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

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

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

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Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

Apocalypse?

CAMERON YODER:

– that’s happening.  No.

CASEY GAUSS:

Review apocalypse.

CAMERON YODER:

Review eclipse.

CASEY GAUSS:

All right, review apocalypse it is.

CAMERON YODER:

All right, it’s settled.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

Seemingly.

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

Does not include variations.

CAMERON YODER:

Single ASIN.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

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

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

Crazy.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

Everywhere.

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah, Everywhere.

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

It does.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

It has been deemed the quote Great Amazon Purge.

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

Yeah.

CAMERON YODER:

Completely.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

If they’re removing them.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

It is.  Fourth change, fourth change involving reviews.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

Lifetime.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

CASEY GAUSS:

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

KEN CHRISTIANSEN:

Right.

CASEY GAUSS:

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

CAMERON YODER:

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

4 Tips for Writing Review Booster Emails from Viral Launch Email Guru Brandon Stewart (Follow the Data Ep. 19)

4 Tips for Writing Review Booster Emails from Viral Launch Email Guru Brandon Stewart (Follow the Data Ep. 19)

Getting reviews for a product on Amazon is becoming increasingly difficult. Amazon continues to implement new programs and Terms of Service, limiting seller’s abilities to elicit reviews. One age old strategy for capturing customer reviews is sending follow up emails to customers and skillfully asking for product and seller feedback. Join Cam and Casey as they dive into the data that has resulted from thousands of split tested email follow ups with in-house email copywriting guru Brandon Stewart.

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Follow the Data Show Notes

 

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON YODER:
Getting reviews for a product on Amazon is becoming increasingly difficult. Amazon continues to implement new programs and Terms of Service, limiting seller’s abilities to Elicit reviews.

One age old strategy for capturing customer reviews is sending follow up emails to customers and skillfully asking for product and seller feedback. Today we dive into the data that has resulted from thousands of split tested email follow ups on Amazon. I’m Cameron Yoder

CASEY GAUSS:
And I’m Casey Gauss, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 29,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

CAMERON YODER:
In today’s episode, we sit down with our in-house email copywriting guru, Brandon Stewart, to talk about the best practices for writing email follow ups. Although this tactic for generating reviews typically only provides a minimal return, we believe that reviews are way too valuable to discount any method that produces results. In other words, if you can leverage these tips to get even one review, we believe it will have been worth it.

Let’s jump in

Okay so today’s topic, we’re talking about reviews. It’s a very good topic to talk about, and Brandon is here with us to give us the low-down on reviews with Amazon. So first, before we jump into Amazon, maybe Brandon, maybe you should touch on the email landscape in general, so outside of Amazon. What is the landscape of emails like?

BRANDON:
Yeah, so typically people sign up to get emails from companies like Nike or Disney or Southwest Airlines, you name it, and all the emails are a little bit different because people sign up for a particular reason, right? So Nike it might be because they want to see the new contest Nike has or the new videos or the newest shoes or sportswear. And the same thing with Southwest, they may want to see what are my mileage or points or how can I gain more points or how can I double my points, or … they’ll send a happy birthday email to them, and Disney you’re looking at new toys, new videos, new movies coming out: things like that. That’s really what the email landscape is today. People sign up to a particular company, and they’re receiving content from that particular company.

CAMERON:
Because they wanted to go there in the first place, right? So they chose to go the website, and they chose to sign up for their email. Right?

BRANDON:
Yes, yes just like that. Probably, for most of these, they probably signed up online. Some of them, like for example if you’re in a store, they may have you sign up for that for some free coupons or something like that in that store.

CAMERON:
Wouldn’t it be nice as Amazon sellers for people to come and want to sign up for our email follow ups. So that’s the … that’s the general email landscape right now. So compare that to then what Amazon is or what’s present on Amazon.

BRANDON:
Yeah, so Amazon it’s … so I don’t know, you probably buy a lot from Amazon. I know I do.

CAMERON:
Sure.

BRANDON:
I’m sure Casey does as well.

CASEY:
Oh yeah

BRANDON:
And whenever … I don’t always buy a repeat item on there. Many times they’re one-off products. I needed a new phone case for my newest phone or a car case … a case to keep my phone in my car to hold it there, and things like that. And many times they’re from private sellers, from these private labels. I don’t know who they are. I didn’t sign up to be a part of their email program or anything. I know nothing about this brand. And really it comes down to … you have to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. If you were to send them an email, they don’t know you. They don’t know anything about you. And so you gotta, you gotta make things sort of small and brief.

CASEY:
I’ve been hearing about a lot … or I’ve been hearing about a lot of people saying, unsubscribing from Feedback Genius, FeedbackFive, whatever email follow up service provider because less and less emails are being sent out, I’m paying a monthly subscription, and I’m just not getting very many reviews from it. I have two thoughts there. One, listen to this podcast like you are so that you can get some tips on how to improve your email follow up sequence overall. And then two, anything that is driving any amount of reviews, I’m talking about one review a month, whatever, is worth however much money you’re spending. As reviews seem to be from our perspective, from our data, kind of the currency to driving success or driving sales on Amazon, you need every review possible. And so if you’re getting one review a month from your email follow up sequence, that’s one review more than if you weren’t. And honestly looking at the flip side, if you’re not using email follow up sequences, what are you using? Sure you may not be getting a satisfactory rate, but you are getting some kind of rate, and that rate is contributing to the top-line sales that you are or will be seeing in the future. So …

CAMERON:
It really is a refining process. It’s a process that you need to be involved with pretty heavily and keep a close eye on, and Brandon, today … today we have a pretty good handful of comparable steps or kind of tips in general for you guys to follow. And so Brandon, if you could start out, what is the first thing that you would recommend with the idea of revising email follow ups or things that you’ve seen work extremely well. What’s like tip number one that you can give our listeners?

BRANDON:
I’d say tip number one would be don’t … you have to write in such a way that gets their attention, so if you go in there, and you write a story such as “We’re a small seller, and we would love to have a review, and we thrive and depend on your reviews.” Well, you have to understand, people receiving this email, they honestly don’t care about your company, they don’t care about your business. And that’s kind of how you have to look at it. So you want to provide them something that’s worthwhile.

CASEY:
Not only that, but I know that when I see just a wall of text in an email, I’m not even going to read it because who knows how long it’s going to take me. It’s not interesting to me, right?

BRANDON:
And that’s usually what it is too. It’s 3 or 4 paragraphs of all about the company and all why they need your review. They must have a review to survive or if they don’t have a review from you they may go out of business the next day.

CAMERON:
How detailed would you say people need to be then? Because I’ve heard you talk about drama, being dramatic with emails where companies will write maybe not their whole company story, but they’ll try to maybe draw out this big story or somewhat of a story in their email. How detailed do people need to be or how dramatic do people need to be if at all?

BRANDON:
I mean, look at the emails you get from Amazon. They’re very simple; they’re plain, right? And you … it would be best … it’s, from what we’ve seen it’s best to mimic that style. Having something simple: here’s your package, it’s on its way. Things like that.

So number one is not writing all your story out. Now if you have an amazing incredible story—I was a broke college student, and now I’m doing well on Amazon, and hey leave a review—that may be okay, right? That’s a cool story to have. But don’t write something that is basically begging them to leave a review, which is what we see all the time.

CASEY:
I think it’s also important to qualify Brandon, I don’t know … I don’t think we’ve done that so far. So Brandon has … so we used to have this package, we are removing it from our site right now. It just doesn’t make business sense to have Brandon time there, we need Brandon focused on things that we’re doing internally at Viral Launch. Not launching products, I mean like writing emails to our Viral Launch customers. Anyways, Brandon … we had this service, we called it Review Booster, and one of the packages there was management. And so essentially, we would … Brandon would write the emails and then we would go in, implement them for you and then we would manage the subject lines or the structure or different language in the emails to make sure that we were optimizing your open rate and then click-through rate. And so Brandon literally did this for thousands of emails, brands doing everywhere from 40 million a year to people just putting their first product up on Amazon. So this guy has seen it all. He’s used all of the email follow up services. This guy has experience like, you know probably nobody else in the industry, which is pretty awesome. How’s that make you feel Brandon?

BRANDON:
Oh fantastic. All warm inside.

CAMERON:
So this tip was really centered around simplicity, right, and being simple.

CASEY:
Could you give us like an example?

BRANDON:
Of …

CAMERON:
Of being simple. What does being simple look like specifically in an email sequence?

BRANDON:
Yeah, so first one is the let’s say let’s squash negative reviews. Let’s go to another tip. And this is part of the simplicity, of that.

CAMERON:
So this is tip number two.

BRANDON:
Yes, let’s say tip number two. Here’s how you can squash negative reviews before they happen. So when you … so two things first. So Amazon sends out a thank you email or an email that you purchased a product. So you don’t have to do that. They also send you an email when your package ships. So you don’t have to do that. So what I would say is … what we’ve found works best is sending out an email when your product is out for delivery, and you can do that in specific email marketing platforms, email services for Amazon. And inside of that, it’s gonna have something just really simple. It’s gonna have something like “Your product is on on the way,” and it’s going to have an image of a product, right? And then it’s going to have a few tips and tricks about your product, depending on what you need to do. Say it’s a workout product, well you’re probably going to have to have a PDF or an ebook or a gif or a gif, whatever you’d like to say in there, of someone using that product, and it doesn’t have to be very detailed at all. All you’re doing is showing them how to use the product, that it’s on its way, and if there’s any issue at all, please leave me … please contact me right away, and then have a little contact link in there.

CAMERON:
So this is a primer, this is like a primer email. So they haven’t received it yet, it’s on its way, and this is email one of …

BRANDON:
Of two

CAMERON:
Of two.

BRANDON:
I would say three at the most.

CAMERON:
Okay.

CASEY:
So yeah, I think this is important for people to know. A lot of people just look at email follow up sequences as just a way to drive seller feedback or product reviews, but you know, as Brandon has seen, and you know as we think that you should be doing, you should be leveraging this to avoid negative reviews and potentially, as Cam is talking about, prime them for a good review. Show them how to use the product. Show them how to get the most out of the product. You know, at that point, you’re just improving the overall customer experience for them. And when Brandon talks about leaving a link so somebody will contact you, definitely you know, this is not the “Hey if you had a good experience, click this link. If you had a bad experience click this link.” This is something very simple like, “Hey if there’s anything you know we can do for you … maybe Brandon wants to share the exact language, shoot us an email, here’s the email link here.” Nothing more. No buttons. No tricking people to go where they’re not entirely sure they’re trying to go. This is very very simple, people. We wrote email follow up sequences for people, and I think they were expecting us to write, you know, a couple novels for them in these emails, but it’s like the data is showing us that the very simple, and again if you look at Amazon, they have an insane amount of data. This is how they’re writing their emails, just very simple, very to the point, using very simple language. You know, it can be tempting to use sophisticated language or something so that your brand appears very sophisticated, and I understand that, I think you need to take those things into account, but for the most part what the data shows us is that what works is very simple language. Brandon, you know, Brandon studies copywriters all the time. And you should be writing to the what? What grade level or something?

BRANDON:
Yeah, typically the eighth grade level. Um, I think what is it Ernest Hemmingway’s book The Old Man and the Sea, which won a, I think it won a Pulitzer Prize, was at the fourth grade level.

CASEY:
Oh wow.

CAMERON:
Really?

BRANDON:
Yeah

CAMERON:
Oh man. Well, okay so this … this second tip, you’re … just to summarize what this email, this initial delivery, this primer email would look like, again. So it would involve something like “Hey, your product’s on the way.” Right? And then it would involve, if there are instructions needed or if there are instructions involved with the product, including those with something like a video or a gif or gif, however you pronounce it. Right?

BRANDON:
Yes, to an extent, but with Amazon’s terms of service, you … you’re not really supposed to include a video. You can include attachments up to 10 megabytes. There’s nothing in there about video. We’ve seen it happen before … I haven’t heard of anyone being delisted because of that.

CASEY:
Or suspended.

BRANDON:
Or suspended or anything like that. It … you know, you’re more than welcome to try it. But according to Amazon’s terms of service, don’t do it.

CAMERON:
Right. So the … your product is on its way, possible informational thing, and then the third part, which I want to touch on again is the contact us button.

BRANDON:
Yes

CAMERON:
So this, the main tip is to squash negative reviews. It’s to basically put yourself ahead of those negative reviews. I think this contact button is what a lot of people miss. Where they try to or they get negative reviews for their product, and maybe they ask themselves “Oh, another negative review! How do I get around this or how do I prevent this from happening? This, I see as a really preventative step of making that happen.

CASEY:
The downside is that it’s hard to quantify the effectiveness, right?

CAMERON:
Right.

CASEY:
It’s not like Feedback Genius is sending you a report of, yeah, you know, you stopped five negative reviews this week.

CAMERON:
But it’s one of those things to have in place just in case. It’s like a Why Not?

CASEY:
Yeah, it’s a Rather-Be-Safe-Than-Sorry.

CAMERON:
Right

CASEY:
Especially if, you know, you’re just launching this product, getting one negative review right off the bat, you know … no good.

BRANDON:
Yeah, and it gives them a … essentially it stops them from doing that, right? It stops them from going “This product sucked, and I’m going to leave a bad review.” It says something to the effect of … I think the copy I use is, “If there is anything wrong with your order, please contact us or please let us know, please inform us.” And then there’s a big bold “contact us” link they can click on, and it goes right to their email.

CASEY:
And that way they know if something goes wrong throughout the process, hey, here’s who I can reach out to. Versus going straight to the review page.

CAMERON:
Review page, writing a one-star review, bringing your overall rating down.

BRANDON:
It’s essentially telling them we’re here for you, and we’ll take care of your problem for you, not a problem, not a big issue.

CAMERON:
And it’s not a guarantee, but it’s a chance, and if reviews is all about taking as many chances as you can get to improve your rating or to improve your overall score, and this is one of those opportunities that you would not want to pass up.

So, okay let’s move on to the next tip, tip number three. Brandon, what do you got for us?

BRANDON:
Well, for the third one, a lot of people want feedback, but what we’ve found is that feedback does absolutely nothing for your sales.

CAMERON:
Right, right

BRANDON:
And it’s really the review. So the second email to send out, third tip, is to get a review. And the best way to grab that review is not to ask them outright, “Hey, leave me a review.” or go back to that …

CAMERON:
Wait, hold up. Say that again.

BRANDON:
Hey leave me a review!

CAMERON:
So but you’re saying that’s not the best way to ask for a review.

BRANDON:
It’s not the best way to do that because if you think about you and I, or anyone in general, we want our opinion, to share our opinion, right? You want to say to someone, Hey what’s your opinion on this or what do you think about this? How did you feel about that product? Right? And that’s probably, from what we’ve found, is the best question to ask. So the email setup looks a little like this. At the top, it’s going to have something to the effect of: Thank you for purchasing or thank you for ordering and then the name of the product …

CAMERON:
Just to reiterate, this is email number 2. Right?

BRANDON:
Yes, that’s correct.

CAMERON:
Okay.

BRANDON:
And the best time to send out email number two is whenever they’ve used your product. So if it’s, say, a workout product, it may take them a week or two to even begin using it. If it’s something like a phone case, they can probably use that right away. In general, we’ve found the second email to send out, the best time is roughly five days after delivery, after they have that product in their hand and they can use it.

CAMERON:
So just to … I want to jump back a little bit. But the first email, the delivery email, is that after they’ve ordered your product?

BRANDON:
That is when it’s out for delivery.

CAMERON:
When it’s out for delivery.

BRANDON:
Yes

CAMERON:
Okay

BRANDON:
When it is going to be in their mailbox that day.

CAMERON:
Okay, so when it’s going to be in their mailbox that day is email number one.

BRANDON:
Correct

CAMERON:
And number two is …

BRANDON:
Five days after delivery

CAMERON:
Five days after delivery. Recommended.

BRANDON:
Recommended.

CAMERON:
Okay, okay good. So touch on that aspect again. It’s not asking for a review. It’s asking for their opinion.

BRANDON:
Correct

CAMERON:
Okay, tell me more about that.

BRANDON:
Yeah, it’s it’s … you can ask them to leave a review, it’s almost as if they have to do a solid for you. It’s like Hey, here’s a favor. Can you do this for me? Can you take time out of your day to tell me what you thought about this product? Well, more than likely they’re just going to click out of that.

And the best language we’ve found is something along the lines of “What is your opinion?” or “What did you feel or think about the product?” or “What did you feel about … and then you name the product.”

CAMERON:
So do you think people have a stigma against being asked to leave a review. Like, do you think sellers are aware enough to where that creates like a …

CASEY:
You mean buyers?

CAMERON:
Oh yes, sorry, buyers! Not sellers. Where buyers are … where buyers have this … have a negative feeling towards being asked, like Hey leave a review for this product. Do you think they feel that negative? Or they’re just not aware of it?

BRANDON:
I don’t know if it’s a negative feeling. It’s more of Oh I’ve got to do this other thing. I have all these things I have to do today. I just got home. I just sat down. I’ve got to feed my kids now, or I’ve got to eat myself. And I’ve got to go work out, and I have to do dishes. I’ve got to do the laundry, and now there’s this other thing this company wants me to do, someone wants me to do. Why would I want to do this for them?

CAMERON:
And so the opinion is not necessarily asking … asking them to just … that word that verbage is not necessarily not asking them to do another thing, it’s inviting them into something that they want to give, which is their opinion.

BRANDON:
Yeah, right, who doesn’t want to be asked their opinion on something, right? And that’s really what it comes down to. You try something out, and you say What did you think about that? What is your entire opinion on that?

CAMERON:
Do you think, people, listeners right now with all their email sequences set up, do you think it would be a simple step to simply replace the word review with opinion? Or is there specific wording or verbage that should be built around the idea of asking for an opinion?

BRANDON:
I think the best thing to do that is to help them with their opinion. And I don’t mean that in a negative way or a … some type of …

CASEY:
A manipulative way

BRANDON:
… influencing them in a certain way. So from what we found and the best way to do is to show them some reviews, some actual reviews from the product itself. So you can even have two five star reviews and a four star review. And you know, not everyone is going to have all five star reviews. You want to show them that people … you want to show them that you are not perfect, right? Not everyone thinks you’re perfect. I mean, someone may have left a four star review. And then give them one or two sentences, show them one or two sentences of that review. Make sure you put it in quotes. Make sure they know it’s a real review. And then after that, or before that say: Here’s what a few people have shared with us or here’s what a few people have told us about … and then the name of the product.

And then after that is where you ask, What is your opinion? What do you think?

CASEY:
And we do want to make sure that we again stipulate we’re not telling them to say these things.

BRANDON:
Correct

CASEY:
We are not writing reviews for them, anything like that. We are essentially just showing them, hey here’s what some other people have said. What do you think? And again, we’re not saying if you had a good experience, what’s your opinion. We’re not saying anything like that. We’re just asking what your opinion is. I do think that there is some level of inherent risk, one, just with sending email follow ups and maybe potentially with this language. So again, just wanted to stipulate: do this at your own discretion. Use whatever … however risk tolerant you are, assume that risk. But just know we are not saying this is 100% you should do this. We are saying we have never had a seller get in trouble for this kind of language, and yeah …

CAMERON:
I would also recommend … so part of one of Brandon’s recommendations, which was to have a contact us button, really helps you field negative feedback. So ideally, in a perfect world, you would have a great product that works all the time, that does not show up damaged at all, that doesn’t malfunction in any way. But having, having something like the contact us button does really helps you get ahead of negative feedback, number one, but number two, you should really look at the negative feedback that you’re getting if you’re getting any, to ask yourself Okay how can I improve my product. You should just be … you shouldn’t just have negative feelings towards negative reviews and say, Oh I’m just not going to pay attention to them; they’re all wrong. No, you should ask yourself if what they’re saying is true and/or how you yourself can improve your rating or how you yourself can improve your product, which will then in effect improve your overall rating as people review your product. Okay Brandon, we went over those tips. Those are three main tips. There’s a lot of stuff in there, but what … if someone was to come up to you, if a seller was to come up to you and ask, Brandon what’s the biggest … what’s one main tip that I can use right now to improve my review follow up, what would you say? The one, like the biggest thing.

BRANDON:
I thought I just gave them away.

CAMERON:
You gave … you gave … but even I would say if it’s one of these, pick one of them. But I’m asking you for the biggest one.

BRANDON:
Yeah, I think …

CASEY:
Which of the tips that we’ve given is going to have the largest impact?

CAMERON:
Right

BRANDON:
I mean, they’re both going to have a massive impact because if you’re going to stop negative reviews and then if you’re going to at least hopefully gain a review, those are both great things. Obviously, getting a review is going to do more for your business, hopefully, than anything else. than even stopping a potential, well … not stopping a potential negative review I guess, but … if you can get a review, I think the second email is the most important. It really is the most important one that we send out because you’re gaining a review from that person who just purchased, just tried it out, just used it, whatever you want to say. And now they’re going to give their honest opinion about it.

CAMERON:
Brandon, could you … could you go over with us, so we’re talking about Amazon Terms of Service, right now. Could you go over just what, what people should … what is not allowed from an Amazon Terms of Service perspective, what is not allowed in review follow ups.

BRANDON:
Sure. A few of the things that we see the most is linking to some kind of outside … website or your own site or even to Hey check out our Facebook page, or like us on Facebook. Those are all not allowed. Or linking to a YouTube video. Anything that goes outside of Amazon is not allowed. Amazon doesn’t like that at all. They want to keep the money going to themselves.

CAMERON:
Of course. Of course.

BRANDON:
So that’s one of the major things that we see. The other thing is including some sort of incentive to leave a review or even … not even saying Hey leave a review and we’ll give you a coupon. But putting a coupon code inside of a request for a review, right? That’s definitely frowned upon. That goes against Amazon’s terms of service.

Some other things are … if you hire your own HTML coder to create your email follow ups for you, doing something that is prohibited inside of an HTML tag that Amazon says on their website don’t use these HTML tags, or here’s what’s allowed don’t do anything else with that or CSS class, things like that.

We’ve also tested graphics before inside of emails. So if you’re going to make an amazing and beautiful graphic or some type of beautifully designed template for your email, it … from what we’ve seen it doesn’t do as well as … for example Nike, you get a … you receive a email from Nike. Alright, cool, great, awesome. And it’s going to be beautifully designed. It’s going to be that brand’s layout, and you’re going to identify with that because Nike has spent billions of dollars on advertising. In general, and so that aligns with the advertising you’ve seen online, on video, on TV, on YouTube, wherever you may have seen that, inside of magazines. And that email newsletter, or that email template aligns with that. And with people signing up for … buying your product, on email, that graphic, you know they don’t really know your brand all that well. They don’t know your … this is your color, and this is the exact font you have to use. They don’t know any of that. So keep it as simple as possible. Use large buttons that are yellow highlight … yellow background with a black text or a white text, just something like that.

CASEY:
Why yellow?

BRANDON:
That really stands out. What’s that?

CASEY:
Why yellow?

BRANDON:
It’s what Amazon uses, right, and it really stands out. It really helps to stand out, and I think it makes people go, Oh this is still in the Amazon ecosystem. I can feel that this is a part of Amazon.

CASEY:
It’s the little things guys.

CAMERON:
It is. It’s the little things. What about … what about tips or overall strategy for utilizing feedback services. So services that optimize your email sequences for you. Do you have any words on that or any mistakes that people make. What things aren’t people doing well with those services?

BRANDON:
Yeah, I mean it really is very basic. It really comes down to not making it easy enough … for example like Casey was talking about earlier, including a lengthy amount of text and then … or having multiple links inside of that email, you know. At the most our delivery email has one link in it: contact us. At the most, our review email has two in it. It’s got a what is your feedback … what did you think about this product, and the second one is Hey, if there’s any problems or anything we could have made better, please let us know. That’s another link, and that just goes right to your contact us.

CAMERON:
Gotcha. So the theme that I’m getting a lot is really keep it simple. Keep it simple. Have a well thought-out plan while keeping simplicity in mind. Have a contact us button. That’s pretty much it right?

BRANDON:
Basically! That’s really it. If you think about opening an email before, for example you’ve probably opened a Best Buy email. And they have 1,000 different products on there. Well, that email’s not going to have a very big, what we call a click through rate, where they click on something and go and buy that product because it’s overwhelming, there’s so much to look at that people will just instantly delete it or just go to their next email. So you want to make it as simple as possible. No excuses. One simple link in there.

CAMERON:
One simple link. Keep it simple. Simple link. One simple link, and asking for people’s opinion.

BRANDON:
Yes, and white background, black text.

CAMERON:
White background black text.

BRANDON:
You can make a big headline.

CAMERON:
Yellow.

BRANDON:
Yellow button.

CAMERON:
Yellow button! To mock Amazon.

BRANDON:
Yes, and I’ve seen in the past people using Amazon Seller, having that image at the very top of an email. I believe it is allowed. I’ve seen it used. I have not heard of anyone having …

CASEY:
Sorry, what was that?

BRANDON:
Using a small link or an image that says Amazon Seller on it inside of the email itself. And it’s actually using Amazon, the Amazon seller logo inside of that email.

CAMERON:
Interesting.

CASEY:
Yeah, I haven’t heard of it.

CAMERON:
I haven’t heard of anything like that either.

BRANDON:
And some good subject lines like that are asking them about their Amazon order. It’s not just How was your order? Or did your order arrive? It’s did your Amazon order arrive? Or how is your Amazon order? What did you think about it?

CASEY:
Again, you have to remember that a lot of consumers or a decent amount of consumers still think that Amazon is the one selling them these products, not, you know, brand XYZ.

BRANDON:
And that’s why it’s always good to not have your brand at the very top. Like thanks again for buying the name of your brand and then your product. Like, no they just want to know the product, and make sure you put an image in there so they can identify with what they just purchased.

CAMERON:
I think that’s really important to reiterate, the brand thing. So again people don’t associate with the brands that are on Amazon. They associate with the product, assuming that it’s Amazon selling them that product.

CASEY:
You know, I totally get it. The brand is your baby. You care about that, you want to push branding and … but you have to remember a lot of people don’t pay attention to the brand. They’re just buying whatever your widget is, and so if you say Thanks for your brand-whatever purchase, they may be confused. They may not know what’s going on.

And so always pushing it kind of from the context that they understand, which is I just bought this from Amazon, will provide better responses through open rates, click rates, and then also Brandon mentioned including an image, and the reason here is maybe you buy … you just had five things delivered throughout the week, you had ten, fifteen things delivered. I mean … it’s a lot, and so you need to easily show them so they can quickly identify, yes, this is the product you’re talking about. This is the product that I just got.

CAMERON:
Would you rather have your brand name in the email follow up or a better follow up percentage rate.

CASEY:
Yeah, would you rather get reviews or for some brand … or some customer to see your brand name again?

CAMERON:
I’d rather have reviews.

BRANDON:
But that doesn’t mean in the signature you can’t put your brand. Or probably the best thing to do is to put your actual name in there or the name of someone in your company. Humanize it! Not just hey this is your team at, and then the name of your brand and then a logo. Just try to humanize it. Like thanks again, and then your name and then the name of your company.

CAMERON:
That’s good. Well …

CASEY:
Thanks so much Brandon

CAMERON:
Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for giving us these tips. We will utilize them.

CAMERON YODER:
That’s all for this week. Thanks for joining us on Follow the Data. For more insights and reliable information that will help take your Amazon business to the next level, subscribe to the podcast, check out the Viral Launch blog at viral hyphen launch dot com, and look for us on YouTube. We have a handful of Product Discovery walkthroughs that can really help you leverage the tool. Just go to our YouTube page, and look for my face!

CASEY GAUSS:
Don’t forget to rate the show and leave us a review on iTunes. We’re talking about reviews. WE all know reviews are tough to get, but they definitely help us all out. So we’d love them, and honestly just as a company was love honest feedback. So we’d love to hear what do you want us to talk about? What do you want us to avoid talking about? Or what is … maybe you don’t like the format of the podcast. We want to hear it all so that we can be better for you. So please tell your friends, spread the word, and share the show with other Amazon sellers if you think it would be advantageous to them.

CAMERON YODER:
Thanks again so much for listening, really we so much appreciate all of you taking time to listen to this podcast, as always if you listened to the last episode you heard people’s feedback and questions that they had. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to leave us a voicemail. Our number is 317-721-6590. Until next time, remember: the data is out there.

Your Amazon Seller Questions: Q&A with Cameron Yoder and Becca Longenecker (Follow the Data Ep. 18)

Your Amazon Seller Questions: Q&A with Cameron Yoder and Becca Longenecker (Follow the Data Ep. 18)

In this episode, we field a few questions from our listeners. Being your own boss and running your own business is an incredible part of being an Amazon seller. But navigating the Amazon space all alone can be hard, and reliable information can be difficult to find. How does Amazon really work? What are the best strategies? Join host Cameron Yoder and producer Becca Longenecker to find out.

Listen on iTunes   Listen on Stitcher

 

Follow the Data Show Notes

  • Want to be on the show like today’s listeners? Have your own story of entrepreneurial success? We’re working on an episode that features our listeners! Leave us a voicemail at (317) 721-6590 with stories or questions about your Amazon business.
  • Initial reviews are so important. Wondering how to get that social proof for your product? Check out our blog post from this summer about Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program.
  • Talk about barrier to entry: language is a huge one for going international. Read our recent blog post about the importance of getting a native speaking copywriter to create your listing. 
  • Check out the Viral Launch YouTube channel and look for Cameron’s Fireside Chats where you walks through how to get the most out of Product Discovery. 

 

Podcast Transcript

CAMERON:
Being your own boss and running your own business is an incredible part of being an Amazon seller. But navigating the Amazon space all alone can be hard, and reliable information can be difficult to find. How does Amazon really work? What are the best strategies? Today we field a few questions from our listeners to help you make sense of it all.

I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success. In this show, we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 28,000 product launches and our experience working with 6500 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and, more importantly, the best practices for success as an Amazon seller.

In today’s episode, we’re hearing from you and answering your seller questions. There’s an awesome variety of topics and some great content here for those of you who are just getting a product into FBA or who are looking to refine your selling process to make your business more profitable. Let’s jump in.
[fade out intro music]
BECCA:
Hey, I’m Becca Longenecker, the producer for Follow the Data, and I’ll be joining Cameron in today’s episode. Before we get started, I just want to give a huge shoutout to everyone who has called in and left us a voicemail, everyone who has subscribed, everyone who has left us a review, and everyone who has listened so far. There are a lot of podcasts out there, and we feel really honored to be one of the ones that you choose to listen to.
CAM:
Yeah, Becca’s our producer, and she gets to listen to every episode all the time, even the stuff, the content, that we don’t get to put into the episodes. And so I’m psyched to have her on the show, welcome Becca.
BECCA:
Thank you Cam. So at the end of every Follow the Data episode, we encourage you all to call into our voicemail box and leave us a message with your Amazon questions or responses to the show. And we’ve really enjoyed hearing from you, so today we’re going to play a few of those voicemails for you and answer a few of the questions that you all are asking.
CAM:
So let’s play the first voicemail response.
BECCA:
Alright
CAM:
And then we’ll go from there.
LISTENER #1 JOHN:
Hey, my name is John Farrell. I’m actually I’m new to selling on Amazon. I just listed my first private label product, and I think this is a question for myself, but I think that it could serve well for a lot of people who listen to your podcast and may be new. So basically to get my product ranking—and you’re saying that sales history is so important—so what I’m doing is I just listed my product last Monday, so it’s been exactly a week since I listed it, and I did 3 sales a day for the first week, and now I’m upping it to 5 sales a day for the second week, and then 7 and then I’m going to do a blast on Viral Launch.
But I’m having difficulty in … I’m getting a lot of different answers regarding … because my product isn’t … it’s still too new, it isn’t showing up on any pages of search results for any natural keyword terms. So what I’m doing is I’m having people. I’m I’m sending them to I’m sending them links to the product to buy from the link and hoping that you know one of these days, it’s just going to pop up on one of the pages, and then I can have them buy naturally by sending them the keyword and they can search through pages search for my product and buy it.
I’m not even sure if that’s the best way to do it. That’s what some people are telling me. I want to get your feedback on that as well as I wanted to know when I should expect to start having results as far as all when I should start showing up naturally on the pages for keywords, and if it … taking this long is you know not normal, so that’s that’s the question. I have for you guys. Thanks. Thanks a lot.
CAM:
Yeah, so that’s a good collection of questions and situations from John. And there’s a lot of … there’s a lot there, honestly, to go over. And so starting out, if you haven’t seen the podcast episode where we talk about sales history, I recommend going back and checking that out after this podcast.
So John, one of the first things that he talked about, and maybe one of the first things we should go over is the fact that his listing wasn’t necessarily active right off the bat. And we don’t necessarily have data to show that this happens for every single person that opens a product on Amazon. But from what we can see, that is a normal occurance for you to … let’s say you create a listing on Amazon, right? So you buy the product from like Alibaba, and then you create a listing on Amazon, and you create a listing on Amazon, and then you ship the products into FBA. And once those products get into FBA, a lot of people will think ‘Oh, well I can just start selling immediately and start ranking immediately, but in some cases the … when you search for your product, just through the normal search function on Amazon, it doesn’t pop up. And so there seems to be this period of time where maybe it’s going through Amazon’s system, or whatever, where it takes a little bit of time for it to load into Amazon and for you to really be able to … not even to … you don’t necessarily have to wait for that to gain sales because you can send people a direct link to your product, like John talked about. But when it comes to something like keyword ranking, and you can’t even find your product when you search a keyword, that’s probably not the best time to do something like a launch.
BECCA:
Yeah, um next Cam do you want to talk about the part of his question where he is talking about how he is giving away 3 units and then 5 units and then 7 units, and he’s kind of doing this … like building up sales velocity—a term that we’ve heard people talk about a lot—and in that Sales History / Sales Velocity episode that we did, you guys kind of try to explain that. Maybe you can go over that again?
CAM:
Yeah, so really when it comes to a brand new seller. This is less important. But when we talked about the comparison of sales velocity to sales history it’s sales history that matters more, right? So if you have been a seller for a long time, and you’ve built up a pattern of a bad sales history, you’re going to have a harder time launching, or ranking on a page for a specific keyword and sticking there. On the other hand, if you have a positive sales history, so if you’ve been selling for a decent amount of time, and your sales have been pretty good, then the … let’s say you launch on to page 1, you’re going to have a little bit easier of a time sticking on there because of your positive sales history. In John’s specific case, he’s talking about a very early strategy of kind of messing around with low numbers of sales velocity and increasing them, like within a week’s period of time. For John’s case, that’s not super important. Like that, honestly it probably wouldn’t make a difference, if you were to space it out like that. What matters more, what matters more in this case, than incrementally spacing out sales from specific people, what matters more in John’s case is keyword ranking, right? Which he might not be able to do yet because his product is not available to see yet to everybody. And more than that are getting reviews, getting his initial reviews. Like if I were to talk, if I were to sit down with John and talk about what to do first, I would say when you’re product goes live on Amazon, you need to get reviews in place.
BECCA:
Well, even before it goes live, right?
CAM:
Yeah, yeah! Even before. Like in John’s case, he should get reviews.
BECCA:
Even when it’s not showing up in search.
CAM:
Right, even when it’s not showing up in search. Even when he can’t do something like a launch to increase keyword ranking because he can’t show up in results. Getting those reviews in place is really going to solidify his social proof so that when he does go live, then he can perform something like a launch and get to the front page and have that social proof there and ready to go instead of just having no reviews in place.
BECCA:
Going back to that incremental change. I just wanna make sure this is clear. So I think a lot of people think that the incremental change is what Amazon wants to see—they want to see that you’re sales number, your sales volume is growing. But actually Amazon’s just more concerned with how high your sales volume is. So it doesn’t have to be incrementally changing over time, if you right off the bat can get that sales volume up and you can match the sales volume of your page 1 competitors, you can climb in the rankings.
CAM:
We’ve actually seen this and we’ve talked about this. Casey and I talked about this a little bit before. But there’s this small period of time, this grace period it seems like, when your product goes live for the first time. Or actually newer products, if you funnel a certain amount of traffic through it, at the very beginning, Amazon seems to take preference to that. It’s kind of like, Oh, you’re a new product, and you’re preforming really well at the beginning, so we’ll reward you. And in some cases, people can achieve ranking quicker and or stick on page 1 longer if they perform a launch right off the bat. Again, with that social proof in hand though. So with that … that’s a combination of good photos, good reviews, good price, all those things. But all those things combined together, really if you’re an early product it might be good to perform a launch if you have all those things in place right away.
BECCA:
That’s pretty cool.
CAM:
So I just want to summarize again because there are a lot of points in there that are important. But so when you’re thinking about sales history, it really is not that important if you’re a new seller. It matters if you’ve been selling for a little while and you have bad sales history. That’s gonna negatively affect your ability to rank and stick on ranking. If you have a good sales history, that’s good. If you’re new, you don’t really have a sales history yet. You just need to make sure that you’re not building a bad sales history, a bad reputation.
BECCA:
Alright, let’s move on to the next message.
LISTENER #2 DANIEL:
Hey, my name is Daniel Metz and I’m recent listeners to the show. I just listened to the episode about the Amazon reviews, and what I think is going to probably happen is that the reviews that you see will be weighted. Based on 30 days or 60 days or 90 days something like that, but they will still have access to like lifetime reviews just giving a greater weight to the more recent ones and that the actual star rating in order to be more accurate will reflect a more recent time frame as opposed to all of the reviews over the entire life of the product offering. I’m a recent user. I’m just now doing my first Viral Launch, and I really appreciate the company, just the the way the company is run. In comparison with all the other companies, and so just wanted to call and let you guys know. Thanks. Bye.
BECCA:
Thank you Daniel for that affirmation. We have really tried to differentiate ourselves in the space and to be a legitimate resource for sellers in a market where there are a lot of proclaimed solutions that don’t actually deliver on results. We have been and continue to be super customer-centric, results driven, and innovative, and it’s really encouraging when people recognize that. So thanks.
BECCA:
Daniel’s call was about the episode that we did on the future of Amazon reviews. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, I would definitely encourage you to go back into our feed and give that one a listen. Cam and Casey talk about the way that Amazon reviews are now and how that could potentially be bad for sellers in the future, and what they think Amazon will do to change that.
CAM:
So the concept is, if you’re new to selling, and you’re trying to sell this awesome new face cream, and everyone else has like 12,000 reviews, it’s going to be almost impossible for you to compete. So we discuss that and what we think Amazon is going to do.
BECCA:
Yeah, so that sounds like a definite possibility, Daniel. Casey and Cam throw out the idea of a weighted system in that episode as well, and it seems like a great way to go for Amazon. I also think you’re right that they’ll probably have to allow sellers to keep the lifetime reviews for their product. I think they would probably get a lot of backlash if they tried to take down legitimate reviews. Although, they have taken down reviews in the past. But yeah, I think you’re probably not far off with your prediction.
CAM:
Let’s go on to the next question.
LISTENER #3:
Hey guys appreciate you guys doing this. I’m a new seller. My question for you guys is really about launching, so I have a new shipment coming in. It should be within like the next 30 days month or so, and I’ve been reading through Facebook group try to figure out the best strategy to get things started get a launch going. So I know you guys do launches, but I’m also seeing a lot about running sponsored ads doing those at the same time, a little bit confused as to really what I should do, so if you guys could give your best advice on sponsored ads, running at launch, how those compare. Yeah, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.
CAM:
That’s a question that we see actually a lot. So the question is, basically, how does PPC compare to a launch, or to running a targeted giveaway.
BECCA:
So PPC, or for those … or sponsored ads … payed per click advertising, PPC, is when you see those sponsored ads at the top of a product search, those top couple of products, they’ll says sponsored, and those are a way to get your product in front of people for a specific keyword and drive sales through that keyword. So it’s basically functioning the same way as a Viral Launch. With a viral launch you pick a keyword to target, and then you put that product in front of a buyer group at a heavily discounted price. And the sales that you get from that discounted product promotion are going through a targeted keyword. So with sponsored ads and with a product launch, you are getting those sales attributed to a keyword, and that’s the really important aspect of a launch and for sponsored ads as well.
CAM:
So they’re both trying to accomplish the same goal. However the main difference for something like an effective launch or PPC is, honestly it’s time.
BECCA:
Yeah, so the reason that we do a launch the way we do, where you’re discounting your product so heavily and putting it up on this buyer site is that we have … you know the buyer site has over 100,000 people subscribed who are checking in daily for deals, and with a heavily discounted product, you can move a lot more product. So you can have, you know, 10 sales a day or something like that whereas with PPC you might see 1 sale per day, 2 sales per day come through a specific keyword. And so the purpose of a launch really is just to get that volume because you can move up through the ranking so much quicker.
CAM:
A launch is simple. A launch is an attempt to match the sales of top sellers for a specific keyword, right? And with our launch platform and with other giveaway platforms, if you can funnel all those sales through a 7 day or 10 day period of time, that’s gonna be more effective than just throwing money in the air and hoping. PPC just takes so much more time.
BECCA:
And with PPC you’re usually targeting a handful of keywords all at once, and with a launch it’s just really really specific, and you’re just going all after that one keyword.
CAM:
So it does depend on the market that you’re in and the keywords that you’re kind of trying to rank for. A lot of people also ask if they should do PPC while they’re doing something like a launch, and honestly the answer is … well it doesn’t really hurt. At the same time, I know people who very effectively only run launches. So they take all the money that they would be spending on something like sponsored ads, which can be expensive, and they put it towards a launch, and if they drop in ranking, then they just run another launch. Monetarily for them, just looking at the numbers, it makes more sense with the keywords that they’re trying to target. Some people will do a launch and PPC, but basically a launch is going to be more effective. It’s going to be your base line.
BECCA:
The other thing I guess to say about PPC is, one way that it can be really helpful is to target a whole bunch of keywords or do those auto campaigns through Amazon and then you can figure out which keyword your product sells the best for or converts the best for. And that can be a good way to find a keyword to target on your product launch.
CAM:
Yeah, that is a good method that a lot of people use. It takes some time to get, but if you’re not sure about what keywords to target, it can be a really good option.
BECCA:
Alright, moving on to our next voicemail.
LISTENER #4:
Hey Casey and Cam, so I’m a fairly new seller in the Amazon game, and I had a question for you guys about selling internationally. I heard that it’s pretty easy to go over and sell internationally because the markets aren’t as strong and developed in the US, but I’m kind of wondering is it really worth it for me to go and sell international because I’m so new and so fresh in the game should I just spoke with my efforts on US or is it worth it to try international right out of the gate? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks guys.
BECCA:
So that’s a tough one. Cam, what do you think about going international right away?
CAM:
Being completely honest, honestly there are 2 arguments here. I know sellers in both. I know sellers who have succeeded in both. First off, nothing is as easy as it sounds, so people often say, Well yeah, I’ll just start one of those Amazon businesses and launch it and it’ll be just super easy. I’ll make tons of money. But if you as an Amazon seller think back to the first time, whether you were using a course or not, I’m sure somewhere along the line of you starting your first Amazon business, or your first product, selling your first product, you thought: Hey, this is much harder, or some degree harder than I thought it would be originally. But international is a different game than selling on Amazon or is just different than if you were to try to sell outside of the United States. So my first response to this listener is that you need to establish what your goals are. What kind of numbers are you shooting for? How much effort or time or energy do you want to put into this? Because that could determine if you want to stick with your home country, where you’re most comfortable, or not. You also want to do more research on international markets and the US market. So for us, we use Market Intelligence and with that we’re able to look at sales numbers in Europe, sales numbers in the United States and market trends as well, and almost across the board, the numbers in the United States completely beat out the numbers in other countries. Now, you have to keep in mind the barriers too. So one of the biggest barriers in the United States is going to be competition. So just because there are a lot of sellers here. There’s a lot of traffic. So obviously if there’s more traffic, there’s going to be more competition. That’s the biggest barrier. And if you’re going international, then some of the biggest barriers are going to be something like language barriers—the copy for your listing—culture barriers—understanding how people are buying, different selling licenses and laws, transferring money back to your home country.
BECCA: On that topic: we have a podcast episode with World First from a couple weeks back that you should go check out. We talk to Lucy Marshall, and she kind of explains who they help Amazon sellers at World First transferring their funds back home.
CAM
If you haven’t listened to that and you’re an international seller, give that a listen. All that being said, there are some barriers to entry to consider, to really consider. And it all depends on what your goals are. Overall, start small, and once you feel confident in your ability to sell, then maybe maybe consider going international. But all that being said there’s still a ton of opportunity here in the United States.
CAM:
Well hey guys that is all for this week. Thank you so much for joining us here this week. Again, I just want to iterate, we really do love hearing from you guys and all of these were questions that we’ve received from you and that we’ve been hearing in the space, and so it’s honestly just really good to hear feedback, but it’s also good to hear questions that you have at the same time. So I’m gonna give our number here. It’s (317) 721-6590. We absolutely would love to have you call in and give any questions or feedback. We would love love love to feature you on the show.
For more insights and reliable information that will help take your business to the next level, subscribe to the podcast and check out the Viral Launch blog at viral-launch.com. And also check out our YouTube channel. We’re really … we’re shooting for a lot of content in 2018. I’ve said this before, but check out our YouTube channel, we’re doing a weekly walkthrough of Product Discovery right now. It’s kind of like a course. And you’ll see those videos. They’re called Fireside Chats. You’ll see those videos under the playlists that we’ve created. And you will also see my face in those.
BECCA:
Don’t forget to rate the show and leave us a review on iTunes. That helps me out with my job. Your feedback helps all of us here at Viral Launch cater our content for you as the listeners and it helps other people find the show as well. We also want to say that we really appreciate everybody who has left a review and has given us feedback so far, and a special thanks to everyone who we featured on the show today who called in with a question.
CAM:
Again, thank you guys so much for listening. We are looking so forward to putting out more content for you. Feel free again to reach out in any way. Until next time remember, the data is out there.

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

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

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

 

Logical Breakdown

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

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

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

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

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

 

Quotes From the FTC

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Quote 1:

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

Quote 2:

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

 

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

 

Using Follow-up Services

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

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

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

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

 

Conclusion

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

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

 

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

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