Customer reviews have a tremendous impact on a product's selling potential. In fact, 93% of consumers cite product reviews as a determining factor in their purchase, and 84% trust those reviews as much as a referral from a friend. Perhaps nowhere is this more relevant than on Amazon, where product reviews also determine where your product ranks on the site. With 92% of customers making online purchases through Amazon, soliciting a high quantity of reliable reviews is a vital component of your success.
But, reviews can be tough to generate and can often be laced with bias. The typical review platforms have no safeguard against competitors submitting fake reviews. Amazon created the Amazon Vine Program to address these issues by inviting the most trusted reviewers to submit opinions on products they've been identified as eligible to review. Vine benefits consumers with more accurate assessments, and it also benefits sellers who want to increase their number of reviews, sourced from qualified buyers.
1. What is Amazon Vine?
Amazon Vine is a based on unbiased communication between selected reviewers (Vine Voices), enrolled sellers, and buyers. Sellers enroll in the program and submit products to be reviewed by Vine Voices. The goal is to provide customers with reliable feedback by using reviewers with a high "reviewer rank," meaning they submit frequent, honest feedback that other buyers consider helpful.
Amazon Vine originated in part because sellers were soliciting favorable rankings by offering free or discounted products in exchange for glowing reviews. To make matters worse, some of these products were counterfeits that would otherwise receive negative feedback without the incentivizes. Amazon tackled the counterfeit problem by rolling out Project Zero to protect brands via continuous scanning and a tool that allows sellers to remove counterfeit products themselves. Vine provides a second tier of protection in safeguarding against fake reviews.
Vine Voices are chosen by Amazon's invitation and determined with several criteria. Most important is the feedback from other customers about their reviews – specifically, how helpful and accurate they are. The number of reviews they have written and how recently they have reviewed are also determining factors. Amazon's algorithm matches them to products based on the category of their prior purchases. While Vine reviews are subject to posting guidelines, reviewers are not compensated for their opinions and are encouraged to give honest feedback, even if it's negative. Their rating as reviewers is not affected by negative reviews, which encourages truthful input.
Sellers and vendors who enroll in Vine send products that will be distributed to Vine Voices for authentic feedback. Vendors have no say in which Vine Voices review their products and cannot contact the reviewers directly. Since Amazon matches the products with the most relevant reviewers and tags their reviews with a Vine Voice Badge, customers can confidently trust the content.
It offers an unprecedented way to increase the number of reviews of your products and improve customer trust in your brand. Since negative reviews can happen, sellers should only submit a product that's ready for roll-out, and then swiftly address negative feedback to show buyers you care about their experience.
2. How Does Amazon Vine Benefit Vendors and Sellers?
Amazon Vine works to generate real reviews, which can otherwise be a challenge, particularly when a brand or product is just getting started. Sellers can send samples to reviewers even prior to the product hitting the market to acquire those essential early reviews. Everyone is looking to buy products with 4 or 5 stars, and Vine can help kickstart a product listing's progress with its informed evaluations.
Enrolling in Vine also drives brand awareness, since Amazon's algorithms give more weight to top-ranked reviewers. If product "experts" like your products, chances are others will too, so Amazon pops them higher in the queue. Your product's performance is measured by the number of sales, as well as customer feedback. Valuable feedback means your product is more likely to be the top result for consumer queries.
Vine increases conversion rates since reviews are vital to making the sale. When you start with product reviews on day one of your launch, you have an edge over the competition. You want your product to seem new and innovative, but still provide proof of quality, which is achieved with a wealth of reviews.
3. Is There a Cost to Use Amazon Vine?
The cost of being a Vine Voice reviewer has always been free, aside from some tax burdens on products received, and there is no compensation for participants' time. They receive "payment" in the form of free or discounted products to review. For sellers and vendors to enroll, the price can be a deterrent for some companies, particularly startups that could benefit most from Vine. As Vine launched in Seller Central (while previously only available in Vendor Central) at the end of 2019, Amazon temporarily waived the enrollment fee. Here's the pricing to sign up, as of December, 2019.
- Previous cost to enroll in Amazon Vine – $2,500
- Current cost to enroll in Amazon Vine – $0
- New in 2019 – free enrollment extends to sellers on Amazon Seller Central as well as Vendor Central
- Sellers are responsible for FBA fees to stock and ship products
4. How Does Amazon Vine Benefit Buyers?
Buyers rely on product reviews when shopping online since they can't see or touch the item themselves. No matter how convenient Amazon makes delivery and returns, it's still frustrating to receive a product only to have to return it. Buyers are counting on reviews to be accurate, so they can make an informed purchase. Having an algorithm to select reviewers who are best suited to comment gives buyers more confidence in their opinion. When they can see a badge of Vine selection, it makes them more likely to purchase.
5. How Do I Join Amazon Vine?
Vine criteria for sellers are continually evolving, but currently, to enroll products for review, you must be a professional seller with a registered brand in the Amazon Brand Registry. You must have fewer than 30 reviews on your product and have a buyable FBA "new" offer and available inventory, as well as an image and description. It's a simple process to join – just log in and enroll a product by selecting the ASIN and agreeing to the terms and conditions. You can choose your target buyers by categories like interests, gender, and age.
There are 3 tiers of enrollment. In the Basic level of service, you can enroll 5 products. The Plus level allows you to register 10 products, and Premium allows for 20 products. Once you enroll your products, you ship free products to Amazon, which features them in a monthly newsletter for Vine Voices to select, order, and review.
Not all products are eligible for enrollment, so consider your inventory before you enroll in Amazon Vine. Some of the products Amazon won't approve are:
- Hazmat items
- Sample products
- Items sold in bundles
- Heavy or bulky items
- Drop-ship items
- Adult-only products
With the plethora of products sold on Amazon steadily increasing, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd. Amazon reviews are a key factor in determining whether your brand will be chosen. Since buyers often search for products by star rating, it's imperative to rank highly among customers to increase your sales. New products can struggle to find footing in a market that is saturated with duplicates. Using Amazon Vine to source credible reviews and tag your product with the badge of reviewer authenticity will distinguish you from the rest. Amazon is a jungle for sellers, so don't navigate it alone.
Amazon Vine Suspension - April 2020 Update
In response to COVID-19, Amazon is suspending Vine enrollments and shipment creation until further notice. This decision was a result of Amazon temporarily shifting focus to sourcing household goods, medical supplies, and other high-demand products so they can receive, stock, and ship these essentials out to customers as soon as possible.
To help make up for this feature loss, we’ve pulled together alternative ways you can generate product reviews and traffic to your listings during this time:
Amazon Early Reviewer Program: This program allows a seller to submit one product SKU to be promoted by Amazon to get reviewed by a customer who has purchased your product. It costs $60 per SKU, and you’re not charged until you’ve received one review or until one year has passed, whichever comes first.
Amazon Posts: This is a free option you can use to drive traffic to your SKU. Help customers discover your new or current products with Posts through custom messaging, lifestyle or product-focused images, and share all of your Posts with customers by providing them a link to your brand feed.
3rd-Party Review Site: Using a site like FeedbackWhiz, brands can create custom emails for SKUs, or order information, and ask customers to review a product. You can trigger when emails get sent to customers by setting a specific number of days after the order or delivery confirmation.
Package Inserts: Catch your customers’ attention when they first open their package with insert cards. Encourage them to leave a review for your product and offer customer service information so they can reach out to you with any questions or concerns. Download our package insert template to get started!
Email: Another way to generate reviews from your customers is by politely asking them through email. Ensure customers that it will not take up too much of their time and provide a direct link to where they can leave their review. Make the email communication process more efficient by downloading our free template to use in your Amazon review management tool below.
Get Your FREE Amazon Review Request Email Template
If you’re a business interested in improving your marketplace reviews, our Amazon team can help you plan and execute your Amazon strategy. Contact us today for more information!