Amazon Fake Reviews Crackdown Continues

By suspending familiar Amazon brands, Amazon sends a crystal clear message: fake reviews will not be tolerated on its platform.

Since late April, Amazon has suspended many notable brands that have made their name on the platform due to fake reviews. The list of noteworthy brands includes Mpow and Aukey, two brands that have dominated the Electronics category for years. HOMTECH, Atmoko, Tacklife, and Vtin are a handful of other Chinese-based sellers suspended.

Many of the suspensions went into place in late April, and the sellers remain off the platform weeks later in the U.S. marketplace and internationally.

As Amazon continues its increased enforcement of guidelines, it underlines the importance of staying with terms of service.

RELATED: [How To Get Amazon Reviews: Automated Review Conversion from Viral Launch]

In Late April, reviews for one MPOW listing declined from over 18,000 to just over 9,000. (Via Market Intelligence)

By all means, Amazon sellers should take notice. Amazon has markedly worked towards removing fraudulent reviews from time to time. Perhaps most notably, Amazon removed more than one million reviews in May of 2018. It’s not uncommon to see massive waves of reviews removed periodically.

However, the suspensions of such major Amazon mainstays at once is new territory.

While Mpow’s storefront is still viewable, many products are unavailable to be purchased from the brand.

At the moment, the future of the brands is unknown. In all likelihood, the brands are seeking reinstatement by submitting a plan of action for correcting the matter. If this is a repeated issue, a ban could be in place.

For Amazon sellers, the incentive to generate plenty of favorable reviews is easy to provide trust to potential customers. As a result of shoppers seeing others have pleasant experiences, they’re more likely to complete a purchase.

In order to combat bad actors looking to game the system, Amazon created its Anti-Manipulation Policy for Customer Reviews.

While Amazon has automated much of the review generation process and taken many aspects of the process out of the control of sellers, Amazon sellers can take measures to maximize review count within terms of service.

For example, our Amazon Review Automation tool optimizes the review generation process by signaling Amazon to follow up with customers on your behalf. It’s TOS compliant, effortless to use, and up to 5 times more effective than traditional email follow-ups. Available as an add-on within the Market Intelligence Chrome Extension, it’s the best way to garner reviews without violating Amazon’s terms of service.

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The Amazon Product Documents Program Explained

Amazon’s latest seller program aims to cut down on returns, increase customer satisfaction, and improve the buyer and seller experience.

Recently, the Amazon Product Documents Program was unveiled; a helpful resource for sellers to upload electronic documents for potential customers to view.

Safety information, user guides and manuals, fact sheets, and instructions for use are just a few of the vital documents that eligible sellers can upload to improve their customer experience.

Previously, sellers needed to include these documents as inserts with their purchase, making them only available to customers who had already made a purchase. Now, this information can visible to customers as they shop.

Amazon describes the program below.

These are customer-facing documents that will be shown on your product detail pages. They are intended to provide pre-purchase information and post-purchase support content to customers. Adding product documents to your product detail pages can result in higher conversion rates, lower customer support costs, increased sales, and fewer returns when used effectively.

Amazon’s About Product Documents

Of course, with any new program, there are questions. Below, we’ll answer a few of the initial questions to help you get familiar with the new program.

Why does the Amazon Product Documents program exist? Who does it benefit?

Customers and all eligible sellers who utilize the program benefit by increasing the quality of seller-to-buyer communication.

Before purchasing, customers can see important information about the product they’re purchasing. For instance, a customer may purchase a product that is more difficult to assemble than they anticipated, contains materials they don’t approve of, or be sized differently than anticipated. Typically, these transactions end with some combination of an unsatisfied customer, a return, or a poor review.

Amazon Product Documents allow sellers to be more transparent with customers regarding crucial product information. As a result, a more informed customer is more likely to be a satisfied customer. Additionally, a seller that is more transparent about product information is more likely to make a sale, avoid a negative review, and generate brand loyalty.

All in all, the program is mutually beneficial for the seller and the buyer.

Who Can Participate?

Registered brand owners in the Amazon Brand Registry program.

The Product Documents Program is the latest perk of being brand registered. While purely speculation, we’d imagine this is unlikely to become available for non-brand registered sellers any time soon.

[RELEVANT: A Guide to Amazon Brand Registry]

How much does it cost to join?

That’s right! There is no fee to join the Amazon Product Documents Program.

What types of documents can be uploaded?

At the moment, this is a complete list of the types of documents and formats allowed as a part of the Amazon Product Documents Program:

  • Safety Information (PDF)
  • Certificate of Analysis (PDF)
  • Certificate of Compliance (PDF)
  • User Guide (PDF)
  • User Manual (PDF)
  • Specification Sheet (PDF)
  • Comparison Chart (PDF)
  • Product Documentation (PDF)
  • 2D CAD (PDF, DWG, DXF)
  • Application Guide (PDF)
  • Brochure (PDF)
  • Compatibility Guide (PDF)
  • Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) (PDF)
  • EUA Amendment(s) (PDF)
  • FAQ (PDF)
  • Instructions for Use (IFU) (PDF)
  • Fact Sheet (Patient) (PDF)
  • Fact Sheet (Provider) (PDF)
  • Safety Information (PDF)
  • Size Guide (PDF)
  • Troubleshooting Guide (PDF)

How do I get started?

Amazon provides the following instructions for uploading documents from start-to-finish!

To upload documents for your product in Amazon Seller Central:

  1. Go to Inventory > Manage Product Documents.
  2. Click Upload New Documents.
  3. Choose a name for the document you are uploading. This is only for your reference. Customers will not see this name.
  4. Select a document type from the list of allowed document types.
  5. Choose the language or languages that are present in the document you are uploading.
  6. Choose a file to upload. Files must be:
    • Less than 10MB
    • PDF format except for CAD drawings
    • CAD drawings may be in PDF, dwg, dxf, igs, eprt, edrw, sidprt, or stp format
  7. Search by ASIN or product name and follow the on-screen prompts to associate one or more ASINs with the document you are uploading. At least one ASIN must be applied to the document for it to be uploaded.

Once submitted, your content may take seven business days to be reviewed for adherence to below mentioned Amazon guidelines for product documents. It may take longer during peak times. Documents that do not adhere to these guidelines will be rejected.

Once approved, it can take up to seven business days to publish on the detail page of the ASINs to which it applies. If the document status is “Not approved,” view the rejection reasons by clicking Edit for a specific document and make the changes.”


Above all, the Amazon Product Documents Program appears to be a great option to improve customer experience. For eligible sellers with applicable documents, we highly recommend joining this program as soon as possible!

As always, any opportunity to stand out from the competition on Amazon is an edge worth exploring. Uploading product documents with important information may boost consumer confidence and increase the likelihood of turning a click into a conversion.

Even more likely, these document uploads are likely to be an incredibly helpful resource for customers that will decrease the probability of a return and/or negative review. Recently, Amazon has taken much of the onus of customer satisfaction out of the seller’s hands. While this creates less work for sellers, it also takes away control for sellers.

Furthermore, by uploading your own documents and making them easily accessible to potential sellers, you have the chance to gain control back. As a result, you can turn would-be 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews by giving the customer everything they need for a happy transaction.

Amazon Early Reviewer Program: Coming to an End?

The Amazon Early Reviewer Program, a popular way for sellers to earn their first five reviews, is entering its final days.

Effective immediately, enrollments in the Amazon Early Reviewer Program are no longer being accepted. Amazon confirms the discontinuation of the program within the Early Reviewer Program FAQs.

The Amazon Early Review Program proved to be a reliable, trustworthy way to generate authentic reviews by incentivizing customers to leave a review.

In 2016, Amazon updated its policy on reviews in response to a significant uptick in fake reviews. As a result, review generation became difficult, especially for new products entering the marketplace. In response, Amazon created the Early Reviewer Program to provide an option for new sellers to generate their first five reviews, with customers receiving small gift cards once they’ve left a review for a purchased product.

Amazon continuously innovates to improve the shopping and selling experience. Over the past several years, we have made numerous improvements to encourage purchasers to review products on Amazon. These initiatives, such as One Tap Reviews and Global Review Sharing have proven more effective in generating reviews than the Early Reviewer Program. Accordingly, as of March 10, 2021, we will no longer allow new enrollments in the Early Reviewer Program, and will stop offering the service to sellers currently enrolled in the program on April 25, 2021.

Amazon’s statement on the discontinuation of the Early Reviewer Program

Sellers looking to use the service are being notified via email that new enrollments are no longer being accepted. Enrolled sellers actively in the program have been notified of what this means for their business. The official message from Amazon can be seen below.

At the moment, it remains to be seen what the company has in store for future review generation. Just as the program was born in response to internal changes and seller response, there may be further changes to follow.

[YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program: What It Was & How It Worked]

An example of Amazon’s review generation efforts.

In an attempt to garner more trustworthy reviews, Amazon has increased efforts to amass reviews. As the company referenced in its statement, you’ve likely encountered more opportunities to leave reviews for your past purchases. Whether through pop-ups, emails or, native widgets, Amazon has taken on a more hands-on approach to reviews than in the past. As a result, less control over review generation has been in sellers’ hands.

New sellers looking to drive their first reviews may be tempted to circumvent Amazon’s terms of service. However, sellers who do so open themselves to account restrictions, suspensions, or even bans for violation of terms of service.

While review generation becomes increasingly difficult for new sellers with the removal of the Early Reviewer Program, options to assist your efforts do exist.

With the Request A Review Automation tool within the Market Intelligence Chrome extension, sellers can maximize their review generation efforts. And yes, it’s entirely compliant with Amazon’s terms of service.

The importance of review quantity and quality can’t be understated when it comes to selling on Amazon. By generating social proof of the quality of your products from past purchases, you’re much more inclined to experience more sales in the future.

Did you use the Amazon Early Reviewer Program? How do you feel about the service’s discontinuation? Drop a comment below to let us know!

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Amazon FBA Updates: Say Goodbye To This Customer Feedback Feature

Amazon is removing the feature allowing anyone to comment on a product review, per a Business Insider report. Amazon officially retired the feature on December 16th, 2020.

What relevance does this have for sellers?

Many sellers utilized this feature to respond to customer reviews as a form of customer service.

Furthermore, this likely signals more changes to come, as Amazon noted the development of other opportunities to connect with customers.

Following the update, a few sellers have received emails notifying them of change:

Dear seller,

You’re receiving this email because you recently left a comment on a review.
While reviews and feedback are important to our customers and sellers, the comments feature on customer reviews was rarely used. As a result, we are retiring this feature on December 16, 2020.

We’re committed to your continued success and will innovate and develop other opportunities for you to connect with customers.

Thank you.
Amazon Services

Initially, the removal of this feature has been poorly received by sellers.

“Just like removing customer contact information from the order information page, this makes it harder for good sellers to provide top-notch customer service,” stated one concerned Redditor.

However, the update changes the buyer-seller communication experience, but doesn’t end it. Recently, Amazon FBA updates appear to be centered around the buyer-seller communication process.

Sellers and buyers can directly communicate in the Buyer-Seller Messaging Service. Even so, this service permits direct messages to customers and not visible to prospective customers.

As a result, sellers should continue to monitor Seller Central updates as more information becomes available. As mentioned by Amazon, we’d expect more policy or feature changes concerning buyer-seller communication.

What can you do?

Potentially, your listing copy may be a way to address this obstacle effectively. How so?

Let’s put ourselves in the customer position for a situation. You’re looking to purchase a product, but have reservations due to a recent negative review or stream of bleak reviews with a common theme. In the past, the seller could provide help to quell concerns from prospective customers.

Your listing copy can address these issues without replying directly to the review. If customers are misusing your product in a way that could lead to negative reviews, you might be interested in addressing the issue in the product description.

Of course, making changes to your listing copy results in a temporary decline in ranking. So it may not be worth revising your copy after each negative review. But if a review is affecting your conversions, it might be worth the short-term hit.

Did you ever use this feature? How does this change your selling experience? Drop a comment below and let us know how this affects your selling experience.

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Amazon Review Request Tool: Build Trust & Boost Sales

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. With the ever-changing rules for email follow-ups, Viral Launch offers a solution: our Amazon review request tool!

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 to the right 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; an Amazon review request tool. 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.

Amazon review request tool: How can I get this awesome functionality?!?!

     For those of you with a current Market Intelligence subscription, you can access this new Amazon review request 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! Click here to subscribe today! 

Amazon Seller Tips: 5 Most Frequently Asked Amazon Seller Questions

The Top 5 Frequently Asked Amazon Seller Questions w/ Viral Launch Coaches Brandon & AJ

We aggregate a LOT of data here at Viral Launch. ‘Data’ can look like a couple different things – one of them being direct interaction with the Amazon Seller community. Viral Launch has a coaching team that interacts with & guides a LARGE number of Sellers every single day, and have a solid understanding of what’s happening in the Seller community as a result. Today, we break down some of the most recent commonly asked Amazon seller questions sellers have been asking with two of the coaches that have been in the middle of it all. Listen and read along to learn some Amazon seller tips from the experts!

Check out more Viral Launch podcast episodes for more Amazon seller data talk!

Listen for Amazon seller tips – Podcast Transcript


Consider the source.  Too often we see people come to us with a product that they’re looking to validate that they’ve found on some list somewhere, you know, or they have seen from a Kickstarter campaign.  If you’re finding a product based off of something that’s visible to everyone, everyone else is going to be looking for that product.


Hey, what’s up, everybody?  My name is Cameron.  I am cohost of the podcast, Follow the Data with Casey Gauss, and today we actually have kind of a different or, I don’t know, just more unique episode.  So at Viral Launch we have a pretty good opportunity to just be in touch with a lot of Amazon sellers.  We have a team of what we call coaches, and I’ll explain this later in the episode, but we have a full team of coaches who are in touch with sellers every single day, in tune with what’s going on in the Amazon space and what people are experiencing, frustrations they’re experiencing, everything in between and what they, what is working, what is not working.  There’s just a lot that our coaches are in tune with.  And so honestly it’s a pretty valuable resource just to bring them into the picture sometimes with content that we have. 

And today’s episode is that, or involves that.  So we actually asked the I asked the coaches to conglomerate a lot of information that’s going on in the Amazon space right now with Amazon sellers into the top five questions that Amazon sellers are asking right now, and it’s what they’re asking right now, and it’s also kind of what they’ve been asking.  So today I bring two coaches in, Brandon and AJ, to talk about the top five questions that they are hearing Amazon sellers ask.  And we go through the answers.  We talk through the answers to those questions.  So that is what today’s episode is.  That’s what it involves.  So enjoy the show.  If you have any questions – I always say this at the end, but if you have any questions on what we talked about or any comments, feel free to shoot us a direct message on Facebook.  We’ll get back to you.  Facebook is probably the easiest way for us to reach out to people.  Just shoot us a DM, any questions, any comments, any ideas, and I would love to hear from you.  So all right, enjoy the episode.

What’s up, everybody?  So I’m here with two of our coaches just to explain a little bit about Viral Launch.  At Viral Launch we have a team of coaches and/or I kind of call them consultants when I talk to other people about our team.  But I have two of our coaches here.  They’re awesome guys.  I have Brandon and AJ.  Brandon and AJ, what do you guys have to say about being here today?


I’m stoked.


Wow, stoked.  Brandon?


He said it.


He said it.  He said it.  Well, guys, so you’re coaches.  How would you describe – just to give the listeners some context here, where is your perspective coming from?  Tell us about coaching a little bit.


I mean I think we pretty much spend all day looking at Amazon, and so through that we’re able to provide a lot of insight as to what we’re seeing in the markets, what we’re seeing in the markets relative to our services, as well as just different product trends and things like that.  So a lot of times outside of the data we’re able to provide perspective on, you know, maybe something – maybe a market looks really great, but at the same time we’ve seen a bunch of clients come to us in the last few weeks with product in that market.  And so it’s probably something to stay away from, whereas the data maybe wouldn’t pick up on that yet because it’s not registering as being oversaturated yet.  So there’s a lot of data, but there’s also a lot of kind of intellectual or analytical insights that play into our thought process and logic in kind of guiding and consulting our clients.


That’s exactly – that’s a really good way to put it.  It’s a really good mixture of data, handling data, but also being aware, having that human element of being aware of what’s in the market and how to respond to it.  And so that’s the perspective that AJ and Brandon are speaking from today, and so we’re actually going to go over kind of five really frequently asked questions from sellers that our coaches get, and we’re going to answer those questions and talk through those answers to those questions.  And so, all right, guys, let’s just kind of jump into the questions, the five questions here.  So question number one that a lot of sellers give to our coaches, that a lot of sellers are asking right now, from the perspective of a seller who is just starting on Amazon, what do I – the question is so I’ve just started on Amazon.  What do I do next?  I’ve just started selling my products on Amazon.  What do I do next?  What is like the proper timeline after I start selling?  Guys, what do you think?


I mean, I think the major kind of chokepoint is review generation.  So once you have your product live on Amazon you’ve got to start kind of strategizing ways to get reviews.  There’s not a lot of easy ways, so really just making sure you have good email follow-up sequences in place, you’re providing really great customer service.  You also want to start exploring your PPC options, getting some strategies in place there to help get you a little bit of visibility from the get-go, and then making sure that your content is really well-optimized, that you’re priced to compete within the market, and so you’re really, you know, offering a good product at a good price that’s providing a lot of value to potential customers.


Yeah, so I agree with Brandon there.  I mean I think a lot of it is dependent on the market that you’re in, as well.  So obviously reviews are going to be important regardless of the market.  But there are some markets that are just going to be crazy competitive and you’re going to need to do really well with review generation.  So something like a fat burner is going to require, you know, thousands of reviews to do well, whereas something that doesn’t really have a lot of ambiguity behind the results that you’re going to get, like batteries or whatever, you know, you might not really need a ton of reviews to be competitive off the – from the beginning.  So I think making sure that you make every decision within the context of your individual market is pretty important as well.


In terms of congruent steps, like so let’s say someone – well, let’s talk through the steps.  So I – see, for me to give some input here just on like the steps that a seller takes, step one typically is like establish your business, right?  Not everyone has to establish an LLC, but you can do that if you want, right?




Establish a business.  Do product research.  Pick the right product.  You source that product, right?  Then you do – that’s like everything post.  After you have sourced the product and you start selling on Amazon, it’s like creatives, right?


Yeah, yeah.


So photos –


Photos, listing content –


Listing content.


Enhanced brand content if you have that open to –


EBC.  Then start generating reviews?


Yeah, I would say driving traffic to get reviews.  So they’re not just going to come on their own.  You’ve got to – once you’ve optimized your listing with all the creative stuff you’ve got to find a way to get some traffic to that listing, and that’s where PPC comes in play, external traffic.


So start generating reviews through traffic.  So that’s around this period of time, like in terms of the congruency stage of selling on Amazon.  That would be like you get your creatives in play, your photos, your listing, and you start generating reviews through something like PPC?


Yeah, and I think that’s definitely one strategy.  A lot of people, you know, if you want to be more aggressive, they do start off with something like a giveaway right off the bat, even without the reviews.  There’s just the expectation there that the giveaway is going to get you on the first page presumably, but once you’re on Page 1 you’re going to need to supplement some organic sales with either another giveaway or a really aggressive PPC campaign or whatever.  You know, as you’re on Page 1 you have the visibility there, you can kind of take advantage of that and bring in some organic reviews that way as well.


What do most people – what do most sellers get wrong in the checklist, the Amazon checklist?

I think one huge mistake is just not taking the time to develop the content.  I mean it’s pretty crowded on Amazon these days.  So you really need to make sure that you are selling your product as a higher-quality or with better wording, better imagery.  And you know, a lot of people are sourcing from similar if not the same places, so products can be virtually identical, and really differentiating yourself through sort of a value prop, through the presentation of the product is hugely beneficial.


Yeah, I think a lot of people jump straight to, you know, they want to get ranking.  They want to get visibility, but the fact of the matter is if your listing is not in a position where it’s converting well once it has the visibility, you need to make sure that that step’s taken care of before you jump on some kind of crazy promotion.


There are a lot of steps that sellers miss.  Creatives is probably one of the most important ones that either sellers don’t focus enough on or put enough resources into.  Let’s go to question number two.  In terms of question number two that as lot of sellers are asking revolves around reviews.  So it’s kind of a series of questions, but number one, how do I get reviews?  Do I need reviews to launch a product?  And how many reviews do I need?  Let’s touch on the first one of that series of questions.  How do I get reviews?  How do sellers best get reviews?


Yeah, so I mean there’s – especially now Amazon is extremely rough on cracking down on reviews that are coming from any sort of incentivized places.  They’re really doing their best to track Facebook groups, private Slack channels, private [subreddit 0:10:10.9] channels to really prevent any sort of incentivized reviews.  That’s not to say that your competition isn’t going to be pulling some shady business to get reviews, but it’s potentially a quick way to get shut down and have your business disrupted.  So within the terms of service there’s no way really to quickly generate reviews or a large volume of reviews. 

But that said, there are things that you can do to help kind of be proactive about it.  And so having the email follow up sequence in place is beneficial.  I know – you know, buyers are able to opt out of receiving those emails, but at the same time a lot of people don’t, and so just putting your best foot forward there can help get you something.  I mean I think additionally customer service is one really kind of underemphasized thing for getting reviews and helping to stave off negative reviews, just making sure you’re really proactive anytime somebody is reaching out to you, especially in those early phases of launching a product can help kind of get your footing on review basis. 

And then the other proactive thing that you can do is really just making sure you can get as much visibility as possible.  And so obviously you do that through PPC, and you know a lot of people are concerned about ACoS and spend on ads, but really in those beginning phases you just need to get your product in front of as many people as you can in order to drive the sales, which will in turn hopefully drive those reviews.


Yeah, I would say along with that one other kind of quick win or option available to people, if you are brand registered you might look into the early reviewer program as well.


It’s a good way to get started.


Yeah, it’s a good way to get started, and I don’t think there’s any exception, anything you can do outside of getting the visibility.  That’s honestly the biggest thing.


I think this is a top question that a lot of sellers ask for a reason, and it’s something that’s really hard for a lot of sellers to obtain.  Reviews are the currency of Amazon, and if you want to be completely white hat, it’s one of the hardest, most difficult things to do.  I really do think all of it stems back to having a quality product.  And again, you don’t have to have like the best product on Amazon, right, but if you just have a – if you have a bad product and you put your product in front of customers that are buying it, you’re going to get bad reviews, bad organic reviews.


But along with that – and this is kind of jumping away from the review point for a second – but a lot of sellers also come to us with a product that is much higher price than a lot of other products on the market, and they try to make that quality argument.  And that is potentially a very valid argument, but it’s also potentially a hard sell, especially when you’re given a limited amount of text and imagery to really sell that point.  And so really understanding your market, understanding what the value of similar products are in your market is going to be crucial to being successful because if you’re really out of line on price point or, you know, even if you’re providing a much better quality of product in a market that has less, you know, quality products, overall it’s going to be harder to compete just because more people are going to buy a cheaper product than people that are willing to spend more money for a higher-quality in most cases.


It really is finding – it’s finding that balance between – maybe the correct phrase should be don’t have an awful product, right?


Yeah.  I mean you obviously want one that doesn’t have any problems, but at the end of the day, you know, if you can spend an extra $5 to make something better, it may not be worth it as long as the initial product that you’re looking to source is going to be quality enough.


Yeah, I think it comes down to, again, making decisions based off of your market.  So you know, in some markets creating a premium product might do you some good, but in other markets how many people really want a premium coffee mug or whatever?  You know, you have to make sure that all the decisions that you’re making are in the context of your market and the buyer behavior in that market.


So a question leading off of or into reviews a little bit more, do I need – the question is do I need reviews to run a launch?  A launch being, let’s just say in this case it could be a launch through Viral Launch, but also just like a promotion in general to increase keyword ranking.  Do I need reviews?  Let’s say you’re a seller; you just put your product on Amazon.  Do I need reviews to launch my product?


I would say no, but with an asterisk.  So essentially you don’t need reviews to drive the ranking.  You can get the ranking on Page 1 with a brand-new product, no reviews given that you’re moving enough inventory in a narrow enough window of time so you’re getting good velocity.  But at the same time your ability to retain that ranking is typically at least semi-dependent on your reviews.  So you know, if you have the ability to, you know, one way or another to drive some reviews within a reasonable timeframe so you’re not sitting with no sales history for a long period of time, we typically would encourage you to try to get a couple reviews first.  Essentially – also you know you get a little bit of a honeymoon period when you launch a product that a lot of sellers talk about, and so it can be a little bit beneficial to ride that out and kind of see where you fall in ranking before you jump into running a launch right away.  But at the same time if you’re really struggling to get those reviews and you’re just not moving any product, the launch can be beneficial in getting you that visibility to help kind of jumpstart you a little bit.  So long story short, the promotion will help to drive ranking either way, but obviously at the end of the day when you’re looking at organic sales, having that review base is going to help to drive some of those.


Yeah, I think that’s something that’s really important to reach out to a coach or some kind of consultant on as well because it can all just be really dependent on the product and its position in the market.  So if it’s a really seasonal market and there is a short window of time where you can even get sales, then yeah, by all means get the visibility right off the bat.  Take advantage of that increase in demand.  But you know, if there is some external factors that would lead us to believe that you would really need a very strong base of reviews to be competitive, then we’re going to kind of point you in that direction as well.


A lot of these questions are really market product dependent.  Like the question of do I need reviews to launch, really it does, it depends on how competitive your market is or if it’s seasonal or traditional.  Really if you’re launching into a really competitive market, then also maybe the number of reviews that you’ll need to start off initially if you start ranking will vary, right?


Yeah, exactly.


You’ll need more – yeah, and more initial reviews to rank well.  So okay, this kind of leads into – actually maybe that answers the question of how many reviews do I need.  Is there a set number of reviews that customers need for their product?


Absolutely not.  I mean there are some markets that have very, very low review barriers to entry.  I mean just off the top of my head, like you know particularly like adult products tend to be pretty low review because people don’t like to publicly review those.  But there are like newer markets and things like that that you know, if there’s a new product that’s kind of developed and it’s just sort of making its way on Amazon, a lot of times, you know, those reviews haven’t really caught up to those massive quantities that you see in like a lot of supplement markets and things like that.  So it’s really just dependent on the market.  I mean there are some products that you can compete very well right off the bat with no reviews just because your competition is all kind of on the same playing field.  Others, literally everyone on Page 1 has over 1000 reviews, and it’s going to be exceptionally hard to compete there without getting a large quantity of reviews in place.  And yeah, I mean seasonality plays into things as well because a lot of time seasonal products are kind of more flashes in the pan for sellers, and they ramp it up for a short period of time and then don’t really put much emphasis into it later.  So reviews can potentially count a little bit less there.  So it really just is a product by product, market by market kind of analysis on what you need to be competitive.


Yeah, so like Brandon said, I think it’s based off of market maturity, so obviously markets where there have been several products live for several years, they’ve just had more time to aggregate those reviews.  But there can also be buyer behavior within each market.  Some things take a lot of social proof.  People are going to want to see a very large number of reviews to actually make the purchase whereas other things they might not need that because they know fully what they’re buying and there’s little to no doubt on how it will satisfy their goals or whatever.


Reviews are, no doubt, a really hot topic, a really important topic for sellers.  Anyone that’s beginning, or anyone that’s an advanced seller and selling a lot, reviews are going to be a topic for a while, and things are changing so it’s really important to get processes down now and soon so that you can start aggregating those reviews because things are changing, as we talked about in our last, or one of our recent episodes.  Okay, so kind of another question that a lot of sellers ask is how much inventory do I need for my product?  Now that is, again, the question is how much inventory do I need?  That is a very broad question, and of course the answer is it depends.  But guys, what do you have to say to people that are asking that question?


Yeah, so I think that question is something that you’re always going to need to have some data to make that decision.  As with any of these that we’re coming up with it’s a market decision, but having the data available, some sales estimations available to see how the products are doing currently that are on Amazon can really help you project demand and lead you to get that initial inventory count that you’re looking for.  So there’s definitely not a one size fits all answer for that.  It’s really just more the things that you’re going to want to look at are how products are performing right now, if there’s any seasonality with them.  The best thing to do is really just look at comparable products to what yours will be when it is live and see how those are performing.  Take into consideration review counts, price, all that kind of stuff.


Yeah, I mean there are markets where people are – the top sellers are selling 100 units a month or less.  I mean there are markets where people are selling 10,000 units a month.  So I mean it’s definitely optimistic to assume that you would immediately get to that point as well.  So there’s a lot that kind of goes into it, and you know thinking a little bit ahead of time about how aggressive you want to be out of the gate with things like promotions or just driving traffic, getting, you know, spending money to make money essentially.  If that’s kind of your endgame you really want to ramp up fast, then you’re probably going to want more inventory in stock.  If you’re looking to kind of let things develop organically over time, maybe you go a little bit more conservatively. 

And another big thing to factor in is what kind of the pricing tiers when you’re manufacturing are based on your inventory quantities because if there’s a huge jump in price it might be worth it to buy that little bit of extra inventory to make sure that you’re getting a better price and can sell it for a better price.  But additionally, like the time frames can be really wide, so if you’re sourcing domestically maybe you can get something in a week.  If you’re sourcing from China maybe it takes six weeks.  And so you’ve really got to look at market history and what people are doing now and kind of analyze the best and worst case scenarios there.  And it’s a really hard question to answer just because there is no right answer because there are so many variables at play with regards to how aggressive you’re going to be and what the market’s looking like, what predictably it’s going to look like. 

And so yeah, I mean, I think if you’re talking to a coach or somebody that has some expertise they might be able to steer you in the right direction, but ultimately it just kind of comes down to what you feel comfortable with a lot of times, as well.  But I will say that the biggest factor is you don’t want to run out of inventory if you can avoid it at all costs.  I mean there are even strategies around that so you can airship part of your shipment and then freight the rest by sea if you need to get product in quickly.  So there are options, but kind of knowing the timeframe that it’s going to take you to get your products in stock is really crucial into helping to develop that initial inventory order.


Yeah, so taking into consideration lead time like that with new orders, it’s sometimes good to look at the number of units you would want to have on hand, but it’s also good to look at it as a how many units do I need for this period of time.  So instead of saying I have 500 units on hand, I have three months’ of sales on hand kind of thing.  So taking into consideration your lead time you’re able to forecast demand and see how many months of supply should I have on hand given that it takes me this much time to get a new order in.


I think, again, like you guys already said, this question is a really hard one to answer for individual sellers.  I think a lot of this comes down to asking yourself where you want to be in the market that you’re in.  Oftentimes – and also if like I think, Brandon, you said, whether you want to rank organically or whether you want to go for something like a launch because if you run a launch that is going to increase the number of units that you need right away.  Typically – I’m not going to put a number to it, but I was talking to a seller just at a conference last week, and he was asking me about how much inventory he should order if he wanted to do a launch.  And typically a good practice would be to take a look at sales data again, like something like Market Intelligence, right, looking at all the sales numbers, taking a look at the position you can expect yourself to be in realistically.  Maybe that’s like top 15, averaging out those units, maybe giving yourself two months of what that average is, and then increasing, increasing that by the amount of promotional units that you’ll need.  And again, the amount of promotional units that you’ll need will probably come from something like a consultant or a coach.  At least that’s what I would recommend.  But having a typically two months’ lead time for inventory is a good practice to have.  But again, the balance comes from – the balance comes from having enough inventory but also not spending all of your capital to have it all tied up in inventory if you have multiple products on the ocean or being manufactured at the same time.  If you have – if this is your first product you also want to be conscious of how much money you have. 

So can this question be answered indefinitely with specific percentages and numbers?  Not right now.  The answer is not right now.  But talking to – again, talking to someone who knows what they’re doing or can give you those numbers and has seen people succeed or fail, that is the answer to that question.  But the best thing we can talk about right now is best practices for inventory management and what to expect from data. 

So next, let’s go to the next question.  So a lot of sellers ask about – a lot of sellers ask our coaches about validating product ideas.  Basically they’ll come to coaches and say hey, is this a good idea?  Is this a good idea for a product to sell on Amazon?  And there is of course there are a lot – there is a lot that goes into validating a product and validating a market.  But guys, what our – what would you say are some of the most important criteria for determining whether a market is a good market to get into?


My big starting point is always going to be looking at the average review quantity of listings on Page 1.  So ultimately you want to see something that has, you know, decent sales, something that you feel comfortable with, you know, and that’s different for everybody.  Maybe somebody is happy to sell 100 units a month.  Maybe somebody is looking for 1000+ a month.  But you also want to make sure that there isn’t a huge maturity of reviews on the listings on Page 1 because essentially if you’re moving into a market where everyone on Page 1 has 1000+ reviews it’s going to be really hard to compete.  So usually when I tell people when they’re starting out with a product finder tool like Product Discovery, set a threshold of like around a maximum of 100 reviews and a maximum sales quantity of – or sorry, a minimum sales quantity of around like 500 or so, and feel it out that way.  And you can always tweak those variables to kind of see how things develop or see what other data points you are finding with those results.  But that’s kind of the two most crucial things.  I mean getting more in depth definitely looking at market maturity is a thing because if the market is really mature it can be hard to enter.  If there is a lot of brand name products competing in the space it can be really hard to enter.  I mean if you’re launching your own toothpaste, for instance, you’re not going to be able to compete with Crest.  So you know, you’ve got to find those niches where there isn’t a lot of brand loyalty in place. 

Checking to see if Amazon is a really active seller in the category can be beneficial as well.  If they’re vending a lot of products, then it’s potentially another little, you know, monkey wrench in your ability to rank and compete well.  Yeah, so then beyond that I mean I think it’s just finding products that obviously you also have the margins on.  And so price point is really crucial.  And if something is selling for $20 but it’s going to cost you $15 to source it, it might not be a great idea.  If something is selling for $20 and it’s going to cost you $5 to source it, that’s probably a little bit better.  So you know, determining kind of what Amazon’s fees are going to be, what shipping is going to cost, what manufacturing is going to cost, that all plays into whether something is a good product as well. 

Then the last point that is potentially hard for an average seller to predict or analyze, but this is where we I think provide the best value is being able to validate it in the context of what is being seen as far as popularity of the product.  So a lot of times manufacturers make something for a seller, and then they push really hard to sell a version of that product to a bunch of other sellers to capitalize more on it.  And so you get a lot of sellers entering the market with basically the same or very similar products.  And additionally, you see trend markets that pop up and a bunch of people jump on board, like stuff from Kickstarter that people are able to clone.  I mean the biggest example we’ve seen in probably the last year is the fidget spinner craze.  So you know, for the first few people that were in the market, they made money hand over fist.  For everybody else that got in, they were screwed because they couldn’t get ranking on Page 1 and got stuck with tons of inventory, and it was just really, really volatile.  And so a lot of times people come to us with products that based on the data look great today, but the fact that we’re able to see that, you know, we’ve worked with 10 people in the last week with this product, it is a little bit of a predictor that, you know, maybe by the time you get this product to Amazon it’s going to be pretty oversaturated. 


Yeah, I would say along with that, you know, consider the source.  Too often we see people come to us with a product that they’re looking to validate that they’ve found on some list somewhere, you know, or they have seen from a Kickstarter campaign.  If you’re finding a product based off of something that’s visible to everyone, everyone else is going to be looking for that product.  So consider the source.  Obviously, like Brandon said, reviews are huge.  That’s probably going to be the bulk of your research.  Digging a little deeper into the reviews, they can tell you a lot about the quality of the product as well.  If you have a market where a lot of products are very similar and you still think that you can differentiate in some way, a lot of times if you dig into the actual reviews themselves and look at commonalities, reasons why people left negative reviews, you may have been able to find a defect or flaw in a product design that your competition isn’t finding.  And obviously if you bring that product to the market and it’s in a better position to satisfy customers’ wants and needs without that flaw, then you can do well.  So I would say ultimately, like Brandon was saying, there is a ton of stuff that you can consider and just taking in as much as you can, having as many eyes on the product as you can is really just going to do so much for you in the long run.


I think the final question actually is a good lead-in kind of out of this one, or they relate together really well.  So we talked about finding a good product market, but also really, and this might share honestly a lot of the same things that we talked about or that we mentioned, but fifth question a lot of sellers ask is how can I tell right off the bat that a market is oversaturated?  How do I tell?  So maybe I know how to recognize a good market, but how do I recognize a bad market right away?


I always think it’s easier to find a bad market, or to identify a bad market.  And it really just comes down to looking at, you know, everyone has massive quantities of reviews.  Sales are really volatile.  So you know, you see some people with huge, huge quantities of sales.  You know, one huge indicator is if you’re looking into like Market Intelligence, you have some people that are selling huge quantities, others that are selling next to nothing, especially when you get to like Page 2, Page 3, that can be a big kind of red flag because the sales are not being shared.  But in general I think a lot of sellers get very excited when they see massive sales quantities, and what is underappreciated there is the maturity of the products that are getting those sales.  And so a lot of times, you know, you look at that, but realistically you probably can’t compete at that level or at least at that level for a very long time.  And so I like to look for stuff that is going to be profitable.  So you know, you’re looking for stuff where the numbers aren’t insane on either end.  So sales are good, but maybe not like, you know, million-dollar month product kind of thing.  And you’re also looking for reviews that are very low as far as the quantity of them.  So I mean I think obviously that’s the biggest barrier to entry.  Those mature products benefited a lot from the previous incentivized review rush and all that.  And so it’s really hard to generate 1000 reviews legitimately today.  And so looking for markets that, you know, the best sellers don’t have that threshold really makes it a good market.  And so yeah, I mean I think the biggest indicator for me is always the review quantity.


Yeah, I agree with Brandon.  So not so much on just the looking at the specific number of reviews, but the distribution of them.  So you know, if there are 10 sellers you’re analyzing, 10 products you’re analyzing and three of them have thousands of reviews, everyone else is at 10 or 15, stay away.  Same with sales.  If something is – if the distribution of sales is super wide, that’s probably a good indicator that they are really well-established products in that market.  They’re going to be very difficult to compete with.  At the same time, though, if you see a pretty flat distribution of sales and they’re spread across several products, several products have low review counts and there’s not a clear leader, you know there might be opportunity to make your product the leader.


I really do think when it comes to whether a good market is a good market or a bad market, there are indicators that we can tell listeners that set a standard.  At the same time, every seller is at a different spot in their seller journey.  Every seller has a different amount of resources, and a good market, quote unquote, for one person might be a bad market for another.  And so it’s really important to stipulate that you, as a seller, need to sit down – and we’ve said this on the podcast so many times – sit down and ask yourself what you’re capable of, how much you have to invest in an Amazon business and how much risk you are willing to take because your lens for a good product and a bad product will change depending on what you’re capable of doing.  At the same time there are those standards that we can set to say hey, you can see, you can spot a, quote unquote, good market from miles away or, quote unquote, bad market from miles away if you know the things that Brandon and AJ talked about.  I don’t know if you guys want to add anything else.


Yeah, I mean I think that’s a great point as far as where you’re at in the seller journey really kind of depends on what you’re looking at for products as well.  I mean I think if a first-time seller was coming to me and their first product idea was going to be like a face cream, for instance, I would tell them to stay far away from it.  But if you’re a seller that has a really well-established beauty brand and you’re selling really well with a bunch of other products in a similar line, it might not be the same situation because you have a, you know, you have a clientele that is purchasing your products.  You probably have some customer lists that you can market to, things like that.  So you have a lot more resources at your disposal, and you have a brand name that’s recognizable that you can kind of fall back on a little bit so people, you know, there’s a little bit of quality assurance built into that as well.  So it’s a really kind of different scenario for somebody that has an established product line or something like that to move into a market that might be oversaturated for the first-time seller.


AJ, do you have anything to add?


No, he said it.


Well, hey, I don’t know, guys, do you want to say anything to the listeners before we end everything here?


I think just to reiterate the first point, you know we’re here for you.  We have the experience that a lot of people don’t necessarily have, and we can come at decisions with a unique perspective.  So I just encourage everyone to lean on someone, even if not us, someone like us that can purely give you advice that’s unbiased and not self-seeking.




Yeah, I have two more points of advice that are kind of for the first-time sellers.  So the first one is when you are looking to source a product look for something that you’re maybe interested in, but something that you’re not necessarily in love with.  A lot of sellers that we encounter that may have really cool product ideas, but it’s something that they’re really, really passionate about.  So if you’re like a skateboarder or something and you’re really passionate about skateboarding, you launch a line of skateboard bearings or something like that, and it’s a huge passion project for you, but at the same time from like the capitalist mentality, when you have that emotional bond to a product it leads you to make worse decisions in a lot of instances because you try to make it work when it’s not working.  And so finding something that you maybe have a little bit of interest in but are not overly passionate about is good because if something is not working with it you are less emotionally invested and are able to kind of walk away. 

And so I always kind of tell people don’t necessarily think about what you love when you’re looking to sell something.  Look at what’s going to make you money and what’s going to give you kind of the best situation to succeed, and then as you get resources built out maybe you have more of a position to take a risk on something that you’re really, really passionate about and you can afford to lose some money on it.  But if it’s a first product, you know, stick to something that you aren’t super, you know, emotionally tied to. 

And then my final point is just to – a lot of times like research tools can be fantastic for helping you to find product ideas, but I also like to encourage people just to think.  I mean not in a bad way, but like I just think that there are a lot of really cool product ideas that are very kind of under thought of by your competition that you can stumble upon just by looking at what you use in your day-to-day life, what you would like to have, you know, just very simple things can be huge winners on Amazon purely because they’re so simple that your competition doesn’t thing to look at it.  And it’s not – you know, I like to stay away from the flashy stuff, you know, similar to kind of the fidget spinner thing.  You know there’s huge hype around it.  A bunch of people rushed into it.  You want to be going the opposite direction and looking for stuff that people use and use regularly, potentially use every day or reuse, you know, things that people are reordering regularly, but stuff that’s just common.  I mean the very basic common household things and stuff like that can sometimes be huge hits just because they’re not flashy.  And so thinking about things from that perspective outside of the research tools and then looking at the research once you have some of those ideas compiled can be a huge advantage to going about finding a first product to source as well.


I think that’s very well said.  I think that’s a very undervalued piece of advice in the Amazon community is simply to honestly take time to stop and think.  Just take a moment to think about it because honestly sellers right now tend to get lost in data, tend to get lost in tools, which are fantastic and really add to the experience, but also you have your mind and your experiences, which no one else has.  And so I think that’s extremely valuable.  Well, thank you both.  Thank you, AJ.  Thank you, Brandon, for coming on the show.  I really value your guys’ time and your guys’ input for sellers.


Thanks, cam.


Thank you.


For sure. 

And honestly, that is it for today’s episode.  Thank you all so much for tuning in.  I had such a great time with AJ and Brandon, and we most likely will bring them in again.  Again, I asked them to conglomerate a lot of information, a lot of different questions that sellers are experiencing, and so we will probably use that as a resource, and we would love to also hear different questions from you because we just love hearing direct feedback from you.  So go to Facebook right now on your phone.  Look up – type in Viral Launch or speak text Viral Launch, whatever’s easiest and safest for you, and hit us up.  Just send us a message even if you’re not following us, but also you should follow us, and shoot us a direct message with just any questions you have on Amazon, anything you want answered, any thoughts on what we’re doing, on what’s going on in the Amazon space.  Really, it could be anything at all.  We’re going to Boost next week.  Next week will be the Boost event that we are attending.  So hit us up there.  We’ll be there with a pretty solid team.  We’d love to hear from you.  We’d love to meet you if we haven’t met you yet.  And as always, until next time, remember, the data is out there.

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.

Listen on iTunes   Listen on Stitcher

Podcast Transcript


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.


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.


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.


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.


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




– that’s happening.  No.


Review apocalypse.


Review eclipse.


All right, review apocalypse it is.


All right, it’s settled.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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


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.


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


Does not include variations.


Single ASIN.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.




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 –


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.


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.


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.


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




Yeah, Everywhere.


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


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.


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.


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.


It does.


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


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 –


It has been deemed the quote Great Amazon Purge.


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.






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?


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


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.


If they’re removing them.


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


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.


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.


It is.  Fourth change, fourth change involving reviews.


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


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


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.


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.


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 –




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.




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.


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.


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.


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.


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




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.


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.

Latest Amazon Updates: The Week in Review – October 22-29

The month of October has been quite the whirlwind for Amazon and its sellers. October 3rd, Amazon released a ToS update that banned incentivized reviews, kickstarting a season full of updates and policy changes.

To recap the latest Amazon updates:

  • August 28: Amazon enacts massive restrictions on certain brands, preventing 3rd party sellers from selling without approval.
  • September 1: Amazon announces in an email to sellers that, effective November 1st, US Seller fulfilled returns will be automatically authorized, and Amazon will provide prepaid return label on the seller’s behalf. Read more here.
  • October 3: The new Terms of Service prohibits providing a free or discounted product in exchange for a review unless it’s through the Vine program. Read more here.
  • October 10: Amazon closes the door to Fulfillment by Amazon for new sellers during the Q4, 2016 period. See here under the orange button at the bottom of the page.
  • October 21: Amazon clarifies Promotional Content in Customer Reviews and Questions and Answers in wake of the new review policy. Read more here.

This past week continued this month’s trend with Amazon’s mass seller email regarding reviews and the introduction to Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program..


Amazon’s Incentivized Review Mass Email

Many sellers reported receiving an email on October 24th from Amazon with a strict warning about moving forward with incentivized reviews:

“We recently updated our policies to prohibit incentivize reviews, including those posted in exchange for a free or discounted copy of the product. You are receiving this email because products you sell have received incentivize reviews in the past. If you attempt to acquire incentivize reviews going forward, your Amazon privileges will be suspended or terminated.

We consider a review to be incentivized if you have influenced or can influence the review directly or indirectly, including by monitoring whether a review is written and providing or withholding any benefit based on whether a review is written or the content of the review. Below are a few examples where a review is considered incentivize and is not permitted:

  • You provide a free or discounted product, gift card, rebate, cash payment, or other compensation in exchange for the review.
  • You provide or withhold free or discounted products or other benefits in the future based on whether the customer writes a review.
  • You use a review service where reviewers’ continued membership depends on writing reviews.
  • You use a review service where you can rate customers based on their reviews.
  • You use a review service where customers register their Amazon public profile so that you can monitor their reviews of your products.

Incentivizing customer reviews violates our policies and may violate the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The following actions are generally allowed, provided you comply with the above restrictions:

  • You might offer discounts that are generally available to all Amazon customers, such as Lightning Deals.
  • You may give out free products at tradeshows, conventions, or other similar venues where you are unable to monitor whether the recipients write a review or provide or withhold any benefits based on whether a review is written or the content of the review.

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

The initial seller response was shock and a bit of fear. After all, getting called out by the Giant itself is a bit intimidating. However, through this email, Amazon is really just confirming what our CEO, Casey Gauss, mentioned in our initial blog post about the ToS change and our follow up blog post clarifying the policy. Casey posed two large takeaways on October 14th:

  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.)”

These statements still hold true, even through this email. Yes, in the past you may have used a review service to receive a review in exchange for a discounted product. But, you weren’t in the wrong. In fact, you were in line with Amazon’s policy at the time. The policy isn’t retroactive, meaning your Amazon privileges should not be suspended or revoked because of those past reviews. *However, we have witnessed that Amazon is retroactively removing thousands of reviews left with a disclaimer.*

This mass email was sent to many sellers who have run promotions in the past, and it serves as a method to make sure that all sellers are well-informed on the new policy. The carefully-worded email instructs sellers on the new do’s and dont’s of offering discounts and receiving reviews, which actually gives some insightful clarification to the update.

So sellers, don’t interpret the email as, “I’m getting kicked off of Amazon, and I’ll never ever be able to sell anything again.” Read it as, “Amazon has notified me that past actions are now against policy. I now have to abide by the new policy, which they’ve just informed me of.” Moving forward, it’s important to abide by these policies. And yes, product promotions are still compliant with these policies. As we mentioned in a blog addressing the review disclaimer a couple of weeks back, “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.” Product giveaways through Viral Launch are still permissible, as we are not providing a product or any compensation for a review, we are not providing products in the future based on whether or not a customer leaves a review, we are not using reviews as a membership requirement on our buyer site, we are not allowing you to rate customers on our buyer site, and we are not registering our buyers’ Amazon public profiles in order to monitor reviews.

All that to say, rest easy, friend. We’ve worked tirelessly to ensure that we are in line with the new policy change. This email may have appeared to be intimidating at first, but as long as you continue to move forward within the Terms of Service, you will be in good shape.


Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program

Yesterday, on October 27th, Amazon announced the introduction of its new Early Reviewer Program. After banning sellers from incentivizing reviews, Amazon itself will start rewarding and incentivizing reviews. It is believed that the program is currently in beta testing and will likely be enacted at the start of November. Amazon describes the program on its Site Features:

The Early Reviewer Program encourages customers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience about that product, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. Amazon shoppers depend on reviews to learn more about products, and this program helps to acquire early reviews on products that have few or no reviews, helping shoppers make smarter buying decisions. Customers who have purchased a product participating in the Early Reviewer Program may be asked to write a review and those customers who submit a review within the offer period will receive a small reward (e.g. a $1-$3 Gift Card) for helping future shoppers.

This new program should (hopefully) help sellers who are bringing a brand new product to market. Doing so over the past month has been a bit like the chicken and the egg scenario; you need reviews to get sales and you need sales to get reviews. Where the heck do you start? One of our main recommendations has been implementing a stellar email follow-up sequence to capitalize on all sales, trying to get as many of those oh-so-important initial reviews from the get-go. But with this move, Amazon may be trying to smother follow-up review sequences. Think about it from a consumer standpoint…if you are bombarded with emails every time you make a purchase on Amazon, you might end up with a bad taste in your mouth about Amazon as a whole. It may seem like a bunch of review hungry sellers who only want you for your review. But, if Amazon can be in control of who reviews, and if they can make email follow-up sequences seem pointless when they’re bringing in higher review rates, Amazon wins and the customer wins. And for Amazon, that’s a win-win.

As we get more information on the Early Reviewer Program, we’ll be sure to share it. For now, we’ll say that it should hopefully be good news for sellers looking for initial reviews on new products. It does seem a little ironic though, doesn’t it? Amazon bans incentivized reviews and then incentivizes reviews…Well, when you live in Amazon’s world, you’ve got to live by Amazon’s rules.

More information from Amazon concerning the Early Reviewer Program can be found here.



The latest Amazon updates have caused quite the buzz within the Amazon seller community. While it may seem hard to keep up, we’re here to comb through the changes and guide you through the wonderful, hard, rewarding, and sometimes stressful process of selling on Amazon. We’ve been busier than ever this month, and I’m sure you have been too. But isn’t that part of the fun?

Continue to stay informed and make decisions that are in line with Amazon’s (ever-changing) policies, and you’ll be okay. While selling on Amazon may be confusing and messy at times, it can surely be rewarding. Although it may be a bit tougher to bring a product to market, it definitely isn’t impossible. In fact, we believe that with the right strategy, you can definitely still be incredibly successful as a private-label seller. Amazon makes the rules, and everyone has to live by them. If you can figure out how to do it best, you’ll be in great shape. And as always, Viral Launch will be here to help inform and clarify along the way.

We would love to hear your thoughts and questions on the latest Amazon updates. Feel free to post in the comments below!

Amazon Product Review Guidelines: FTC on Discounted Orders

We are back with more information surrounding Amazon’s latest TOS update regarding Amazon product review guidelines. 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 website, specifically pages around Endorsements.

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. 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 the Amazon product review guidelines and update to their TOS.

Conclusion: Amazon product review guidelines

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!

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