To see the most recent update on Amazon’s Early Reviewer Beta, click here.

Amazon may have banned incentivized reviews from sites like Snagshout, but fortunately, they’re planning a new way to fill the gaping hole where those reviews used to be.

Say hello to the brand new Amazon Early Reviewer Program. 

According to Amazon, the Early Reviewer Program “[Encourages] customers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience about that product, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review.”

Pat Petriello, Senior Marketplace Strategist at CPC Strategy, shares his initial thoughts on this update:

pat“It makes sense for Amazon to give new products an avenue for gaining early reviews by rolling out a program like this one.

It’s not a good customer experience if the same products dominate the SERP indefinitely and new products have to overcome the initial inertia of having no reviews to start getting traction. Incentivized reviews filled that need but compromised Amazon’s brand because of the abuse and excess which took place with giveaways for reviews.

The Early Reviewer Program seems intended to fill that same gap while also keeping intact shopper trust in the veracity of the reviews.”

Amazon quietly added this page on their site about a week ago, and right now, the program still seems to be in beta. Here’s what we know.

How Does the Amazon Early Reviewer Program Work?

One of the key differences between the Early Reviewer Program and other well-known platforms such as iLoveToReview?

Members of the program won’t receive a discount or get their products free.

In fact, they won’t know whether the product they just purchased is eligible for the program. Here’s how Amazon describes this in the program’s terms:

We do not disclose at the time of purchase whether a product is participating in the program because we want to hear from customers who have authentically chosen to buy that product without any knowledge of a future reward. Not all products are participating in this program and not all buyers of participating products will receive reward offers to write a review. We want this program to generate enough reviews to help shoppers make smarter buying decisions; this is not a rewards program intended to encourage purchases.

Ideally, this will eliminate the inherent bias of a customer who knowingly opts into an incentivized program simply to rake in discounted products (an issue that was well publicized in ReviewMeta’s study).

So how are these Early Reviewers rewarded? Well, by a small reward, most likely a $1-$2 Amazon Gift Card–only after they’ve submitted an authentic review which Amazon stipulates must be written “[Within] the offer period [and must meet] community guidelines.”

Amazon Early Reviewers will be identified by a small orange badge that says “Early Reviewer Rewards.”

As long as reviews are compliant with Amazon’s Community guidelines, those reviews are there to stay–for better or for worse.

 

Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program vs. Vine

Wondering how this is different than Amazon Vine? Good question.

First, if you haven’t read up on the Amazon Vine program, check out our post:

 

https://tinuiti.com/blog/2015/10/amazon-vine-program/

 

The differences between the programs are pretty clear, even if the Early Reviewer Program isn’t quite out of beta.

 

Amazon’s Early Reviewer Program

Who it’s For: 

3P Sellers

How it Works:

Let’s say you sell kitchen mixing bowls as a 3rd party, and you opt to include your product in the Early Reviewer Program.

Raven the Reviewer gets selected to participate in the Early Reviewer Program based on her “clean” reviewer record. Raven knows she won’t get a discount on a product and there’s no urgency around the purchase, but she ends up purchasing your mixing bowls.

The only way Raven could know if your product is in the Early Reviewer program is by checking recent reviews to see if there are other Early Reviewer badges–but it doesn’t matter because Amazon may not randomly select her to write a review for that product

Raven makes her purchase, and after completing it, she does, in fact, get prompted by the Early Reviewer Program to write a review within a deadline.

She then writes the review and she receives a $2 gift card for her approved review.

Whether her review was 1 star or 5 stars, she gets the same amount, and she won’t be chosen more frequently in the future based on this participation.

When you see that review appear on your listing, you will be unable to communicate with Raven about her review (and it will be nearly impossible to remove a valid review that fits Amazon’s Community Guidelines). Really, not much will change, except for the fact that your mixing bowls will potentially get more reviews.

 

Amazon Vine

Who it’s For:

Vendors

How it Works:

Unlike the Early Reviewer Program, Amazon Vine is composed of an elite selection of reviewers. It’s much more like a club.

Unfortunately, that means Raven the Reviewer may not be selected for the Vine Program, unless she has a reputation for creating high-quality reviews. This is based on the helpfulness rating of her reviews and the number of reviews she’s written.

It’s also not accessible for 3P sellers and is limited to Vendors.

Here’s an outline of how Amazon Vine functions:

amazon-vine-program

  • Vine reviewers are invited to join the program
  • Vendor pays to enroll their products in the program (free, new, or pre-released)
  • Vendor ships product samples to Amazon
  • Product is featured in Amazon Vine newsletter for reviewers to choose
  • Amazon ships samples to Vine reviewers and members review

 

Just like the 3P Sellers above, Vendors cannot communicate with Vine reviewers, but it’s worth noting they can now communicate with non-Vine reviewers and provide answers to specific customer questions and answers:

Vendors Respond to Customer Reviews via Amazon Official Contributions Program

 

How Can Amazon Sellers Opt Into the Early Reviewer Program?

Update 6/1/2017: We’ve just identified a new beta tab that shows a way for sellers to upload up to 100 SKUs (eligible products) for the Early Reviewer Program.

Although it is still not available to most sellers and is definitely still in beta, there are a few new pieces of information we’ve learned:

  • The program costs $60 per eligible SKU, which is charged once a SKU gains a review.
  • The Early Reviewer Program will continue to gather reviews for a SKU for “up to 1 year from time of enrollment, or until 5 reviews are received through the program,” whichever occurs first.

 

early reviewer program

 

We view the addition of the Early Reviewer Program as another positive change for Amazon, and we’re excited to see how it can help sellers. After all, the Vine program has always been desirable, but not accessible for 3rd party sellers.

While we aren’t sure how it will perform once it’s rolled out of beta, there’s one thing that’s for sure–there’s no way to guarantee a seller will receive great reviews on their products, whether they’re a vendor using Vine or a 3P seller who’s opted into the Early Reviewer Program.

jeff-colemanJeff Coleman, VP of Marketplace Channels at CPC Strategy points out why this is a positive thing:

“Traditional review clubs created a large opportunity for spammy or black-hat reviews. I see this as a much safer way for Amazon to help build reviews on their platform without much of a risk for those same spammy or black-hat reviews. I’m excited for the roll-out of this program.”

 

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