when the ‘request a review’ button was added) the Amazon listing for Apple Airpods has increased its number of reviews from less than 3,000 at a 4.4 star rating to over 38,000 with a 4.6 star rating! Since peak Q4, this listing has been generating over 600 product ratings/day. Another interesting thing to note is that the majority of feedback left has been in the form of star ratings without a written review. The screenshot below comes from a Marketplace Pulse article analyzing the rate at which Apple Airpods have received reviews vs ratings. As illustrated, it’s easy to tell that shoppers are much more inclined to leave feedback on past purchases if the process is simplified down to just one click.

How can I get this awesome functionality?!?!

     For those of you with a current Market Intelligence subscription, you can access this new review tool now at no extra fee. So log into Seller Central today and start building reviews at 5x the rate of your outdated email follow-up!

     For anyone without an active Viral Launch subscription, don’t worry! For a limited time, we’re offering a subscription to Market Intelligence and Review Automation for only $10/month when you use coupon code REVIEWSPLEASE at checkout! This discounted offer will only be available through 3/7/2020 so click here to subscribe today! 

Amazon Review Changes: Drastic Shifts In Seller Strategy & How To Respond (Part 1)

Amazon Review Changes: Drastic Shifts In Seller Strategy & How To Respond (Part 1)

As a Seller, it’s a serious challenge to grow your business and increase sales while so many changes are constantly happening to Amazon’s platform. Amazon is changing the way that buyers ‘buy’, and sellers ‘sell’. Over the past month, Amazon has been making changes to Reviews. Some of these changes have already drastically altered Seller Strategy. Other changes have the potential to drastically alter Seller Strategy in the future. In this episode, we break down recent changes to reviews on Amazon. We’ll break down what the data is saying, how these changes impact you now, and how they impact your future on Amazon.

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Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

As a seller it’s a serious challenge to grow your business and increase sales while so many changes are constantly happening to Amazon’s platform.  Amazon is changing the way that buyers buy and sellers sell.  And too often Amazon will make changes without any sort of warning or indication of what’s to come.

CASEY GAUSS:

Over the past month Amazon has been making changes to reviews.  Some of these changes have already drastically altered sellers’ strategy.  Other changes have potential to drastically alter sellers’ strategy in the near future.  I’m Casey Gauss.

CAMERON YODER:

And I’m Cameron Yoder, your hosts for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CASEY GAUSS:

In this episode Cam and I are going to break down recent changes to reviews on Amazon.  We’ll break down what the data is saying, how these changes impact you now, and how they may impact you in your future Amazon endeavors.  Let’s jump in.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, so we’re talking about the review apocalypse –

CASEY GAUSS:

Apocalypse?

CAMERON YODER:

– that’s happening.  No.

CASEY GAUSS:

Review apocalypse.

CAMERON YODER:

Review eclipse.

CASEY GAUSS:

All right, review apocalypse it is.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, it’s settled.

CASEY GAUSS:

Anyways, so guys there’s five major changes that we want to go through.  Candidly, we don’t have all the data, nor do we want to act like we do.  So we want to show you what we’re seeing.  You know, we’re tracking hundreds of millions of products on Amazon, so we want to use this data to help you make better decisions, to really get a good scope or understanding of the scope of the changes that are being made.  And so this is something, probably a topic that we’ll have kind of an updated post on, whether it be a blog post or podcast, so that you can see like how those changes are continuing throughout Amazon or as we continue to get more data.

CAMERON YODER:

And some of this episode really is just updating you on what has happened in the Amazon space, and another aspect is, like Casey said, delivering actual data and information.  And also, like Casey said, we’re still accumulating data on this subject, and so that’s why we don’t necessarily want to point to very specific numbers, acting like we have it all conglomerated right now because we’re still collecting that data.  But again, telling you what’s happened, collecting all that information while also delivering you some information that we do have.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right, and at the end of the day I think there’s two main things that you need to walk away with – well, three main things.  One, just a better general understanding, but two, I mean more and more are changes happening faster and faster on Amazon, and so I think that you absolutely need to just get used to it.  So it is the sellers that are quickest to adapt to whatever changes are being thrown their way, whether it be from competitors, suppliers, or from Amazon themselves.  Those that are willing and able to adapt to whatever the new landscape or new paradigm looks like are those that are typically the most successful.  So we want to help you get the knowledge you need to know what decisions to make moving forward.  And then number three is just that so many people freak out about some of these changes, and like I said these are going to be happening more and more.  I imagine so. 

And so just understand that when these changes are made these are opportunities for you to adapt, move quickly, and at the end of the day, you know, a lot of the times it just levels the playing field even more.  So we look at it as – or you may look at it as, you know, this change is now going to have this dramatic impact on your business.  Oh wow, how can we continue?  But in reality a lot of the time it just levels the playing field for those doing black hat activities and allows you to have that much more of a competitive advantage or to diminish the competitive advantage those black hat sellers do have.  So it’s not always the case, but for the most part it is, and so I just want to encourage you to be okay with these changes.  And don’t freak out.  Just adapt with them.  Figure out the new rules, play to those new rules so that you can continue to kill it on Amazon.

CAMERON YODER:

Adapt, learn, and let’s talk about those five changes, five major changes that are, or have already happened, or are currently happening, or are going to happen in the future.  The first one, the first one that we want to talk about are random reviews that are being completely – I shouldn’t even say maybe random necessarily.

CASEY GAUSS:

Seemingly.

CAMERON YODER:

But seemingly random or selective reviews that are being wiped off of Amazon.  Casey, what we got here?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so we are still compiling the stats.  We’ll probably have a blog post out at the time of releasing this.  We’re crunching a lot of information right now.  It’s a little bit tough because there’s multiple changes happening at the same time, and we’re trying to silo those changes.  But anyways, literally millions of reviews have been wiped from Amazon over the last 60 days.  So over the last 90 days there have definitely been changes.  The majority of changes actually have come over the last 30 days at the time of recording this.  This is June 5th.  So over the last 30 days, but a good amount over the last 60, even more over the last 90, but literally millions of reviews are being wiped.  And so, so far the product that we’ve seen the largest drop in review quantity is actually 16,000 reviews lost on one ASIN.

CAMERON YODER:

Single product.  That’s a single ASIN.  That’s not necessarily variations.  Or does that include variations or not?

CASEY GAUSS:

Does not include variations.

CAMERON YODER:

Single ASIN.

CASEY GAUSS:

A single ASIN lost 16,000 reviews.  Now you know, there’s just these wild review fluctuations going on, so I’ve seen everything from – I was looking at a product where it lost 11,000 reviews in a day and went down to like one, two reviews or something like that.  But literally like a few days later got like half – so I’ve seen some products where they get all their reviews back, and then I’ve seen some products where they get like half their reviews back, right?  And so it’s literally all over the place.

CAMERON YODER:

So Amazon, have we – there isn’t necessarily a pattern, correct, that’s been recognized as to these reviews being removed and/or are they correlated with something like black hat activity obtaining those reviews?

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, I mean there’s got to be a method behind the madness, and that has not seemed very apparent to us.  So this is happening for brands like Rubbermaid, and TP-Link, and Netgear.  So these major, major brands, but also happening to third-party sellers.  And it can be as little as a couple of reviews being removed.  Sellers may not have even noticed.  But then, like we said, some people losing over 10,000 reviews on a single product. 

So it’s across the board.  So one theory that we have, kind of from some of our tests – now I want to stipulate that this is a theory.  This is not proven.  We don’t have insider data helping us to understand this.  But what we are seeing is that Amazon is flagging particular buyer accounts.  And so this lines up with another change that we’re seeing.  And so which, you know, it helps to support this theory.  But essentially we feel as though, or we think that we’re seeing individual buyer accounts get flagged.  And what’s this this means is essentially – and this spreads into another point coming up – but anyways, if a particular buyer account gets flagged for leaving suspicious reviews or whatever, we then see either all of that person’s reviews removed, so you know that would affect all the products that they’ve purchased and left reviews on.  So it’s not specifically targeting a single ASIN, and those ASINs may – we’ll bring it up in another point, but something else will happen to those ASINs. 

But so I do know that they – or very much so believe that they are targeting individual products as well.  That’s why there’s no chance that they are targeting, let’s say this product that lost 16,000 reviews, on one day they didn’t find 16,000 buyer accounts or whatever that had happened to leave a review on that product and wiped all of them out.  They’re going after individual products as well.

CAMERON YODER:

Yes, so impact on the market – basically, again, point number one is that reviews seemingly are being removed.  Whether it’s completely random or specified to a specific product, it’s unclear at this point in time.  But regardless, reviews, a large amount of reviews, have been removed and are currently being removed.

CASEY GAUSS:

So one interesting thing here – so again, the question is how much time do we want to take to really go and quantify some of these things because we have the data; it’s just a matter of opportunity [cost 0:08:49.1].  We’re working on some big things, but so I was just doing some quick looking around last night and some products that had 5,000 reviews removed or whatever, like some of them you can see on the exact day that those reviews were removed you can see a drop in their sales or a drop in their best seller rank.

CAMERON YODER:

Crazy.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right.  And so you can easily see that this is definitely, definitely having an impact on sellers.  Now we didn’t go – you know, we could do some really cool things like go and quantify the average impact to sales that is being had on the products that are losing reviews, and we could see like if they lost at least X percent of their reviews it had this kind of impact on sales.  Interesting stats, for sure, but maybe not worth our time.  You know, if you’re listening and you really, really, really want these stats and you’re going to promise to share and tell all your friends, like shoot us an email, and if we get enough feedback like maybe we will really go dive in because it’s definitely interesting.  We just have so much that we’re working on.  It’s hard to –

CAMERON YODER:

Right.  All that to say what we are seeing is a direct correlation between these reviews being removed and a drop in sales.  So there is significant impact being placed on the market right now.

CASEY GAUSS:

And one of my favorite points about this is like there is that study, and there’s a bunch of, you know, software providers in the space [unintelligible 0:10:13.2] saying that if you have over 21 reviews then there is no difference, right?  And so these guys who are losing – this person that lost 16,000 reviews, they still have hundreds of reviews, and some of them that lost like 5,000 reviews or whatever, they still have thousands of reviews, but they did still see a decline in sales because they lost reviews even though they have over 5,000.  So if more than 21 reviews, or more than 1,000 reviews, it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t affect sales?  That’s absolutely not true, and this is the best example of that.

CAMERON YODER:

So point number one, reviews are being wiped.  Point number two – this is an interesting one – reviews are getting split, seem to be getting split, among variations.  Now here’s the thing.  About some of these points that we’re talking about, we’re not saying that they are indefinitely going to happen across the entire Amazon platform.  However, what we are recognizing is that they are happening with specific ASINs.  So in this case what we are seeing is that how things used to be, basically, all products would share reviews under the parent ASIN.  So let’s say you have a – you’re selling a coffee mug.  Let’s say you have a red coffee mug and you have a blue coffee mug.  If you go to that parent ASIN that has all the variations you would see the same amount of reviews.  They would just be – all the variations would share those reviews.  Now what we’re seeing with a couple products on Amazon is that the people that bought a red coffee mug and leave a review, the review sticks for that red coffee mug specifically.  And then people that buy the blue coffee mug and leave a review, those reviews are left for the blue coffee mug specifically.  So what ends up happening is if you’re looking at variations under a parent ASIN, each variation is going to have a different number of reviews and just different reviews in general.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so actually, Cam, I’m pretty confident that this is going to be happening across the board –

CAMERON YODER:

Everywhere.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, Everywhere.

CAMERON YODER:

But not right now.  Right now it’s not across the board.

CASEY GAUSS:

Right now it’s not, but something definitely to expect.  So this, I feel like does kind of suck.  But I see some benefit to it as well.  So it does suck from the standpoint of one very common strategy is to just put everything under one listing so that you can take advantage of the reviews, start getting some sales going on a new ASIN, and then once you have a significant number of reviews on that new ASIN, you can then split it up, then go take as much of the search result real estate as possible.  So this strategy is going to be gone now, I think, unless the majority of searches are coming for like blue coffee mug but people end up buying the red coffee mug or something like that.  But I think the main advantage of this, of these variation hacks are gone. 

So we’ll see what happens.  I think that as we all have to kind of adapt to this new system or whatever, this new structure, we will continue to develop new strategies as we think about it.  You know, I haven’t really taken much time to think about it, but definitely something to be aware of.  I have some friends who were absolutely killing it because one of their variations was just like had tons and tons of reviews, but when they were ranking for other keywords they still showed those reviews, and so they were just able to wipe everybody out in their market.  And now they won’t have that advantage.  Now sure, because they leverage that they got more sales, which allowed them to generate more reviews.  So they are much better off than had they not have done that in the first place, but still can definitely be impactful for people.

CAMERON YODER:

This change of each variation having their own unique number of reviews does really benefit the consumer.  It is very beneficial for a customer to go in, look at variations and see reviews for those specific products.  For sellers specifically it does make things a little bit more difficult.  But again, like Casey said towards the beginning, this is just something that as a seller you’re going to have to adapt to because it does make sense.  It just makes everything a little bit harder.

CASEY GAUSS:

So one down side to this, I was hoping that it would – maybe some of you guys have seen the examples where, you know, it’s a testosterone cream that has 10,000 reviews and all the reviews are for like crazy things like cat beds, HDMI cables, like camping gear, stuff like that.  The reviews are for these really random, random products for a testosterone cream.  And so I was hoping that this update would make that tactic not available because it sucks.  If somebody can just go and get 10,000 reviews out of nowhere and they’re all verified, like that sucks.  And so you know they don’t always remain, and Amazon will wipe them out sometimes, not all the time.  But regardless, that tactic still remains as a black hat tactic that people can use against you unfortunately.  Hopefully that is something that is blocked here soon.  I can’t imagine that it’s not.  We’re actually talking about just for fun so that everybody knows and maybe to help bring it to Amazon’s attention, building just a quick tool that helps us to find those reviews – or sorry, those products that are cheating in this manner or using this method because like at the end of the day like I appreciate people’s hustle and like, you know, their ingenuity for coming up with these things, but it hurts the seller that’s trying to be legitimate.

CAMERON YODER:

It does.

CASEY GAUSS:

And as a company we have to play by the rules, and we have to teach people to kind of play by the rules.

CAMERON YODER:

Overall I think this change makes sense for some very specific variations on products in Amazon, like if they’re very different, like if you’re talking about variations with jewelry where you have a ring that has a completely different diamond design than another, that makes complete sense.  But for others where it’s just kind of a simple color variation, I think that’s a little more difficult.  Bottom line, this kind of make sellers have to work a bit more or work a bit harder for reviews in general.  Like if you have five variations, now you’re going to have to maybe work five times as hard to get those reviews for each variation.  In the end, though, this is an adjustment that you as a seller are going to have to make, and so that is point number two.  Point number two is reviews that are being split among variations.  Another review change, another thing involving reviews that has changed in the market –

CASEY GAUSS:

It has been deemed the quote Great Amazon Purge.

CAMERON YODER:

The Great Amazon Purge.  And I believe the stat – Casey, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the stat is 4,800 out of the top 10,000 reviewer accounts were wiped out completely.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Completely.

CASEY GAUSS:

So according to reddit – we’ll post it in the show notes – you can go see they have this bot that is going and finding new Amazon top reviewer accounts that have been purged.  And so 4,800, you know that’s half of the Amazon top reviewers, which is just – so there’s 10,000 – maybe there are still 10,000?

CAMERON YODER:

Well, maybe there are still 10,000, but –

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, of the top 10,000 Amazon reviewers 5,000 of them have been shut down.  And I think this shows that nobody is safe.  They’ve always kind of drawn attention to these top reviewers and hailed them as like, you know, their reviews really mean a lot.  And apparently they don’t mean too much if Amazon is willing to get rid of half of them.

CAMERON YODER:

If they’re removing them.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so anyways, not like super actionable, but definitely interesting.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s just that does show that no one is safe, and perhaps, again, like we saw before where some reviews were allowed to kind of come back into the system, perhaps Amazon has taken these reviewers out of the system and will let them come back.  But for now they’re gone.

CASEY GAUSS:

I don’t know about them coming back because if you have seen any of the articles recently for the last month or two of buyer accounts that get banned from Amazon because of like too many returns or stuff like that, and then that person just is not able to create a new account or use their Amazon account anymore, which is really crazy to see.

CAMERON YODER:

It is.  Fourth change, fourth change involving reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:

This is probably the most minor so far but could be a precursor to other new things.

CAMERON YODER:

It’s an indication of something that we’ve actually talked about before in a review episode a little while back.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, if you haven’t checked it out – so we have some interesting and novel thoughts.  Now I have heard some new people or some people talking about these ideas since our podcast, of course, but you should definitely check it out.  Basically we talk about what we think Amazon’s review system will look like in the near- to mid-future.  We think there has to be some systemic changes that will change a lot of the strategies and game on Amazon.  So definitely check that out.

CAMERON YODER:

This fourth change kind of –, again the indication of this fourth change goes along with one of our big predictions which we had in that episode, but this fourth change involves seller feedback, okay?  So before if you would go on to an offer listing page for products and you would look at all the different sellers with offers for that product you would be able to look at the seller feedback from the offer listing page, okay?  So on the page you would look at all the offers, all the different offers from all the different sellers for that product, and from there you would be able to see seller feedback, the seller feedback rating.  So typically, until very recently you were able to see, or Amazon displayed the lifetime, the total lifetime seller feedback that all of these sellers had.  However, very recently Amazon has changed this display.  So now instead of seeing seller feedback that is lifetime, that is that seller’s lifetime, it’s now displayed as a 12-month rolling feedback.  So basically, long story short, instead of seeing lifetime feedback for a seller, now we’re starting to see that seller – Amazon is only displaying a 12-month rolling feedback.

CASEY GAUSS:

So yeah, 12-month rolling feedback is not a new thing, right?  So if you go to a seller’s store then you will be able to see 30, 90 and –

CAMERON YODER:

Lifetime.

CASEY GAUSS:

12-month and lifetime feedback on the seller.  And so they’ve been doing these rolling metrics, but this is the first time that we’re seeing it on the product page.

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

Like and this is only happening to – it’s happening on the account level, which is very interesting.  So again, we – just some quick glances weren’t able to discern what the cause or how they were delineating between who to show the aggregate or lifetime feedback versus the 12-month feedback, but this could definitely be a precursor to what we think is going to one of the ideas of how we think the Amazon review change is going to happen.  So not very actionable, not too much going on, but definitely something interesting and to be paying attention to, especially just among all this noise among of review changes.

CAMERON YODER:

So instead of applying this to the product review side, this is an indication that in the future or sometime maybe Amazon will implement this rolling review system to products.  So instead of seeing the lifetime reviews for a product, for example, maybe you’ll see the number of reviews that this product has gained over the past 12 months, at least displayed.  And maybe if you click into that you’ll be able to see the lifetime reviews, but just like seller feedback, buyers often are not going to click on a seller, look at all their data and see the lifetime reviews.  They’re just going to take what they see up front on the listing, on the offer listing page and say like okay, this seller has this review rating. 

So again, indication possibly for the future.  Maybe Amazon will push this rollover system into their product feedback into their product reviews.  Point number five, the fifth review change that we see happening in the Amazon system right now are reviewers getting blocked, ASINs getting flagged.  Casey, you touched on this a little bit at the beginning.  Maybe touch on it specifically again.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, so I’m sure some of you have seen it in the Facebook groups.  We’ve been seeing this probably for the last three or four weeks, actually beginning of May.  So over a month now, wow.  So anyways, what happens is you go to leave a review and – on a particular product – you click on the star rating, and then it says – you know, a message pops up saying sorry, we’re unable to expect accept your review of this product.  This product is currently – this product currently has limitations on submitting reviews.  This may be because we deleted – or sorry – detected unusual review behavior on this product or to maintain the best possible shopping experience.  And so then it has a link to the customer review guidelines.  So there’s some really interesting things here.  We have some more testing to do to figure out the specifics.  We don’t want to disclose too much of what we’re doing to test, but basically this is very interesting. 

And so what happens, or what we’re seeing happen is if there is a significant – now significant, we don’t know what that means exactly.  If there is a significant number of reviews being left over a set period of time – we don’t know exactly what that set period of time is.  We have some guesses.  I’ll share that in a second.  But if too many reviews are left over a certain period of time Amazon will block the reviews.  And from what we’re being told this then triggers a – basically the product and/or brand has to be looked into further to better understand is this manipulative behavior, and if so, then go do deeper digging, where we’re seeing some people get suspended because their email sequence or whatever was not in line with Amazon’s guidelines.  So they’re going – I think this is a manual process where they go, they review the product, they review the brand to go see what are these guys doing to see this kind of review volume?  Is this malicious or not?  And so we’ve seen where it takes as few as a few days to be unblocked from reviews.  The most I’ve seen is seven consecutive days, but we have seen it go from seven consecutive days getting unblocked and then going through this dance of being unblocked and blocked.  So one very interesting point here is that actually the unverified and verified reviews are blocked irrespectively. 

So we haven’t tested too much of going back and forth, but so basically what we’ve tested is okay, a product is ineligible or currently being blocked for unverified reviews.  Well, verified reviews, meaning someone has actually purchased a product at call it full price, is then still able to go and leave a review.  But if too many verified reviews are left within – for us we’ve just been testing within the context of a day – if too many verified reviews are left within the context of a day, then the verified reviews will be blocked.  And it’s possible that the verified reviews are blocked but not unverified reviews.  So very, very interesting. 

So what do we think kind of the limitations are?  So just some casual testing here and there, it looks somewhere around three unverified reviews in a day and five to seven verified reviews in a day.  So please don’t hold us to those numbers.  We still have quite a bit more testing to do to find the specifics, but that gives you a general jumping off point.  And so again, we mentioned that reviews could be, at the very beginning of this podcast, that we are seeing some products that seem to get blocked when some of the reviewers get flagged for – so if a reviewer gets flagged, then it is very possible that the products that they’ve left reviews on then get this review block, and this review block, like I said, can happen for days at a time.  We’ve seen it where it’s blocked for three days, unblocked for a day, blocked for three days.  And we’ve seen where a product is blocked but then is good for the last, I don’t know, three weeks or so.  So still figuring out the specifics, but I actually, for the most part I like this. 

So too often – we’ve all heard of the stories where products get hundreds of reviews over the course of a week or two weeks, and we all know that for the most part these are not legitimate methods, and there is one method that I know where you can get hundreds of reviews legitimately in the course of a week or so.  But these are very rare and tend to be across a whole product line, not just a single ASIN.  Anyways, I like this change because I feel like this is Amazon stepping up their game to make sure that these malicious black hat sellers are not getting tons and tons of reviews in a short period of time, able to just launch their product to the top and just start taking all of the sales on these products that don’t deserve it, essentially. 

So we’ll see how this continues to change.  One thing that I would love for Amazon to really start paying attention to, for a little bit we thought this was the case, but now not so sure about that, or not – I don’t think it’s in place right now, but I’d love for Amazon to kind of just pay attention to the referral path or where that customer is coming from to leave reviews.  But anyways, I think they’re doing a good job of playing it safe so that we can take legitimate action.  Now that does mean we have some – I have some friends that have legitimate review acquisition strategies where they’re getting like insane rates, like 20% review rate, which is just insane.  The downside is they’re getting flagged, and so they are legitimate reviews from legitimate people and like legitimate buyers, and yeah, their ASINs are getting flagged because they’re doing too well with the review acquisition strategy.  But overall I think that this is positive for people.  Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what are the limitations in terms of too many reviews too fast so that we can stay within those lines and make sure not to get on Amazon’s radar, and to make sure that we are able to get as many reviews as quickly as possible in a legitimate fashion.

CAMERON YODER:

Overall, big picture, these five changes – I’m going to go over them again.  The five changes, which were random reviews being wiped, reviews being wiped in general, reviews getting split among variations, the Great Amazon Purge, a.k.a. the top reviewers, 4,800 top 4,800 reviewers being wiped from Amazon, the seller feedback change into a 12-month rollover and blocked ASINs or blocked reviews being in place.  Each of these seem to show Amazon’s moves now, which may indicate where they’re going in the future.  Seemingly, Amazon is taking big steps, big strides that they haven’t really taken before against fake reviews, against reviews in general, making it, in some cases harder for small sellers, but also harder for big sellers.  Basically they’re changing the way that reviews happen and are displayed on Amazon.  And we could look at this, and we could say – we can look at this and just kind of moan the whole time that it’s happening and not act, but basically we have to play with the cards that we’re dealt, and in this case we have to play by the rules of the Amazon game.  And the rules are changing a little bit right now.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yep.  Overall I feel like this helps small sellers, these changes, outside of maybe the variation change.

KEN CHRISTIANSEN:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

But I mean it is what it is, and guys, we need to focus on how we can move forward and build the best business possible with the new rules versus looking at how things used to be and getting upset, complaining, or feeling like our chances of success are limited.  They’re just – they are not.  There is still so much opportunity for success.  And yeah, let’s go and achieve these like crazy goals, build our dreams, chase after our dreams together, no matter what the specifics of the landscape are.

CAMERON YODER:

We want to thank you all so much for listening.  Seriously, we do this for you, and we do this every week for you guys.  We love hearing feedback from you.  So if you have any feedback on today’s episode we honestly would love to hear from you on your thoughts on potential changes and the changes that are happening now for reviews on Amazon.  So if you’d like to leave us any feedback at all, I’m going to encourage you, push you to our Facebook page.  Seriously, if you go to – if you look up Viral Launch on Facebook and you just shoot us a message about the podcast we’ll get right back to you.  That’s something you can do on your phone right now.  Seriously, take out your phone if you’re listening and you’re not driving and shoot us a message right now.  You can also look forward to our blog post on this subject.  That will be going out sometime soon.  And if you would rather call in, you can call us at 317-721-6590.  But again, thank you all so much for listening.  We look forward to your feedback and your questions.  Until next time, remember, the data is out there.

Are Amazon Reviews Going to Change? (Follow the Data Ep. 8)

Follow the Data Episode 8: Are Amazon Reviews Going to Change? 

Reviews can pose a huge threat to the success of new products, and getting legitimate reviews early on can be difficult. Will this barrier to entry stagnate the market and ruin the competitive environment that Amazon shoppers love? Join Viral Launch CEO Casey Gauss and co-host Cameron Yoder as they speculate about the future of Amazon reviews.

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • If only you could get to 21 reviews! Then you could really compete. Check out this Seller Sessions video where Brad Moss talks briefly about the study that found conversion rates didn’t improve past 21 reviews.
  • LinkedIn uses a model that might work nicely for Amazon reviews in the future. Any connections you make over the 500-mark show up on your profile as 500+. Seems a bit of an unfair system for those of us who are extraordinarily popular or have really killer products. But check out some of the hidden benefits that having more than 500 reviews affords you.
  • Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program helps new products get their first 5 reviews and is available as part of their Brand Registry Program. Find out if you are eligible here.
  • Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 and tell us what you thought of the show. What do you think is in store for Amazon reviews?

Podcast Transcript

CASEY GAUSS:
Reviews are the currency of the Amazon marketplace.

CAMERON YODER:
But is change to Amazon’s current review platform on its way? I’m Cameron Yoder.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I’m Casey Gauss, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 25,000 product launches and our experience working with over 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, most importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CAMERON YODER:
Today’s episode is a bit different. We’re going to branch out a bit and talk more conceptually about Amazon’s current review system, how it currently works, potential impacts and flaws and changes that we think might be on the horizon. Let’s get started.

CAMERON YODER:
All right, Casey, so today’s episode is a little bit different. It’s not as data-driven, right, but it’s conceptual, and it’s important. So what are we talking about today?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, you know, in terms of data I would like to think that maybe the data has helped us to build the conceptual model around Amazon.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
I definitely think that the data has helped us to, anyways, build this theory. And so essentially the theory is that, you know, I think in somewhat the mid-term, the short- to mid-term we’re going to have to see Amazon make a systemic review change, and we’re not talking about, you know, not being able to get reviews from discounted promotions or anything small like that. I think –

CAMERON YODER:
Something much bigger.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And so I’m pretty interested to hear what the feedback will be. I imagine something like this will be somewhat polarizing in terms of people seeing our view, as well as maybe a complete opposite view.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
And I imagine other people will have probably better thoughts than I do.

CAMERON YODER:
I mean we have – we’ll touch on this again at the end, but again, we have that phone number, and we’ll read the number out at the end of the episode. But if you have an opinion on this, then seriously feel free to call in and tell us what you think, or again, just ask any questions on what we’re going to go over. But first off –

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, please. I mean I’d love to hear people’s ideas and feedback because it can help us better lay out our product roadmap so that we’re making sure to help sellers in the best way possible or help us give better advice. So, anyways –

CAMERON YODER:
Exactly.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so let’s just jump into it. So just as a quick overview of the current review system, the current system, in how it works is essentially obviously someone buys a product.You are able to go and leave a review as a customer. Let’s – we’re talking from the perspective of a customer.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so these reviews accumulate. And so if you have 10 people review a product, or 10 people review a product, now it has 10 reviews, and the way that a rating is calculated, so a star rating is being shown, the way the rating is calculated is it takes into account recency, and it also takes into account whether or not a review is verified or unverified and puts together some amalgamation or some, you know, average rating, even though it’s not a straight average, rating of that product’s reviews. And so –

CAMERON YODER:
Do we have data on how recent, how far back it goes?

CASEY GAUSS:
No, so we haven’t tried to, you know, reverse engineer the algorithm of reviews, and I – theoretically I imagine it wouldn’t be very difficult to do. There’s just really, you know, no –

CAMERON YODER:
Not too much point?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, it’s not going to help us. I mean at the end of the day you need to have a great product that people want to leave good reviews on.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
We’re not trying to game reviews. That’s the last thing that we want to do here.

CAMERON YODER:
Right, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
And so there’s at least right now no point.

CAMERON YODER:
Well Casey, you touched on this a little bit. Just to get everyone in kind of on the whole picture of reviews, you can get reviews from someone buying a product on Amazon, right, but that all reviews on the platform might not be from people that have bought the product on Amazon. Explain that a little bit.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so unverified – so there’s this concept of unverified reviews, which is now there’s two different camps of unverified reviews. Essentially, one, let’s say you bought a product at Walmart and you want to leave a review on Amazon. You can. And that is an unverified review. It’s completely within Amazon’s terms of service, and they actually encourage it. I think the whole reason behind these unverified reviews is it was, especially when Amazon was a young platform, a way of them, you know, bootstrapping and accelerating their review system.

I mean that was one of their initial kind of advantages is they have this review system that buyers know and trust, and that social proof helps them to make better buying decisions in e-commerce, which, you know, five years ago, 10 years ago, which was a very, you know, different situation than it is now. The trust was very difficult that I’m buying something that I haven’t been able to see, you know, touch or feel. So I don’t know the quality. So now I have to trust in this social proof, or these reviews that other people are leaving. And so that’s what really helped to – that’s one thing that helped Amazon to grow.

But anyways, so a new product comes onto the platform. A new brand comes onto the platform that has maybe been doing well in traditional retail or something like that. Well now that brand can get their customers that are buying somewhere else to come leave reviews on Amazon’s platform. That helps Amazon out because now they have more reviews, more social proof around these products which are going to better drive sales, and then also that helps that brand out because, again, they’re going to drive more sales.

CAMERON YODER:
Because as a big brand it wouldn’t really make much sense to, if you have all this social attraction already, if you have all these reviews already, to not be able to bring them on with you. That would just not attract a lot of big sellers that already have those things in place. And so of course having those things in place is going to be able to encourage big brands to come onto Amazon if they’re not already.

CASEY GAUSS:
Right. And so from a buyer’s perspective reviews do two things. One, they act as an indicator of popularity. So buyers are not looking at a bestseller rank. They’re not browsing through the bestseller rank tree.

CAMERON YODER:
Looking at their reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:
They’re looking at their reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:
So obviously if something has, let’s just say 10,000 reviews, well, at least 10,000 people had to have bought that. So it must be somewhat popular, right? And so versus a product that has 10 reviews. Well, it doesn’t look like as many people bought that. So it must not be popular. There may be some, or must be some reason that I am not aware of which is the reason why not as many people have bought it. Maybe it’s new and not as proven, or maybe it’s just not as good, or maybe people don’t trust the brand. So I am less inclined to go and trust it as well.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
So anyways, acts as an indicator of popularity, and then obviously acts as an indicator of quality. So you know a five-star product with a great number of reviews seems to be of good quality. A product with a two-star rating and a significant number of reviews seems to be a product of low-quality, so I’m less inclined to buy it. And so anyways, reviews, again, act as this form of social proof giving me confidence to buy the product. And so from the customer’s perspective that’s that. From the seller’s perspective, you know, we really see the data around reviews being the barrier to entry. There’s –

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
Okay, so this is a little tangent on a myth, but you know, there’s recently these articles coming around where Amazon, Amazon did this internal study and the magic number to reviews is 21, and so – I believe it’s 21.

CAMERON YODER:
Wait, 21 –

CASEY GAUSS:
Reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
What do you mean, to be successful?

CASEY GAUSS:
So yeah, so the myth is if you have – I think it’s 21. Please don’t quote me. It may be 22. It’s somewhere around there.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s like 20s, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, so anyways, if a product has 21 reviews it is able to drive, you know, a significant number of sales. And so basically the myth was if a product had – I believe I saw this quote. Again, not verbatim, but if a product had five reviews but an average rating of 4.8 or something like that, it is less inclined to drive sales than a product with 22 reviews – it’s above that threshold – and an average rating of three stars, right?

CAMERON YODER:
Which doesn’t make sense.

CASEY GAUSS:
At least for me, no, it doesn’t.

CAMERON YODER:
Personally, same

CASEY GAUSS:
And again, looking at a bigger market where a product has 10,000 reviews and the other product has 22 reviews, I’m pretty sure that customers are going to treat these different. The reason why I feel this way is, again, because we have the data around it. We’ve put so many products up on page 1 that have like one review, zero reviews, 50 reviews, and everybody else has 10,000 reviews or 1000 reviews, whatever. They had this significantly high review quantity, and we see these, the people with smaller review quantities struggle to sell at market potential because they don’t have a competitive number of reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
The thing is we don’t know this study, right? So we don’t know what variables did they isolate? Which variables did they not take into account? Are these on, you know, products that aren’t ranking, or you know, maybe they are ranking in a small niche. You know, I have no idea. Or they’re highly-dependent on, you know, some product that really pays attention to creatives. I have no idea, so. I didn’t see the study, which makes it hard for me to judge. I have, you know, we’ve run 25,000 launches, and we’ve seen this over and over. Are there extenuating cases? Are there corner cases in which products with low review quantities do well? Oh, of course, and are there ways to mitigate the difference between a product with high review quantity and low review quantity in terms of sales? Oh, of course.

With that from seller’s perspective the way you see reviews largely as one, as a barrier to entry in a market, two, as this thing that is so elusive as Amazon continues to make getting reviews more difficult, legitimately.

So yeah, so kind of just wanted to paint the picture there. Next, we kind of wanted to talk a little bit about flaws of this current system. And so if reviews are really the barrier to entry in a market, well, just as a function of time reviews are going to increase. So let’s say that, you know, just on average page 1 sellers have 1000 reviews,Well, 50 years down the road those products are, those people on page 1 for fish oil, assuming they maintain rank and people continue to buy fish oil, you know, let’s take out all these other variables that we don’t really need to account for for this example. Anyways, they will have 50,000 reviews. Let’s say on average the product gains 1000 reviews a year. Let’s just say. So 50 years from now you’ll have 51,000 reviews. And so if let’s say this brand-new formula for fish oil comes out –

CAMERON YODER:
It’s really good.

CASEY GAUSS:
It’s way better than everything else.

CAMERON YODER:
Fantastic.

CASEY GAUSS:
It’s also half the price, but you launch it on Amazon, and Let’s say I get on page 1 and I have three reviews. And everybody else has 51,000 reviews and they have just as good a rating, or …

CAMERON YODER:
Put yourself – put yourself in that situation. If you’re buying that fish oil, which one are you going to buy? Which one?

CASEY GAUSS:
You know, everybody’s fish oil says it’s amazing, and you know, says it’s the best, the highest-quality, blah, blah, blah.

CAMERON YODER:
Oh, but shoot, 50,000 people have left a review on this one, on average.

CASEY GAUSS:
And here you are with 50 reviews claiming to be a much better version blah, blah, blah. No, no one’s going to trust you because the social proof is saying that these other guys are better. And so this is a problem because it creates stale markets, and especially over time the problem just continues to amplify.

And so there has to be some method that allows new products to break into the market and compete well. And because you just stifle competition, or let’s say everybody kind of starts to decrease the quality of their fish oil to save on margin. Well, they still have 48,000 or whatever, reviews that have that good rating, and yeah, Amazon does take into account recency. But again, these guys have 50-some thousand reviews that are helping to boost that rating. I don’t know, I just think that there’s so many possible scenarios, and all of them lead to this problem of stale markets because review quantity is a major decision-maker in people buying a product.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, and it’s like if you – that’s from a buyer’s perspective, too, but from a seller’s perspective if you are – if you are – this is another perspective to look at – if you’re a seller and you’re selling that fish oil that has 50,000 reviews you’re probably not going to want to re-enter another product into that market because you’re, I mean in a sense you’re kind of trapped.

It’s a good trapped because you’re making a ton of money because you’re locked in at 50,000 reviews, but you don’t want to refresh or do anything that would have you release a new product into that same fish oil market, for example, and all of a sudden you don’t have access to those reviews – like if you release another SKU into that market. You might be trapped into the markets, into the current markets that you’re selling in because of those extremely high review quantities.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, and you know, I could see – there’s probably a million things I can’t even imagine that would happen here, you know. I could definitely see in some markets like the beauty space, I could see one or two brands just going and buying all the private label brands just so that they can dominate page 1 because okay, I mean we’re already seeing it in some of these highly-competitive markets where these guys have just thousands and thousands of reviews. And it’s tough for new brands to come up.

And so if you had two – two companies go and buy, you know, 50% each of the top selling brands in the third-party beauty space right now or private-label beauty space, these guys would essentially own beauty on Amazon and make it extremely difficult for any new sellers to come into the market. And I, again, I just think that competition is what has made Amazon so great. And you’re really decreasing the ability for new competition to come in.

Actually one last flaw – sorry, that I didn’t mention –

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
– is basically because of the current state of the review system, one, it’s so difficult to get, but two, it is, in a lot of markets the currency to doing well or selling at market potential. People, sellers are going to these black hat methods of driving reviews, and generally in this kind of scenario it’s really just an arms race of, hey, there’s a new tactic of getting around reviews and being able to drive black hat reviews. So then Amazon is just incentivized to figure out that tactic and then put some safeguard in place. I mean it’s anything with internet security you build a wall, and then someone builds a bigger ladder, and then you build a bigger wall, and then they build a bigger ladder, or they find a crack in that wall, you patch it, and then they find another crack, and then they patch it, and so it’s this arms race. And then on the consumer side it’s leading to reviews that you cannot trust. And so it’s crazy. I don’t think that there’s one end all solution for that. I think that’s just a feature or function of any kind of market.

CAMERON YODER:
So okay, we’ve kind of broken down what the current system is and how it is impacting everything right now and its potential for impact even a couple years down the line. But, Casey, what do you think is going to change? Like what – if this would continue, obviously the effects would be crazy, just crazy bad for sellers and buyers, I think, as a whole and just the market as a whole. So what do you think is going to change? Based on what we’ve seen, based on the data that we have and based on this prediction of the future, what do you think is going to change?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, great question. So going to what we see as potential fixes or solutions, you know really I think that the biggest one is I would expect Amazon to move to a rolling 12-day review quantity.

CAMERON YODER:
12 days?

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh, sorry, no, no, no. Sorry, I got that from 12 months because they do that already. So thanks, Cam.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s a quick review turnaround.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, no, I would have kept going. So I – 12 days, wow.

CASEY GAUSS:
The voice of reason over here. No, so I think that what we would see is, you know, let’s say a review was left on December 31st at, in 2016. Well, December 31, 2017 that review is gone, but any new reviews left that day. So it will be a rolling 12 months, and kind of the reason behind that – so some other possibilities is Amazon could go to kind of LinkedIn’s style and say oh, you have 1000 – this product has 1000+ reviews. So if you have 50,000 reviews, still at 1000+ reviews. And that way basically I think that that would potentially be a good indicator because essentially what that’s saying is 1000+ people have verified that the review rating is just, is correct, and you will like this as well.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you think that would be cut off at 1000, or not necessarily?

CASEY GAUSS:
Oh, some number around 1000. Maybe 1000 is fairly arbitrary, but I think –

CAMERON YODER:
Sure.

CASEY GAUSS:
Just from my –

CAMERON YODER:
Just generally a large number.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, generally a large number and yeah, so LinkedIn does, if you have 500+ connections I imagine they did some math around average connection – I have no idea what the math was, but they went and looked at the data and came up with that. I don’t think 21 is like, yeah, 21+ reviews. I don’t think so. Anyways, or again, they could go to the rolling 12 months. And the reason for my suspicion in the rolling 12 months is simply because they’re already doing that with seller feedback. And so they’ll show lifetime feedback, but they’ll show feedback over the last 30 days, 90 days and 12 months.

CAMERON YODER:
Right. So here’s kind of another question then. Do you think, so the rolling 12, again, do you think that those reviews, the value of those reviews will still stay in the system, or do you think they’ll be wiped completely clean?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, that’s a good question. Maybe they’ll have a lifetime, but I just really think that on the listing, especially in the search results, you have to show a lower quantity because as it accumulates that’s how people are making decisions to go click into a listing.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
So they’re not even starting a session. If you have 20 reviews and everybody else has 5000 you’re not even going to get the session count a lot of the time because people are not willing to, you know, even look into it. They’re not even considering it.

So yeah, to answer your question, I’m not exactly sure. I think it would potentially – I don’t know. I think it would be potentially cool to have, you know, lifetime review quantity. But it could potentially also be misleading.

CAMERON YODER:
It would be – it would be very interesting to, let’s say this was implemented, to track how many reviews people on page 1 in big markets have and how many reviews would be dropped, right, because I mean sometimes sellers tend to have these huge influxes of reviews, which would then be wiped clean after a certain period of time passes. And so whether it’s – I mean whether it’s black hats or non-black hat activity that gets those reviews, people that have gained a significant number would have potentially, potentially, would have those numbers wiped out clean from those big, big groups or.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, I actually like the – now that we’re talking about it I think I actually like the 1000+ kind of idea –

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, yeah.

CASEY GAUSS:
– because like, again, if someone is doing some black hat activity around generating reviews, well again, in 12 months maybe they go get –

CAMERON YODER:
More.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, 30,000 reviews.

CAMERON YODER:
Yeah, they can get more, right.

CASEY GAUSS:
This guy is so popular, blah, blah, blah.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s so hard to get reviews, especially when your reviews are wiped clean, and this guy has more.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, exactly.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s like –

CASEY GAUSS:
And I mean so right now let’s say it takes a long time to drive reviews over time for this smaller seller. You’ve been working for the last 12 months to get these reviews. You’re finally at 100 or something like that. Well, a lot of them are now being removed, and so you’ve got to keep up this pace and continue to accelerate it to stay above this mark that you’re at. I don’t know. I don’t know if I like that. Anyways, I think that that’s potential. I also think there is potential for Amazon removing unverified reviews as a concept –

CAMERON YODER:
Interesting.

CASEY GAUSS:
– or at least for products that weren’t purchased on Amazon. So I do think that we could see unverified reviews in a sense that hey, this was bought at a promotional price, so we know that the person actually bought it and they did leave a review, and the unverified reviews that come from people that haven’t bought the products, I could definitely see those being removed. Again, Amazon doesn’t necessarily need to bootstrap their review system anymore. They have –

CAMERON YODER:
Because they’re huge.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, they’re massive. And so I think there’s one, just inherent trust in Amazon as a place to buy products. And so a lot of people still think that you’re buying from Amazon, and they’re saying oh, I bought this from Amazon so I don’t think that, you know, reviews matter as much because I trust the Amazon experience. Anyways, that’s a little side tangent, but so – and I could easily – I just think that there’s a lot of problems that are arising in the black hat world coming from these unverified reviews. And so –

CAMERON YODER:
Well, it’s so hard. It is so hard for a company like Amazon, or anybody, to track black hat activity in some cases, right?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah. Oh, for sure.

CAMERON YODER:
Instead of just trying to implement a system that tracks all black hat activity 100% accurately, this system, the system of the LinkedIn reviews would in a way kind of level that playing field and, in some cases, again, negate the effects of black hat activity, which I really like.

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, exactly. And so let’s say you have some big brand that now wants to come list their products on Amazon. Well, just make an exception for those big brands. And so anyways I think you could just create an extenuating circumstance for those guys and allow them to come list some unverified reviews on Amazon to give some social proof and get things going.

CAMERON YODER:
Do you think – here’s a random question. Casey, what do you think – do you think Amazon is going to take anything with the early reviewer program further? Do you think that’s a test for something down the line, or do you think they’re – it’s just an initial beginning number of reviews?

CASEY GAUSS:
Yeah, a few thoughts there. One, I would love to see that because the early reviewer program, five reviews is not anything.

CAMERON YODER:
It’s not a lot, nope.

CASEY GAUSS:
I mean it’s better than nothing, but it’s not very much.

CAMERON YODER:
Right.

CASEY GAUSS:
Two, probably not looking at how they’ve handled the Vine program. Vine program is not very good. It’s very expensive. It’s just not a very good program.

CAMERON YODER:
No.

CASEY GAUSS:
And they haven’t done much to improve it. But then third is well, actually you know on the third-party side, especially for brand registry, they’re doing a lot. And they’re moving very, well, pretty quickly. And so I could see it happen because it seems like the team behind brand registry or however they divvy it up, they’re spending more time.

CAMERON YODER:
My mind just went to the inclusion of brand registry in future programs and how brand registry could be affected by a change in reviews. And that’s just where my thought went. But just was curious.

CASEY GAUSS:
Cool, guys. So yeah, next, just wanted to talk a little bit about what this means for you as a seller. So one interesting kind of notion, again, I’m not in the business of buying Amazon businesses, so I have limited perspective here. You know, I had no – I have some friends that buy Amazon businesses, and you know, I have talked to many people that have sold their Amazon businesses. And right now, you know, I kind of think that going back to the notion of review quantity being the barrier to entry and the way that the current review system is now, I feel like brands are a little undervalued, at least brands that have good review quantity are a little bit undervalued.

Again, looking at – let’s take some beauty brand that has good review quantity in, you know, for 20 different products. It’s very difficult to come up and get that same review quantity. And because they have the review quantity they’re selling well, which means they’re driving reviews faster than those who don’t. And so it’s this vicious cycle of these guys have good review quantity simply because they’ve been there longer than everybody else, and they’re ranking well, and they’re selling well. So they’re continuing to drive reviews faster, and basically they’re continuing to increase their barrier to entry. And that increase is accelerating day by day.

And so buying those brands that have that review quantity, if Amazon were to never make this systemic change that we’re talking about, that’s a major advantage that you get to have and continue to build on. And as more people come and buy from Amazon, you have this barrier to entry that people can’t overcome, and Amazon is automatically or, you know, they’re incentivized to drive more traffic to your listing just because they want more customers coming.

So I think that people are kind of undervaluing their Amazon businesses, and in these markets if you have a considerable review quantity it’s a hard decision to make, but I am kind of an advocate of you keeping your business for a little bit because I think it will continue to increase in value. With that said, though, if Amazon is going to make this systemic change in the next year, well now is the time to sell, given that, because the barrier to entry will be reduced quite significantly depending on how they, you know, roll out this systemic change. And assuming it does, but your barrier to entry or your competitive advantage will then decrease, making your brand less valuable than it is now, at least from my perspective, of course. And so just be aware of that when making decisions or plans for your kind of long term. Do you want to sell? If so, when? And just kind of know what’s going on there.

CAMERON YODER:
Well, hey, we want to thank you guys so much for tuning in again. Really, we so much appreciate you listening to this podcast, and of course we do this all for you. So if you really liked what you were hearing today or just any time at all, or if you have any questions –

CASEY GAUSS:
Or feedback –

CAMERON YODER:
– or feedback.

CASEY GAUSS:
– or have any or have any conflicting thoughts, thoughts on our thoughts, we just love hearing people’s perspective, so please share.

CAMERON YODER:
Please share, and let us know. You can write us at Facebook. You can call in. Our number is 317-721-6590. Drop us a voicemail. We would love, love, love to hear from you.