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AS 63: Discounted Reviews No Longer Allowed on Amazon – Amazon Ban[Official Post]

04 Oct 2016

Discounted Reviews are no longer allowed on Amazon. Announced on October 3rd by Amazon’s Chee Chew, the VP of Customer Experience for Amazon. WHAAAT?

This is perhaps the biggest change to the Amazon Platform since I started selling on Amazon and in this episode, we go into all the implications this will have.

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Today’s podcast, episode 63 on Discounted Reviews and how they’re no longer allowed.

Wholly cow. Whatttttt. The Amazon game has been changed, and I believe for the better, although I do say that with pain.

 

For the past 2-3 years, sellers would give review groups their products for at a major 99% discount, in exchange for an honest review. The reviews were great, we could test new inventions, test new product launches, and get our product to the masses.

If the entire world was white hat, this process would never have stopped. However, the system had it’s flaws. For one,  some sellers abused review giveaways, giving sometimes 1000s of units away to fluff their review count. Others used it to build velocity to affect their best seller rank.

Most sellers used It though  to get valuable feedback, get their product launched. In fact there are hundreds of courses, some that cost thousands of dollars to join maxresdefaultin, that teach this very thing. They are probably peeing in their pants right now because their entire “game plan” they have been distributing for beginners has been demolished. Flipped on it’s butt. Knocked out of the park…

Can you blame them though…Discounted reviews WERE ONCE, a legit method of launching a product. Don’t get me wrong.

The Heavy Cost to New Sellers with Discounted Reviews No Longer Being Allowed

However, according to reddit,  I am reading dozens of comments of newbies right in the midst of the crossfire that has just happened. Dozens of them are about to launch 2-3 sku’s and have just purchased thousands of dollars worth of goods.

Now their launch is completely botched. Unlike some of the more savvier marketers, who have customer email lists built up of their brand, and customer data access via Facebook and beyond, these newbies don’t have that and are sitting in hot water. Literally.

Just to put it into real context, here are exact things

That’s a bummer, I’m a seller with my first private label product, and I was going to be doing this as every course out there teaches this method.”

As someone with $15,000 spent on 2 new SKUs getting there next week:

As someone with an advantage over others in my space because I have a following, a marketing background and we’re actually growing as a brand outside of Amazon, this could be a blessing in disguise for us.

It’ll shake things up for sure, we all saw this coming.

 

This is also what I’m thinking. Nobody is ever going to gain any traction in even a minimally competitive niche any more. Good luck to anyone trying to sell a new supplement!

 Yep, say goodbye to half of the humble braggers on this subreddit and ASM pages. Doesn’t matter how much you make a month. Hacking your way to the top of search rankings doesn’t mean you have a solid, viable business. Also bye to all the review companies. On to the next hack
The unexpected destruction of major brands:

Some companies rely heavily on these discounted giveaways to keep their “velocity” up. Obivously this is a black hat technique if a seller was do that to begin with. But these companies will now suffer…which is a good thing. Good products should not have to get hurt by velocity review sellers…

The unexpected advantage to existing sellers:

Now that’s not to without saying that sellers who existed before the demise of review groups, are going to benefit big time. Even if the discounted reviews are destroyed, having real customers try your product was possible after having some reviews. In fact that is the main reason why sellers gave their products away. To establish some social proof to get the rest of the customers through the door with trust. And it worked.

But for new sellers who never had this chance, or new products coming on to the market and expecting to enter into crowded markets, it will be WAY harder to get on the level of an experienced seller. So for existing sellers, this is MASSIVELY, good news…regardless of if the discounted reviews are removed.

Remember I said, your goal is to just launch the best possible products. By doing so you will get authentic reviews. So by now, you should have real authentic reviews, in almost a 90% real, 10% discounted fashion. I think if everyone applied to this rule as I have mentioned in the past, Amazon would have never removed that.

The Fall of Review Clubs, Review Give away sites like AmzTracker Reviewkick

So this part is tricky. Technically you can still try to get reviews using these software platforms. However, it is black hat at this point. In fact, Amazon has specifically stated  you will get banned / suspended if you are caught doing discounted reviews using a 3rd party platform. Honestly I actually feel kind of bad for them. I had just unsubscribed, and there are probably 1000s of customers unsubscribing the next few days as that was the only reason many were customers.

I feel bad because I know how much work it takes to build a software platform. It takes an extreme amount of work and effort. These review softwares like AmzTracker, ReviewKick, were highly polished software platforms, with thousands of invested hours of development, energy, money, that went into building them.

Now they’re just pretty much garbage. Just being honest. I expect they will pivot as best as they can, but seriously, this is disastrous for that entire niche, and the thousands of lines of code related, in addition to the Facebook Groups specifically built for that.

As for response time. I was running back and forth between more popular review sites like AmzTracker and ReviewKick, and I must give serious props to the ReviewKick guys with their transparency on the 2

As for AmzTracker, as of this video, podcast, nothing has been mentioned, at all. For being as big of a company in reviews, there has been radio silence. Which is quite disappointing, even alarming as it’s quite dangerous for accounts for both reviewers and sellers to do discounted giveaways

Only time will tell.

amazon-reviews

The unexpected fall of the happy reviewer

There’s a very interesting cause and effect. With us private label seller we sometimes think that this news affect us and only us. The people who review the actual products are feeling the pain too. From youtubers, to influencers mentioned in episode 62, from http://amzsecrets.com/62

There was an entire thriving community who received products for free, reviewed them. It was a great gig for them. That channel has mostly dried up. Some of these guys were reviewing 50 products a month, all the way to 200 products a month. It had gotten so ridiculous that we could track how many verified reviews they had, how many reviews they did that month, and when the last time they had a review done.

By knowing these variables it allowed us to choose reviewers based on metrics, and not just anyboddyy.

Except for the last part:

Amazon Viner’s. Now this is where it get’s interested. Amazon Vine is pretty much the same deal, but  it’s a selected  elite group very good at what they do.

Amazon Vine includes some of the most trusted reviewers on Amazon, and they get free products, and products at a discount for their high quality review. Some of them do videos, but in all, there chosen by Amazon.

Amazon wants to control the review game and there doing it with Amazon Vine. I expect this platform with substantially grow in numbers, and sophistication over the next year as there is a massive vacuum to fill.

 

Since discounted reviews are no longer allowed: The easy process of launching a product is now hindered. Big time.

FAQ directly from Amazon’s Seller Central:

Why is Amazon making this post?
To keep Amazon of higher

Can I use third-party services to provide free or discounted products to reviewers? 
No. The policy applies regardless of whether you provide compensation to reviewers directly or through a third party.

When and how will this policy be enforced? 
The policy is effective immediately. If you continue to offer free or discounted products in exchange for a review, your Amazon privileges may be suspended or revoked.

Can I continue to offer discounts and promotions to customers? 
Yes. You may continue to offer discounts and promotions as long as they are not offered in exchange for reviews.

What constitutes a review “in exchange” for a free or discounted product?

We do not allow any benefit to be offered, requested, or provided in exchange for a review.

That’s pretty much all for this episode guys. .

And for today’s amazon news flash: The exact excert from Amazon:
Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions, and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job. In just the past year, we’ve improved review ratings by introducing a machine learned algorithm that gives more weight to newer, more helpful reviews; applying stricter criteria to qualify for the Amazon verified purchase badge; and suspending, banning or suing thousands of individuals for attempting to manipulate reviews.

Our community guidelines have always prohibited compensation for reviews, with an exception – reviewers could post a review in exchange for a free or discounted product as long as they disclosed that fact. These so-called ‘incentivized reviews’ make up only a tiny fraction of the tens of millions of reviews on Amazon, and when done carefully, they can be helpful to customers by providing a foundation of reviews for new or less well-known products.

Today, we updated the community guidelines to prohibit incentivized reviews unless they are facilitated through the Amazon Vine program. We launched Vine several years ago to carefully facilitate these kinds of reviews and have been happy with feedback from customers and vendors. Here’s how Vine works: Amazon – not the vendor or seller – identifies and invites trusted and helpful reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products; we do not incentivize positive star ratings, attempt to influence the content of reviews, or even require a review to be written; and we limit the total number of Vine reviews that we display for each product. Vine has important controls in place and has proven to be especially valuable for getting early reviews on new products that have not yet been able to generate enough sales to have significant numbers of organic reviews. We also have ideas for how to continue to make Vine an even more useful program going forward. Details on that as we have them.

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

Thank you.

– Chee Chew, VP, Customer Experience

 

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