For shoppers, online reviews are a huge part of the decision making process. For anyone who’s been online in the last decade, it should come as no surprise that nearly 95% of shoppers read online reviews before making a purchase. And while a brand’s website was at one point the trusted place for reviews, Amazon takes the cake with nearly ⅔ of shoppers preferring the marketplace for customer reviews.
Data from fanandfuel.com
Amazon reviews are not just crucial for the consumer — they heavily impact search results and ranking. On top of that, Amazon only allows certain programs, ad types, and beta programs to be applied to highly-rated products. If your product’s reviews are below 3 stars, Amazon may flag the product, and just one extra-nasty review has the ability to get a listing shut down.
Ok, so we get it. Amazon reviews are important. But for many brands, they also can be challenging to gain, frustrating to maintain, and near-impossible to understand. This guide will walk you through the ins and outs of building a solid foundation for top-notch product reviews, and equip you with the tools to sustain your star score.
The #1 secret to getting good reviews?
Have a good product.
This is not a catch-all, but a prerequisite for everything else we’re going to dig into today. A good product is naturally going to satisfy your customers, and as a result, yield positive reviews. If you’re browsing the internet for advice on how to artificially boost your review scores, this isn’t the article for you. This guide is specifically for real-deal brands with quality products.
Understanding the customer’s thought process
For shoppers, it’s all about value.
If you have a product that’s perfectly good and sell it for a reasonable price, you’re going to get mostly good reviews. Along the same lines, a fantastic product sold for a high price can get positive reviews, as it is still perceived as “worth it.” Having an overpriced product is where we start to walk on thin ice. Higher price points set higher expectations, meaning that bad reviews are often given to perfectly good products if the customer feels like they could have gotten a better product for the same price elsewhere.
It’s also about experience.
A bad experience can ruin a good product. Even the best product in the world can get a 1-star review if the shipment arrived late, the product came broken, or the color wasn’t exactly what the customer expected. It might not seem fair — discrediting a product for something that seems out of your control — but it happens all the time. (We’ll get to how to gain control of the Amazon customer experience in just a bit).
Put these two things together, and you get what I call the magic Amazon review formula.
review score = price perception × quality × experience
Without thinking about it, we all follow this formula when writing product reviews. All factors in the formula need to be positive to yield a 5-star review — just having a good product isn’t enough. At the same time, if any of these factors are zero, the formula will spit out a zero — and you’ll get a 1-star review.
Leverage killer content
The most obvious goal of content is to make your product look and sound appealing — usually through beautiful product and lifestyle photography, titles and feature points, enhanced listing images, and A+ content. But it does so much more than that.
Think of content as a way to educate shoppers and set expectations. If you can accurately convey product details (rather than trying to sell the product at all costs), you’ll be less likely to get the dreaded “it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be” 1-star review. Try to answer questions before they are asked and instill the shopper with buyer confidence.
As they say, happiness is equal to reality minus expectations. If your customers get what they expected to get, they will be much more likely to leave good reviews. After all, they’re the ones who decided to click that buy button.
Here are some listing images for the Kånken, the very popular backpack by outdoor apparel brand (and Netrush partner), Fjällräven.
How many times have you purchased something online without really knowing what to expect? Maybe it had a missing feature you were hoping for — or the product wasn’t the exact right color. After looking at the six images above, there’s no guessing game. Less obviously, these images were edited by designers with high-end reference monitors, assuring the color is virtually the same on-screen as it is in real life. As a result, customers typically aren’t surprised by features or details when the product arrives on their doorstep — and are less likely to complain in a review.
But it’s not only about expectation setting. Delivering a great digital experience can not only improve reviews — but also encourage sales. Here’s some A+ content from the Kånken listing.
The image is pleasing on the eyes, but also shows the types of practical applications a shopper could expect from owning a Kånken.
Lifestyle imagery helps deliver a strengthened brand voice.
Consolidate your catalog
A messy catalog can damage your SEO, Amazon ranking, review score, and customer experience.
Since we’re on the topic of backpacks, let’s take a look at one of the most popular backpacks of all time: the Jansport Superbreak. Here’s a listing for the bag in “Red Tape” color:
Now, I know what you’re thinking: this is one of the top-selling backpacks of all time, and it only has six customer reviews? Plus, what’s going on with those goofy feature points?
Look a little harder and you’ll come across a similar-looking listing:
Same product, same color (although it looks a bit different), but it has 2000 more reviews.
Jansport has what we call a disjointed Amazon catalog: multiple listings of the same product spread across the marketplace. It doesn’t stop here — there are dozens of Superbreak listings. The varied colors, prices, levels of authenticity, and content makes it frustrating for shoppers to find what they’re looking for.
If Jansport consolidated and organized their Amazon catalog, they’d immediately start seeing benefits. First off, all their reviews would be housed under the same roof, simultaneously boosting their search ranking and drowning out the occasional bad review. On top of that, the experience would improve greatly for the consumer: the right style, size, color, and price are easy to find. Finally, the brand would have infinitely more control — of pricing, counterfeits, data, and branded content.
Netrush did exactly this for Nutcase, a premium street helmet brand out of Portland. We took over 150 ASINs and organized them into 5 product listings. In just one month, Nutcase saw an 82% increase in sales. Here’s what one of their listings looks like now:
Notice how easy it is for the shopper to select a size and a color. Click, click, done.
Gain control of your listings
I’ve mentioned this twice already. So what is control anyway?
Control: When a brand has a complete understanding of who is selling their product and managing their listings
Remember the formula — a bad experience can easily tarnish what otherwise would have been a good review. One of the most crushing byproducts of poor Amazon control is the sale of counterfeits. Not only does this hurt your sales and brand reputation, counterfeits unfairly influence the overall review score (and as a result, the public’s perception) of your product.
Let’s go back to the Fjällräven Kånken for a minute. Here’s the listing as it stands today:
But it didn’t always look like this. Before an intensive counterfeit reduction strategy, many reviews were not about the product, but the fact that the customer received a fake.
Fast forward to today, and Fjällräven is seeing what they want to see: reviews that are actually about their product.
The benefits of listing control go beyond counterfeit reduction. You’ll also be able to deliver a consistent experience across pricing, imagery, copy, packaging, shipping speed, and more. To sum it up, your customer’s expectations will be met — and they’ll be likely to leave a good review.
So… How do I gain control?
The best way to take back control of your Amazon presence is to work directly with trusted retail partners. On top of that, it’s critical to have an arsenal of compliance strategies and resources. This means having an unauthorized seller policy (available somewhere public, like your website), an internet authorization policy, Amazon MAP compliance and violation monitoring (people on the ground reviewing your listings daily), and the effective management of Amazon Brand Registry. It’s a lot for most brands to manage internally, which is why many choose to work with an Amazon compliance partner.
What about buying reviews?
Buying reviews is against Amazon policy, and absolutely not worth doing in the traditional sense. Hiring a fake review agency is a really great way to get your listing shut down in a matter of days. However, Amazon offers a handful of programs to “buy” legitimate reviews — but there’s a bit of a catch.
Vine is a program in which Amazon shoppers are asked to write honest reviews in exchange for free product. Amazon is very choosy about who becomes a “Vine Voice” — you have to be deemed trustworthy by the powers that be. It’s also pretty expensive — somewhere in the $2.5k – $7.5k range (although we typically see the costs on the lower end of that spectrum).
There’s also an inherent risk with Amazon Vine. For example, reviewers who are out-of-market may write a bad review of your product, just because they weren’t the right customer for you. Take a look at this Vine Voice review of a matcha tea.
Let’s slow down for a second. This customer is clearly not a matcha drinker… they even referred to it as mocha! When I saw this, my mind was blown — this person seriously thought this was supposed to be a mocha flavored green tea… in a teabag! At the end of the day, this brand paid to get this totally out-of-line 2-star review. That’s a huge bummer.
My point isn’t that Vine is a bad program; in fact, the opposite is often true. For brands that are confident in the quality of their product, it can be extremely effective in getting a listing with no reviews off the ground. However, brands that engage with Vine need to be very careful, and have an acute understanding of their audience before moving forward with this program.
Early Reviewer Program
A second Amazon review program, often referred to as ERP, is a lower-cost option ($60/ASIN) that’s significantly less aggressive. Here’s how it works: you need a listing with less than 5 reviews and a selling price of over $15. Amazon will simply send customers that buy your product an email offing a $1-3 Amazon credit in exchange for leaving a review.
There are a few things to note. First off, you need to be actually making sales before launching this program. This won’t work on a stagnant listing. Second, shoppers will be in-market (no matcha issues) as they decided to buy your product on their own accord. Finally, it can be really slow. A bunch of reviews are not going to pop up overnight. Think of ERP as a lower risk, lower reward option compared to Vine.
Advertising on Amazon
The more sales a product has, the more reviews it will generate. Launching an ad campaign translates directly into more sales, meaning more people will enjoy your product, resulting in more reviews.
With the right brand and the right strategy, coupling a more traditional Amazon advertising campaign with programs like Vine and ERP can be highly effective. Netrush employed a review-generating campaign for REAAL, an essential amino acid brand that launched on Amazon. We leveraged both Amazon Vine and sponsored product ads. Here are the results:
Offer top-notch customer service
Remember the formula — good experiences are necessary for good reviews. Having a dedicated customer service team is crucial for making sure your customers are happy.
Respond to customers
Issues with the product, fulfillment, and shipping are bound to happen once in a while. Be generous with returns and refunds, and offer proactive solutions to customers — even if the issue isn’t your fault.
Let me tell you a quick story highlighting how effective this can be. A while back, I purchased a 7-pack set of meal-prep food containers on Amazon. They looked something like this:
When the product arrived, two or three of the containers were broken. I’m not sure how they broke — traveling in a cardboard box across the US can be rough — but they were broken nonetheless. I didn’t think much of it until the brand emailed me asking for my feedback (in the form of a review). I figured, okay, I don’t usually write reviews, but I’ll tell them what happened. I wrote a 3-star review. They promptly emailed me to apologize, and generously refunded my entire order.
Essentially, I got 5 free meal-prep containers — simply because the brand was proactive about making sure their customers were happy. Because they went above and beyond, I changed my review to 5-stars. Nice job, meal-prep container brand.
Sending emails after a purchase is made is a great way to engage with your customers, especially in the increasingly-impersonal digital marketplace. A well-crafted automated email campaign should encourage good reviews, offer solutions to prevent bad reviews, and show off the personality of your brand.
After launching automated email campaigns for a number of brands, Netrush saw the percentage of customers that leave a review double.
Can you remove bad reviews?
The short answer is no. The long answer is, well, sometimes, but it isn’t guaranteed, and you certainly shouldn’t rely on this strategy. You absolutely can’t get a review removed just because you don’t like what they said about your product or brand. However, in certain cases, a review may break Amazon’s community guidelines, and you can report it. For example, if a review talks about fulfillment (shipping speed was slow, the product never showed up, etc), Amazon will sometimes remove it, as it isn’t a review of the actual product. Other examples include reviews that are profane, irrelevant, or disrespectful to others.
Instead, try this
Responding publicly is a great way to mitigate bad reviews. When you respond to a review that everyone can see, future shoppers will see that you addressed the problem head-on, which will give them a higher level of buyer confidence. Be sure to offer solutions when possible — channel your inner no-name meal-prep container brand.
Learn from negative reviews
If you’re seeing trends among your 1- and 2-star reviews, take a good hard look at your product offerings. Turn a negative into a positive by viewing critical feedback as an improvement opportunity.
Robert Wang, the inventor of the top-selling Instant Pot, is the master of this introspective strategy. You don’t become one of Amazon’s top-selling products year over year for no reason — just look at this article from CNBC.
Putting it all together
Maybe you noticed — each and every strategy outlined in this guide has numerous positive effects on top of encouraging good product reviews.
It really all boils down to this: having a great Amazon strategy will naturally lead to gaining and maintaining good product reviews. Offering quality products, winning listing control, leveraging content and marketing, and delivering top-end customer service, will not only improve your reviews on Amazon, but push your brand toward overall e-commerce success.