Amazon Account Reinstatement and Suspension Prevention
February 9, 2017

7 Ways Product Review Manipulation Brings Amazon Sellers Down


 

Despite many warnings and policy changes by Amazon regarding product review programs, there seems to be a lot of confusion among sellers about what they are and aren’t allowed to do to get more product reviews.

To recap, we are not allowed to use any product review service except Amazon Vine.  This has caused sellers to turn towards sales driving products like Snagshout and others – which Amazon likes.  They like sales just fine.

However, we’ve seen sellers try to skirt Amazon’s review manipulation rules through follow up emails.  Lately several sellers have been taken down by Amazon for using sales generators in conjunction with improper emails.  This last part is key because sellers are getting suspended not only for review manipulation but ALSO for manipulation of the buyer/seller system.  This is important because it is a new capability of Amazon’s mighty algorithm and because if you don’t address this violation in your appeal you won’t get back.  Like so many things that have been against policy for a long time, Amazon did not have an automated way to enforce the rules.  Very few people ever got suspended for buyer/seller platform abuse.  We believe this is about to change.  Amazon is now looking.

What exactly is abuse of the buyer/seller message system?

This includes things like sending sales messages or communications with other sellers through the platform.  It includes spamming buyers with multiple emails.  It includes trying to sell or upsell a buyer through email.  It includes marketing messages and – most relevant for today’s blog – improperly asking for positive reviews, discouraging negative reviews or some combination of the two.  The latest suspensions we’ve seen for review manipulation ALL had inappropriate language in the emails the seller was sending out.  In some cases, this email copy had been given to the seller by their vendor. Anyone who uses one of the sales generating tools AND who has used email copy from them, needs to examine it very carefully.  Really, everyone should examine their buyer emails in light of these new developments.

Here’s what sellers need to know:

  • Don’t ask for a review if the product was purchased at a discount or with a coupon.
  • Don’t ask buyers for a positive review.
  • Don’t tell buyers what to write, give them examples or hound them to leave a review.
  • Don’t ask buyers who leave you positive seller reviews for a product review. (That’s called selecting your reviewer)
  • Don’t keep sending sellers emails when they’ve asked to be removed.
  • Don’t ask friends or family to leave you reviews (it is still happening!).
  • Don’t pay for bloggers or other off-platform reviewers (Amazon will suspend you).

 

In short, you can only ask buyers for a product review ONCE and you must be very careful how you ask.  If you are using a sales generating program/campaign, then you need to exclude all those sales from your email campaigns.

Feedback Genius has an advanced setting you can click to automatically exclude products bought at a discount from getting an email.  Be sure that setting is on.  In addition, you can add buyers who complain about spam or too many emails to a “black list” so they aren’t emailed again.   If you have a difficult buyer situation, be sure to remove them from future emails.  Simple acts like this can help reduce negative feedback and are compliant with Amazon policy.

Some of the violations we’ve seen these past few weeks have been outrageous.  Some sellers gave buyers a review script to follow!  Another client gave buyers one link for a positive review (to leave a review) and another if they weren’t happy (back to customer service).  This may seem like a smart strategy, but in fact they were discouraging negative reviews and encouraging positives.  It is no longer allowed.

So how can you safely ask for product reviews?

Assuming your email is being sent to a buyer who paid full price for your product, here are some ideas to comply with Amazon requirements.  I suggest putting the “Handling Problems” links in the email you send to the buyer the day the product is due to be delivered.  To be on the safe side, your feedback email should ONLY ask for feedback:

Handling Problems

  • If you have any questions about our product or if your experience with us was less than perfect in any way, please contact us immediately at [insert link] so we can make it right for you!
  • We hope you love your new [insert product name]! If you have any questions or if your experience was less than perfect in any way, please let us know so we can make it right [insert link].
  • Sometimes when a product is delivered by mail it gets damaged in shipping. Or maybe it’s not quite what you wanted. It may not fit right. You may have changed your mind. We understand and we are here to help!  Click [here] for easy returns with Amazon or click [here] if you have a question.  We want to make it right for you.

Asking for Feedback

  • Please take a moment and share your experience with others! [insert link]

We use customer feedback like yours to continuously improve our products.  Other customers on Amazon rely on reviews to make informed decisions.  Thanks for helping to make Amazon a better place to shop!

  • It has been a few days since your [insert product name] was delivered and we hope you are enjoying our product.  As a small business, feedback from our customers means the world to us.  We rely on people like you to let us know what we are doing right and where we could improve.  Would you mind sharing your experience with others? [insert link] Thank you!

 

These are just a few ideas, we would love to see what other sellers are using to drive product reviews without violating policy!

The bottom line?  If you send emails to your buyers, today would be a good day to check them for compliance. The rules have changed and you don’t want to be suspended for something that used to be OK but isn’t now.

 

Where is the eGrowth team now?

We love meeting with our clients and readers when we travel!  Like last year we will be hosting get-togethers when we are in town and hope that you can join us.  Here’s a few of our upcoming conferences and trade shows where we will be speaking/attending:

ORLANDO – The Un-Conference (it has no name so…) by Kelly Loach and Elisabeth Thompson Feb 23-26.  Please join Cynthia for brunch at Hash-A-G0-Go on the 26th if you are in town!

NASHVILLECatalyst March 6-8. Cynthia will be attending. Come say hi during one of the event happy hours!

PHILADELPHIA – The Seller’s Conference (formerly SCOE) March 7-10. Lesley Hensell will be speaking again.  Dinner will be at the Panorama Wine Bar again. Last year’s was THE BOMB and Lesley hopes to see many of you there!

LAS VEGAS – ASD and PROSPER March 18-24. Cynthia, Peter and Lesley are hosting a special meet and greet for our clients, colleagues and friends on Monday the 20th at the W Resort bar:  The Living Room from 5:00-7:00 PM.  For those of you going to other parties, join us for your first drink of the night!

FORT LAUDERDALEMay 18-20. Steve Chou’s private label conference Seller’s Summit.  Stay tuned for dinner plans while Cynthia is in town.

LONDONSept 6-7. Year two for our UK Seller’s Conference! We will be hosting a get-together the night before the event starts at a local pub or restaurant.

Cynthia Stine is the founder and partner of eGrowth Partners, the industry’s leading firm dedicated to helping Amazon sellers resolve problems with Amazon and grow on the platform.  She can be reached at:  http://egrowthpartners.com or hello@egrowthpartners.com or 972-432-6398.


Visitors Comments

  • Maxim

    What if customer left product review as a seller feedback. Can i ask him to copy and paste his feedback into product review? Is it against amazon TOS?

    Reply
    • Cynthia Stine

      It would be risky. I’m assuming you are asking him to post a POSITIVE review, right? I’d leave it alone.

      Reply
      • Maxim

        He has already left a positive product review but in a wrong place. Is that not fair ask him to move his opinion to the right place (product review instead of seller feedback) ? This is not asking him to left a positive review but asking him to move his opinion to the right place

        Reply
        • Cynthia Stine

          Logic would say it is OK but Amazon could also see it as selecting your reviewer based on their past behavior (i.e. super reviewers, reviewers who usually leave positive reviews, reviewers who gave you a great seller review…). We’ve seen people get in trouble soliciting buyers who left positive seller reviews to write product reviews. They aren’t big on nuance. I don’t see them saying “oh wait, this guy left a product review as a seller review already.” That’s why I say it is risky to do that.

          Reply
  • Bryan

    Good article on being conservative. On this theme, I wonder how Amazon views Lightning Deals in terms of whether or not a review solicitation is allowed? Either way, I’m not sure that an autoresponder like Feedback Genius could filter out such orders…?

    Reply
    • Cynthia Stine

      You can set Feedback Genius to NOT send emails for a specific ASIN (like the few days after your lightning deals) and you can filter it not to send emails because the product was discounted.

      Amazon will send an email to your buyer later asking for a review. That will have to be good enough in the case of a discounted product.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

      Reply
    • Maxim

      He has already left a positive product review but in a wrong place. Is that not fair ask him to move his opinion to the right place (product review instead of seller feedback) ? This is not asking him to left a positive review but asking him to move his opinion to the right place

      Reply
  • Bob

    “you can only ask buyers for a product review ONCE” Can you share a link to an Amazon resource page that explicitly states this?

    Also regarding not leaving a review for discounted products if possible. I’m genuinely interested!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Cynthia Stine

      Bob,

      Amazon states that we are not allowed to send “excessive” emails through the buyer-seller system and they are purposefully not specific. However, in practice they are shutting down sellers for sending multiple emails to buyers soliciting reviews.

      Here’s some of what Amazon says about reviews:

      Misuse of ratings, feedback, or reviews:

      Any attempt to manipulate ratings, feedback, or reviews is prohibited.

      Ratings and feedback: The rating and feedback features allow buyers to evaluate the overall performance of a seller, helping sellers to develop a reputation within the Amazon Marketplace. You may not post abusive or inappropriate feedback or include personal information about a transaction partner. This also includes posting ratings or feedback to your own account. You may request feedback from a buyer, however you may not pay or offer any incentive to a buyer for either providing or removing feedback.
      Reviews: Reviews are important to the Amazon Marketplace, providing a forum for feedback about product and service details and reviewers’ experiences with products and services—positive or negative. You may not write reviews for products or services that you have a financial interest in, including reviews for products or services that you or your competitors sell. Additionally, you may not provide compensation (including free or discounted products) for a review. Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited. You may not ask buyers to modify or remove reviews.

      Here’s what they say about emails:

      Request feedback

      You may request feedback from a buyer. However, you may not offer pay nor any incentive to a buyer for either providing or removing feedback. See Prohibited Seller Activities and Actions for more information.

      You can solicit feedback in the following ways:

      Using the Contact Buyer link in Manage Orders. Select “Feedback Request” for the subject.
      Messaging on your packing slip. For example:
      Thank you for purchasing our products on Amazon. We strive to offer you the best value and service possible. Please take a moment to rate us as a seller on the Amazon website.

      There’s more if you are willing to read through pages of Seller Central help. Hope this helps!

      Cynthia

      Reply

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