Amazon: No More Incentivized Reviews*

Unless you’re in Amazon Vine, you’re out.

If you’re in the influencer marketing / product reviews space, you’re probably aware of how big of a market Amazon is…er…was. Amazon announced sweeping changes.

Now, it would be easy to point out how hypocritical it is of Amazon to not only remove incentivized reviews, but to go so far as to hint at lawsuits, while in the same breath offer a similar service that does the very things they are now claiming to be poisonous. However, that’s not going to help you. Instead, let’s look at the reality and existing problem as an opportunity. Theoretically you could coordinate with a small pool of reviewers and give them advance notice of a flash sale that exists for a limited quantity and limited time, as a means to circumvent, but I think Amazon will wise up to that eventually.

Amazon Sellers

You can no longer request incentivized reviews (caveat: books and ebooks are exempted), even if they are honest reviews, to exist on the Amazon platform. You can, however, get such reviews to exist external to Amazon. In fact, this may even result in something more powerful if the competition can no longer create fake reviews, and your external reviews are something you can aggressively promote.

Example : Provide a coupon code for a 100% free product sold on Amazon to a product reviewer that has a blog and Twitter account listed in her profile. The reviewer can provide an honest review (we suggest nothing less than honesty), which is then tweeted out to her audience after going live on her blog. This review may drive some sales by itself, but in aggregate can provide a large pool of social proof a seller can point to when interacting with prospects doing research on the product. If you are thorough in your campaign, the externally created reviews will end up being referenced in the organic Amazon reviews later. By having your product reviewed in multiple mediums, you can actually drive activity back to Amazon to complete the purchase and have a means by which you can influence the buying decision in more places than just relying on Amazon. If your product is good, those organic reviews will occur in proportion to sales volume as they did in the past.

Another idea I had comes from my conversations after initially writing this post, regarding top-of-funnel vs bottom-of-funnel queries and the challenges posed by switching mental focus. The idea is to look at what affiliate marketers do to push traffic for consumer products and start doing that. I mean beyond the “Don’t buy ___ until you read this review” and “Should you really buy ___? Read on” styled PPC and display ads.

I know there’s a rule that you can’t join the Amazon affiliate program and use it to buy products yourself (or at least that was one of the rules when I toyed with it a decade ago). To my knowledge though, they encourage affiliate program usage with FBA/private label vendors, which I see quite a bit with author websites…you could use these external content sources in your influencer campaigns to drive traffic in and recover some of the marketing costs via the affiliate commission. What I like about this thought is if you should ever decide to leave Amazon as your preferred marketplace and have been pushing traffic through a singular site that you own, you can always redirect where that traffic goes in the future.

Product Reviewers / Influencers

You’ve been placed in a difficult situation. I have spoken to and corresponded with thousands of you over the past 60 days and recognize just how passionate you are about performing product reviews. At Intellifluence we still have a section for providing an Amazon review profile on our influencer sign-up page, but we encourage you to extend the number of platforms that you’re involved with. By becoming involved on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and/or a blog you will become that much more valuable in the eyes of a brand seeking reviews. Confused at how to start? Here’s a sample of how a future conversation might work for you…

Brand: Hi Joe, I saw your Amazon reviewer profile and want to give you free product in exchange for an honest review.
Reviewer: Nothing would make me happier, but Amazon has cracked down on incentivized reviews on their platform. What I can do instead is take the free product you’re offering and write a post on {my facebook account|my blog|my twitter account} and then promote it to my entire audience. Then, because I will be listed as a verified purchaser of the product, if someone asks a question of me through the Amazon Q&A system, I can point them to my post.
Brand: Amazon is crazy to do this; as I understand it Vine isn’t doing too well.
Reviewer: It may have just been a way to get some attention to their program, but the irony is in the reviewer community their program isn’t even as trusted as some of the 3rd party groups like Intellifluence. That’s ok though; I am keeping plenty busy from Amazon sellers seeking out my influence on other platforms.

Ok, ok, it probably won’t be word for word like that, but expect to start having those conversations. Worried that you don’t have any social profiles setup yet beyond your Amazon account? It is never too late to get started; get some, sign up and start growing your reputation as a reviewer today.

Joe Sinkwitz

Joe, CEO and Co-Founder of Intellifluence, has close to 20 years of experience in SEO, leading several successful marketing companies and providing expert consultation. He is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Using Influencer Marketing.