As a seller, you want to get as close as possible to Amazon’s goal which is to become the most customer-centric company in order to succeed with your online selling business via the platform. Apart from that, you should also make sure to understand and comply with their Terms of Service.
As Amazon customer reviews start making waves in the news once again, and as we welcome the new year 2020, we thought it’d be a good thing to provide you with a refresher on Amazon review guidelines. Let’s get started!
Why Reviews Are So Important?
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Play by rules, and you’ll win
It’s not really a good idea to cheat Amazon’s system. Even if a friend of yours offered a piece of advice that seems to be quite too good to be true, you want to check what Amazon says about this first. Never resort to using grey or black hat methods for gaining an edge over the competition just because your friend has done it and achieved results.
Chances are high that the method he used won’t be effective for long, and it’s very likely that he’ll get his seller account suspended or even banned forever.
Trust in Amazon customer service reviews play a major role in Amazon’s success. There are Amazon review services that allow sellers to save a lot of time when asking for reviews or even asking customers to review Amazon products for free. However, you should comply with the customer review guidelines set by Amazon.
The Amazon review policy page states that reviews from customers are an integral part of Amazon’s customer experience. Customers use the reviews to know more about the product, check whether it has what they need, assess its overall quality, and make an informed buying decision.
Reviews will also help Amazon sellers know more about what their customers think about their products, which parts need improvement, what aspects customers like, and more. Needless to say, Amazon is trying its best to provide the best experience for both customers and merchants.
How did the review system change?
Back in October 2016, all incentivized reviews have been banned by Amazon. Before the ban, sellers who wanted to gain more product reviews offered products to customers in exchange for an honest review. Of course, no one would review Amazon products for free!
However, Amazon decided to change the policy. With the banning of incentivized reviews, sellers find out more difficult ways to get reviews from their buyers. Various buyer-seller messaging tools were developed to allow merchants to reach out to their buyers.
Unfortunately, getting a verified purchase review is still a major concern for most Amazon sellers, especially those who launch private label products.
As a means of protecting and maintaining the Amazon marketplace, the platform has decided to adopt a zero-tolerance policy for sellers who violated the Amazon review rules. Sellers will have to resort to requesting reviews from their buyers due to the weight and importance they hold.
Amazon also provided tons of important data to sellers who want to make sure they’re only offering high-quality products and even improve their current listings. It’s absolutely possible and acceptable to reach out to your buyers and ask for their feedback regarding your products. It’s also good customer service.
What happens if you don’t comply with Amazon Review Policy?
You have to make sure that you can comply with Amazon community rules and never resort to exploiting product reviews.
Exploiting said rules will have some serious consequences. These are some of them according to Amazon:
- Removal of all reviews on your products (also includes preventing your product from getting any ratings or reviews)
- Removal of your product listing
- Disclosure of your name and other personal information to the public
- Legal action which includes lawsuits and even imprisonment
- Immediate withdrawal of all your selling privileges
- Withholding of funds
As you can tell, these consequences are indeed quite serious and can completely destroy your Amazon selling business. Therefore, you want to make sure that you’re fully educated with all the policies set by Amazon. It’s also important to educate your employees about it as well.
Never forget to pay close attention to Amazon review policy and terms of service updates. There are various updates to the policy that happen from time to time, hence you as a seller should make sure to keep updated with the changes and comply with the new rules to avoid such repercussions.
4 main Amazon review rules
- Product review manipulation is not tolerated by Amazon. This means that you shouldn’t review any of your products nor leave any review on one of your competitors. The same applies to your employees and family members.
- It’s also not allowed to request customers to review your product in exchange for money or other forms of compensation. Additionally, you should not take part in a group or service that sells reviews. Offering a customer free or discounted products for a review is not allowed as well.
- You shouldn’t ask a customer to remove or change his/her review. However, you can comment on a review publicly provided that you have complied with the Amazon community rules and guidelines.
- You should also never divert any negative reviews while allowing positive reviews to get sent to Amazon. For example, a comment such as “If you’re satisfied with our product, please don’t forget to leave a review on our Amazon page! If not, kindly reply so we can settle it right away”. Such an example is not allowed as it’s a violation of the Amazon review guidelines.
Unfortunately, such an example tends to get used most of the time by sellers to message their customers outside of Amazon. That explains why a lot of them have their accounts suspended due to a violation they knew nothing about.
To prevent such a thing from happening, it’s a good idea to check your automated messages with your buyers on a regular basis so that your message that adheres to the guidelines.
Lastly, creating a variation relationship between your products so that you can boost your rating and manipulate customer reviews is not allowed. If you send a request for a product review in your packaging, it should never request for a positive review or provide any form of incentive just so you can get a review.
Short summary of Amazon Review Policy
Click this link to check the Amazon Review Policy. It’s a short document, but it’s considered one of the most important documents you should pay attention to. Below, we’ve provided a short summary of the policy:
1. Encouraging buyers to leave a review on the products they like and dislike
Amazon places an emphasis on neutrality. It ensures that shoppers will be able to reviews products they like as well as those that they didn’t. Therefore, if a buyer is not satisfied with his purchase, Amazon wants him to let other buyers know about it.
2. Helping customers make informed buying decisions
The second part of the customer review guidelines highlights the true intention of Amazon. They want to make sure that they’re completely transparent in terms of their buyers’ experiences. It means that reviews should be honest, whether they’re good or bad. This way, customers will be able to know what they can expect from the product they’re planning to buy.
3. Ensuring that reviews are helpful
Amazon then directs its sellers to the Community Guidelines page which you can find here. On this page, you’ll find a lot of important information that you need as a seller. It’s basically as important as the customer product reviews page. It’s a bit longer, so we recommend taking your time to review everything written in there.
4. Asking reviews from buyers
It’s absolutely fine to ask your buyers to write a review. In fact, Amazon stated it in the Terms of Services. However, you just have to make sure that you can comply with their regulations.
5. Asking customers to change or remove their reviews
While you can ask reviews from your customers, you are not allowed to specifically ask for a positive one. Amazon is seriously cracking down on this one, so you have to avoid it as much as possible in your follow-up emails, messaging systems, or product inserts.
Moreover, you are not allowed to ask a buyer to change or remove his/her review as it’s against the Amazon community rules. This means that even if you solved their problem, asking them to change the review they’ve left is still prohibited.
6. Leaving reviews on your product or that of your competitors
As mentioned earlier, you’re not allowed to leave a review on your own product nor on that of your competitors. Do take note, however, that they specifically pointed out “negative review”, so a positive review might not hurt.
7. Offering a refund after a buyer provides a positive review
When incentivized reviews were banned, some sellers resorted to providing refunds to their buyers in an attempt to encourage reviews. However, Amazon has caught up on this and is now actively banning sellers who use such a method.
8. Creating a variation relationship between unrelated products
For example, if your blender isn’t getting good reviews, you resorted to connecting it to one of your products that have been getting positive reviews, such as a kitchen knife for example.
The idea behind this method is that your product with good reviews will end up boosting your poor-performing one. However, Amazon managed to know about this and deems the practice as manipulative.
9. Requesting for positive reviews by inserting a message into the packaging
The word “insert” has managed to find its way into Amazon’s terms of service. This means that you are no longer allowed to include a product insert requesting positive reviews from your customers. Doing so will cause your account to become suspended.
However, not all product inserts are prohibited. You just have to make sure that the message you’ve included is absolutely neutral.
10. Using a third-party service offering free products that are tied to a review
Even before Amazon started cracking down on incentivized reviews, there were already tons of review clubs around. What these clubs do is offer discount Amazon products for product reviews. However, with the change in policies, they are forced to shut down.
11. Manipulating the “Helpful”, “Report Abuse”, and “Not Helpful” features on your competitors’ products
This means that you’re not allowed to attack the products sold by your competitors. On the other hand, you can report any abuses you detect to Amazon.
12. Asking for reviews from those who bought products outside Amazon
It will be possible for customers to leave a review on your product on Amazon even if they bought that item outside of the platform. However, this will cause the review to become unverified. Moreover, it should comply with the Amazon review policy.
13. Reaching out to your customers
It’s completely allowed to reach out to your buyers by simply replying to their reviews on your product page and asking them to get in touch via Buyer-Seller Messaging. However, you are not allowed to contact them via other means.
This means you can’t have your customers’ email so that you can resolve their issues. If you use “hacks” to work your way around it, you can end up getting suspended.
It wasn’t a surprise when new rules are added to the Amazon review policy considering that Amazon is still continuing to grow and evolve. Hopefully, we’re able to clear up most of the confusion you have with regard to the platform’s guidelines and how you can prevent your account from getting suspended.
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