Amazon has provided a platform for smaller, scrappy sellers to be able to compete with big brands. However, these smaller brands must provide social proof that their product is worth the purchase.
We recently sat down with Keith O’Brien, CEO of iLoveToReview, to talk about the importance of Amazon product reviews, as well as how sellers can generate and manage them.
Here is a portion of our interview with Keith. To hear more, make sure to tune in to our webinar, How to Market Your Brand at Amazon.com.
Q: Can you give us an overview of the importance of product reviews on Amazon and the benefits they provide sellers?
Keith O’Brien: You really only need two things to sell a product—one is authority, and the second is social proof. Amazon provides the authority, because it’s a trusted platform. Social proof is the first big benefit that reviews provide. With all things being equal, same product, same images, same price point, same descriptions and bullet points, people are generally going to buy the one that has more reviews.
In addition, with private label, a lot of times products are very similar to a competitor, so people will look straight at reviews. They may not read them all, but they’ll certainly look at the overall star rating. They’ll look at probably the most helpful, the one that’s been voted up the most, and then they might jump to your negative reviews and see what people said, and then how you responded to it as a seller, as a business. Reviews absolutely, more than anything else, drive that social proof for your product.
Q: Do you see any difference between the volume of reviews versus the quality of reviews?
Keith O’Brien: Yes, I think that both are important. Everything on Amazon depends on your product, your product niche, and your competition. Let’s assume that the listing is optimized, with a clear headline, clear bullet points, and great images. Depending on how competitive your category is, sometimes you need a few dozen reviews to really get things started, sometimes you need hundreds. Then over time, you could need thousands.
We have clients that work with us at every different stage of product growth, including some product launches. We work with a ton of mid-market sellers that are doing it on a consistent basis to keep the flow going. Then we also work with some larger sellers that, literally, are just keeping the pedal down the entire time and that’s consistent with their campaigns. You always need high quality reviews, but depending on your category, you could certainly need a volume of them, too.
Q: At iLoveToReview, you help brands get more reviews through exchanging their products, either for free or for a discounted price. What type of results do your clients typically see from doing that?
Keith O’Brien: Last year we generated a little over 101,000 reviews for our clients. We’ve seen a little bit of everything. Up until very recently, we really didn’t see a difference between whether a product went out for free or whether there was a cost to it in terms of the overall results in the listing. We didn’t see much of a difference between doing it slowly or doing it fast, which is another thing sellers think about as well.
We’re driving, whether it’s 40 reviews or 500, we’re able to complete those in about 3 and a half weeks for a product. It gets a nice little spike in conversion rate as well as the daily sales average, which is going to really make a difference for the listing, over time. We’ve always played the long game on Amazon. Lots of people want to see results very fast, whereas we want to see daily and weekly results. Driving reviews to your product is very much part of your long-term business strategy.
Q: What are some common mistakes that you see sellers making when submitting their products for reviews?
Keith O’Brien: I think the biggest mistake that sellers make is that they try to play it too close to the line in terms of service violations. You specifically cannot try to influence the review in any way. You can’t say things like, “If you’re going to leave less than a 4 or 5 star review, or if you’re unhappy with our service for any reason, please contact us in advance so we can fix the problem.”
Even the inserts people put in, “We strive for 5 star quality service,” there’s a lot of gray area. If they reviewed your account when you were doing those things, would it be an issue? Probably. That’s probably the biggest one I see.
Q: What are some other ways that sellers can solicit reviews without breaking Amazon’s Terms of Service?
Keith O’Brien: If you choose to use a service, make sure to do a little investigating of their business practices. Read through their site and take a look at the volume of reviews they’ve done. I’d say we’re more strict on TOS compliance than sellers would be on a general basis. If you’re running it manually there’s no reason to push the envelope. In this space, you’ve just got to be clean.
One of the stipulations that most people aren’t aware of is that friends and family can’t review your product. The first launch strategy of most new sellers is to have friends and family leave a review. It’s difficult for Amazon to enforce, but they do track IP addresses. Just be smart and understand that you’re building a long-term business. Don’t make decisions based on what you can get today that might bite you in the butt tomorrow.
Q: What are some best practices for handling negative reviews?
Keith O’Brien: First off, as a business, it’s important to stay out of the emotion of it all, because when there’s heightened emotion it’s very difficult to learn and to see the facts for what they are. Everyone has a lot of pride in their products, but the reality is, we’re not perfect people.
Take a step back and actually see what the consumer may be saying. Some consumers are just absolutely off their rocker and will give reviews based on unbelievable stuff or personal preference. That is their right, so be in a space where you can actually learn something so that you don’t repeat the same mistake twice. Look at what you can take from each of these reviews to make your product better, because I promise you, that’s what your competition is looking at to make a variation of your product to sell themselves if you’re not handling it well.
The second tip would be to respond in a way that is going to have you come across in a positive light. Not everyone understands that products they buy on Amazon are from small, independent mom and pop sellers, or even mid-market sellers. Everyone kind of has this illusion that every product on Amazon comes from this huge company with tons of employees and big production facilities. Respond in a way that’s going to have you come across to the next person reading this in a way that you want consumers seeing your brand.
Those are the 2 things that I think that are absolutely most vital. Just understand that a negative review is not the end of your product or the worst part of your day. You can always, always bounce back from it. If you see a trend, take some action, and do something about it.
If you would like to hear more insights from Keith please tune in to our webinar How to Market Your Brand at Amazon.com.