It’s no secret that customer reviews are an integral part of the shopping experience on Amazon. Customers use these reviews to learn more about products, assess whether they fit their needs, and make an informed purchase decision. While most sellers understand that accumulating positive reviews is an important component to building a successful brand on Amazon, many are unclear about just how powerful reviews can be and, more importantly, why they are so influential.
How Amazon Reviews Provide Social Proof
The key to understanding the importance of positive reviews is a concept called social proof. The term was coined in 1984 by Robert Caldini, a renowned psychologist who is globally credited as the foundational expert in the science of influence. In its essence, social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people are persuaded to mimic the actions of others. Applied to business, it simply means people are more likely to purchase a product if they have proof that others have bought it and like it. You might remember the old billboards for McDonald’s that boasted “over 1 billion sold!” The idea is that if a billion people like their hamburgers, you probably will also.
The nature of online shopping gives even more power to reviews because it enables customers to provide a rating for a product that is viewable to all future shoppers. With e-commerce at an all-time high, product reviews have never been more influential. A recent report by Spiegel Research Center found that 95% of customers read reviews before making a purchase and that most trust these reviews as much as they would a recommendation from a friend. In fact, upon visiting a product page, many customers skip immediately to the first few reviews to determine whether they should read more.
According to Forbes, product reviews are becoming more important to a customer’s purchasing decision than brand influence. This is good news for new and smaller brands because it provides an opportunity to compete more aggressively against brands that have traditionally relied on customer loyalty. In other words, social proof allows small to medium-sized businesses an opportunity to siphon sales from larger competitors.
How to Generate Amazon Reviews
Accumulating positive reviews can be challenging – especially for sellers who are just launching their brands on Amazon. It may even seem paradoxical. After all, you need reviews to get customers, but you need customers to get reviews. Fortunately, Amazon has a few mechanisms in place to help sellers acquire them.
Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program encourages customers who have already purchased a product to share their experience, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. This program helps generate early reviews for products that have few or no reviews, helping shoppers to make smarter buying decisions as well as brands who benefit from acquiring reviews. Currently, the Early Reviewer Program is limited to U.S. sellers with SKUs that are priced above $9.00. and have less than five reviews. If a SKU is listed on additional marketplaces, it will be eligible for enrollment, but Amazon will only request reviews from customers who purchased the SKU on www.amazon.com.
Another option for acquiring reviews is Amazon Vine. This program invites the most trusted reviewers on Amazon to post opinions about new and pre-release products to help other customers make informed purchase decisions. Amazon invites customers to become Vine Voices based on their reviewer rank, which reflects the quality and helpfulness of their reviews as judged by other Amazon customers. Most sellers who are enrolled in Amazon Brand Registry can participate in Amazon Vine for free, so long as their products meet the following eligibility criteria:
- You must give away each product for free
- You must have fewer than 30 reviews on your listing
- Your product must be an FBA offer in ‘New’ condition
- Your product must not be an “adult” product
- Your product must already have launched at the time of enrollment
- You must have available inventory for your product
- Your listing must have an image and a description
How to Manage Negative Reviews
As a seller on Amazon, you will inevitably run into negative reviews. Such is the nature of e-commerce. Fortunately, most online shoppers are aware that virtually every product – regardless of its quality – will always have a few bad reviews. That said, burdensome customers can influence how well your products sell, which is why it is important to manage negative reviews appropriately. Active shoppers use reviews as a purchasing guide when making their buying decisions. This includes judging how well your brand deals with a difficult customer. In fact, when handled properly, a bad review can lead to new sales. The following best practices will help you manage negative reviews in a way that shows other shoppers that your business is responsive and dedicated to customer service and product quality:
- Always utilize the ‘managed orders’ feature on Amazon to obtain details of the customer’s order
- Always get in contact with the customer directly and promptly
- Always assure the customer that you are well informed of the situation and avoid upsetting the customer further by reducing any inconvenient or unnecessary back and forth
- Always display your brand’s core values while dealing with an upset customer
- Always maintain a positive, understanding, and friendly tone
- Always monitor reviews
- Always identify commonly reported issues and find a solution for the root of the problem
Resolving the issue with the customer directly may lead to the removal of negative feedback. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. Therefore, it’s important to respond publicly to negative feedback with a friendly, helpful, and sincere tone. Other shoppers will see how your brand responds to upset customers, which can neutralize negative reviews and help maintain a positive image for your brand.
Channel Key Takeaway
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once said, “If you build a great experience, customers will tell each other. Word of mouth is very powerful.” This concept is especially true for e-commerce businesses. Your best salespeople are satisfied customers who leave great reviews on your product pages. The social proof that these reviews provide often mean more to a shopper than your product descriptions. According to Dr. Caldini, social proof is one of six key ethical principles of persuasion that influence people to say “yes” in a given situation. In the context of Amazon, this means purchasing a product. Understanding the psychological effect that social proof has on a customer is the key to leveraging positive reviews to increase sales on Amazon. When utilized effectively, there is no limit to your growth potential.