In eCommerce, social proof accounts for almost as much as your product itself. In fact, it can be the very phenomenon which can make or break your business.
It’s not hard to see why. Advertising might be effective, but we’re social creatures. We’re just as likely to trust word of mouth recommendations as any attractive and well-informed campaign. And it shows. Some 90 percent of consumers read online reviews before making any purchasing decision.
You can’t pay for reviews on Amazon. In fact, they were leading the fight against fake and incentivized reviews as early as 2015. But new sellers can leverage the power of testimonials with Amazon Vine. But just how effective they’ll be depends on a number of factors. Not least of which starts with your product—as well as your service.
What is Amazon Vine?
Amazon Vine is an invitation only program for both sellers and buyers who are ranked based on the helpfulness and insight of their reviews. Sellers participating can provide free units to Amazon to distribute anonymously to reviewers with a highly viewed Amazon profile (also known as “Vine Voices”) in select categories in exchange for honest feedback and testimonials.
Encouragement of positive feedback is strictly prohibited as is incentivization. Sellers are prohibited from contacting Vine Voices in any way during the review process. There’s no requirement for a seller or buyer to participate in Amazon Vine nor will a negative review impact a buyer’s ranking as a Vine Voice, so long as they abide by Amazon’s posting guidelines.
Why is Amazon Encouraging the Vine Program?
To promote sellers who have a limited number of reviews and provide customers with detailed, unbiased and well-informed insight into new and existing product lines.
How are Sellers Selected?
Seller participation in Amazon Vine is chiefly by invitation and is in no way an assurance of a positive review. Sellers seeking eligibility must meet the following criteria:
Registration in Amazon Brand Registry.
Provide an FBA offer in ‘New’ condition with less than 30 reviews.
Available inventory in stock.
A product detail page with clear images and descriptions.
Are Vine Voices Really That Influential?
Reputation carries weight. It’s as true for reviewers as it is for brands. And Vine Voices are selected on a number of criteria, including the number of reviews left, the number of helpful votes they receive and the amount of reviews in one or more specific categories. Customers trust them for their expertise, learning to recognize the green check mark identified with a Vine Voice review as a seal of approval (or disapproval!) from the Amazon community.
But the opposite can hold true for sellers. Even though pre-release items can be eligible for the Vine program, your product may not be ready to review. Have you prepared a full description including price? Have you professionally shot at least four clear and distinct images? Have you researched the market for your product—including existing top sellers and emerging competitors? Have you considered a full scale media campaign? More importantly, just how different is your product?
In short, don’t consider Amazon Vine to automatically boost sales. And don’t consider a negative review from a Vine Voice to be the death of your product. Focus on retail readiness and reviews will inevitably follow.
But it’s only the strength and distinction of your product and service which will ensure they’re positive reviews.
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