01 September Things to Know About the Crackdown on Amazon Review Manipulation
Amazon review manipulation has always been in violation of the Amazon seller's terms of service. Yet for years, mega-sellers went unchecked as they either openly bribed customers for good press, or not-so-openly purchased positive reviews from hack organizations running fake accounts.
Because top sellers were getting away with it, smaller businesses were just as easily walking a gray area of “review motivation”, i.e., prompting customers to leave positive reviews or corralling negative reviews into “email only” invisible channels.
The shell shock from the recent suspension of Mpow and Aukey amongst others (collectively valued at $1B+ in sales) was a wake-up call for the entire third-party Amazon seller community that the rules will henceforth be more strictly enforced.
What Do Amazon’s Actions Toward Review Manipulation Mean for Sellers?
Overall, the attention to review manipulation is great for consumers, and can ultimately be great for your business, too. As fake and coerced reviews are slowly weeded out, the playing field will even be for smaller businesses that are selling products and facilitating customer service worthy of organic praise. The visibility of smaller brands is likely to increase across the marketplace, and high ratings will come to mean more to consumers as they regain trust in Amazon’s community moderation protocols.
However, as positive reviews are often much harder to glean organically from consumers than negative ones, sellers might be wondering where they stand in terms of reasonable efforts to prompt feedback. Here’s what you need to know.
1. You Can Still Ask for Reviews (You Just Can’t Motivate Positive Ones)
The largest gray area under attack falls back on one simple phrase: “Leave us a review if you had a positive experience.” While seemingly harmless, including qualifying language in your request for comments is considered coercion from Amazon’s point of view.
This is not to say that you can’t reach out to customers to ask them to write a review; you simply can’t ask them to write a good one. Odds are the review will be positive, but if you suspect someone had a negative experience or would represent you unfairly with their comments, it’s perfectly legal to simply refrain from prompting certain customers.
2. Avoid Bargain Bribes
Another misstep that could attract negative attention from Amazon’s moderators is unwittingly bribing your customers for reviews (regardless of the tone). You might be thinking of course I wouldn’t do that, but the terms for “bribery” are broader than you’d likely assume.
For instance, an uptick in review requests around or following a big sale can be misconstrued as giving away items in exchange for good press. While often well-intentioned, sending “thank you” gifts following a customer’s purchase is also grounds for a bribery investigation.
3. Transparency and Consistency are Key
As mentioned earlier, asking customers to leave feedback via email and others to post a review to your Amazon store (or asking exclusively for the former) is also considered review manipulation. From the moderator's perspective, curating who you prompt to post publicly looks like you’re hiding negative reviews from the public.
Again, it’s okay to simply not prompt certain customers at all, but be consistent and transparent with the ones that you do.
In the same vein of consideration, asking consumers to reach out to you privately prior to writing their review sends a signal that there may be coercion or bribery taking place behind the scenes. Use a singular account associated clearly with your business to communicate with your consumers in the review forum and be as honest and transparent with your communication as possible.
4. You Can’t Cut Corners (But You Can Speed Around Them)
All in all, if you’re confident with the product you’re selling and you uphold a high standard of customer service, you shouldn’t have much to fear in the way of negative reviews. Once you’ve covered your bases from an operational perspective, the best way to increase your ratings organically (and legally) is simply to increase your reach.
In other words, more happy customers (more confidence asking for honest feedback) = more positive reviews. To stay competitive without putting yourself at risk of suspension (or, worst-case scenario, legal action), take advantage of advertising and price optimization tools instead. The e-commerce ecosystem is rich with seller resources tailored specifically to help you succeed on Amazon, including our partners at Perpetua and Eva, and staying competitive with your appeal and price will have a far more sustaining impact than focusing your energy on reviews alone.
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