Amazon reviews are the gold standard when it comes to Amazon customers looking to purchase on the Amazon platform. Due to their high visibility and evidence of social proof, they impact everything from click-thru rate to conversion rate and, by extension, a product’s organic rank within search results. There is nothing more important to a seller on Amazon than 5 Star product reviews.
However, there’s a lot to unpack regarding reviews on Amazon, including the best ways to get reviews, how to manage negative product reviews, constantly updated policies regarding product reviews, and much more. In this article, we’ll break down everything from the important history of product reviews on Amazon as well as current best practices that align with current Amazon policy and Terms of Service.
Amazon Product Reviews
Amazon Product Reviews consist of a review title, the content of a review, a star rating, and optional photos or videos submitted by the reviewer. As indicated previously, product reviews are one of the first things most customers notice in search results and heavily influence the Amazon A9 algorithm and customer purchase behavior in an endless feedback loop.
If your product receives mostly positive 5-star reviews, your product will rank higher, be seen and clicked by more customers, and result in more sales, with the ability to generate even more positive reviews. However, the opposite is equally true: Get negative reviews due to a poor quality product or bad customer experience, and your product is on a downward trajectory to the bottom.
Amazon Product Ratings
For years, Amazon had only allowed Product Reviews on their website that included a Title, a Review, and a Star Rating. In the fall of 2019, Amazon introduced a simple review system that allowed Amazon Customers to bypass the arduous process of actually having to write a review and, instead, simply select a star rating from 1-5, with “5” being the highest and “1” being the lowest rating possible. As a result, Amazon exponentially increased the number of customer ratings that products received.
Amazon Verified Purchase Reviews
Amazon’s initial intent was always to allow anyone to review a product on Amazon, even if they had purchased it elsewhere. This allowed Amazon as an early platform to gain increased social proof for its products before customers had even purchased the product on Amazon, as well as increase the total number of reviews a product could receive by not limiting reviews to customers who had purchased a product on the platform.
To differentiate between verified purchase reviews and non-verified purchase reviews, Amazon began applying the “Verified Purchase Badge,” identifying reviews of products that were purchased via the Amazon platform. To maintain a level of authenticity, the Verified Purchase Review badge was removed from any purchase where a customer was given a significant discount.
Amazon Star Ratings
There are two things that factor into both customer purchase habits and the Amazon algorithm. The first is the number of product reviews and ratings, and the second is the weighted star rating.
To calculate the star rating (i.e., 4.5 out of 5 stars) Amazon uses a “machine-learned model instead of a simple average” that takes into account whether or not a rating or review is tied to a verified purchase, how recent it is as well as multiple criteria to establish the “authenticity” of the review.
For example, a verified purchase review will always be more heavily weighted than a non-verified purchase review. In addition, Ratings not tied to a “Verified Purchase” that lack additional information or content are not currently factored into a product’s overall star rating.
Amazon currently shows both the number of reviews and the exact product rating in search results, rounding the star rating to the nearest 10th (4.7 stars for example). Once on a product detail page, customers can visually see a star rating approximated to a half-star, as well as the exact star rating by hovering over the product reviews.
Helpful Amazon Reviews
Amazon still allows customers to click a “Helpful” button below a product review that allows them to provide feedback to other customers. The number of customers who found a review helpful then shows up beneath the review. Amazon no longer allows customers to upvote or downvote reviews, but they can still choose which reviews they find most helpful in making a purchase decision.
How to Manage Amazon Reviews
Knowing how to manage Amazon Reviews is an essential part of successful selling (which is why we offer it as part of our fully managed Amazon services here at Avenue7Media). Review Management is a time-consuming but vital aspect of every brand’s continued success, and the value of effective review management cannot be understated.
Amazon Review Management is more than simply asking customers for an honest review post-purchase. It is an intensive and elaborate process of ongoing learning and relentless optimization that allows brand owners to make significant changes to their products and listings over time. Below are a few ways that product reviews can help guide brand owners to a better selling experience on Amazon.
Gain Product Feedback
Authentic Amazon Product reviews offer feedback about the product that when analyzed can be invaluable to brand owners and sellers alike. Positive reviews can provide helpful insight such as what customers love about the product, what features are most meaningful to them as well as which ones they use or provide the most benefit.
Negative Amazon reviews can help manufacturers identify common defects, missing features that customers want, and points of frustration. Reviews can also reveal what customers don’t understand about how to use the product, pointing out a lack of intuitive design or proper product instruction.
Responding to Amazon Reviews
For Sellers with Brand Registry, Amazon provides a Customer Reviews page where brand owners can track and respond to customer reviews on their products. In addition, brands can offer customers a templated response to resolve their issue by offering support or a partial refund if the customer leaves a star rating of 1-3. The message is then sent to the customer via Buyer-Seller Messaging.
Amazon offers several filters that brands can choose from to view orders, such as the order type, contact status, star rating, and time period. In addition, brands can mark a review as “Done” once they have responded to the customer or taken the feedback into consideration.
Previously sellers were able to “respond” to a product review publicly in the form of a comment that was visible to other customers, but Amazon discontinued this feature due to its lack of use in December 2020.
Amazon’s Customer Review Insights Tool
In September of 2022, Amazon announced the release of their new Customer Review Insights Tool that automates the analysis of product review analysis and helps brands understand product trends and customer preferences useful in new product development or existing product updates. The Customer Review Insights feature is currently available as part of Amazon’s Product Opportunity Explorer.
Reporting Amazon Review Abuse
Amazon provides a simple way for sellers to report reviews that violate their community guidelines for customer product reviews. Amazon makes it simple to report a review simply by clicking the “Report abuse” link below each product review. Sellers can also email: [email protected] and provide a link to the review and reasons why it constitutes a violation.
Reviews that violate Amazon’s community guidelines and may be eligible for removal include:
- Information relating to the seller or customer service
- Shipping cost, shipping speed, packaging and returns
- Private information such as email, phone number or order #
- Profanity, harassment or any type of hate speech
- External links, ads or other promotional content
While Amazon has strict rules regarding review abuse the ability to enforce review abuse is a continual challenge to the eCommerce platform.
Get More Amazon Product Reviews
The best way to get more Amazon Product Reviews is to follow a simple 3 Step process:
1) Sell an excellent quality product.
2) Sell more of that product, and
3) Systematically ask for reviews from Amazon customers.
That’s pretty much it. Anything outside of that process is likely to violate an Amazon policy.
According to eComEngine, products, on average, tend to receive 12 ratings and .6 reviews per 100 orders. This can vary widely based on the category of the product, as well as the review request strategy currently being utilized by the seller.
Below are some of the best ways to get more Amazon product reviews that are entirely in line with Amazon’s policy and guidelines.
Approved Amazon Review Request Language
In October 2018 Amazon provided approved language for sellers to ask for Product Reviews that would be allowed within their Terms of Service:
[SPECIAL BOX] “Customers value reviews written by other customers who purchased this product. We would appreciate if you wrote a review that reflects your experience with the product.”
While sellers can modify this to an extent, it provides some guidelines regarding what an Amazon-approved review request looks like.
Automated Product Review Request Emails
For years one of the best ways to get more product reviews was by sending an automated product review email through Buyer-Seller Messaging. To avoid flooding customer inboxes, Amazon allowed customers to “opt out” of receiving proactive buyer-seller messages when they had not contacted the seller first. This significantly reduced the number of emails being sent and created an additional barrier to asking customers for a product review using this method.
In November 2020, Amazon revised its Communication Guidelines and Buyer-Seller Messaging Policy and began issuing a 30-Day Restriction to Buyer-Seller Messaging for sellers who violated the new policies. Unfortunately, the notices lacked clarity and often provided sellers with an email stating they had violated one of several potential issues and were being restricted from proactive messaging for 30 days.
This led to sellers playing a version of Amazon Roulette, having to guess which policies they violated and exactly what language in their emails was triggering the restriction and needed to be changed. If a seller guessed wrong and sent even a single follow-up email, they could easily be flagged again and restricted from sending proactive messages for life (a restriction for which there is no appeal).
Amazon’s Request a Review Feature
At the end of 2021, Amazon released a new feature that appeared on the Orders page in the form of a “Request a review” button. While this button must be manually selected within Seller Central, some software and service providers offer integration to automate the request.
There are a few benefits and features that the “Request a Review” functionality offers over a traditional email via Buyer Seller Messaging:
- Emails are automatically translated into the customers preferred language
- Amazon asks the customer for both a product review and seller feedback
- It works even if the seller has been restricted from buyer-seller messaging
Note that the Request a Review button can only be activated within 5-30 days after the order delivery date. In addition, by using the “Request a Review” feature, sellers agree not to send any review requests through buyer-seller messaging.
Amazon Product Inserts
Amazon allows sellers to include cards or product inserts with a customer order provided that they abide by Amazon’s terms of service regarding reviews and customer communication. Just like buyer-seller messaging, sellers aren’t allowed to include inserts that might influence a customer’s feedback (such as asking for positive reviews or offering incentives or refunds in exchange for a review).
Amazon does monitor product inserts to ensure that they abide by Amazon seller policies. According to Amazon’s Product Insert Compliance, sellers can add inserts that thank customers for their purchase and ask them to leave a product review based on their experience.
Amazon Vine is a program that allows brands to enroll eligible products, which then provides free products as samples to Amazon’s Vine Voices, a select group of Amazon customers who are invited to the program based on past review history. While Amazon Vine can work great for some products that are user-intuitive or common everyday items, it tends to be a poor fit for niche products with a specific target audience. Note that Amazon does not require Vine members to leave reviews, nor is there any guarantee that they will be the primary audience your product was designed for which can sometimes result in negative reviews.
Amazon Product Review Policy
Amazon includes a “Customer Product Reviews Policy Violations” notice section on the Account Health Dashboard under Policy Compliance specifically to notify sellers of product review violations. It is important that sellers not only abide by Amazon policies but work to maintain a high account rating.
Amazon Product Review Manipulation
Amazon’s official stance on review manipulation is outlined in its Anti-Manipulation Policy for Customer Reviews which states the level of seriousness that Amazon takes review manipulation. Sellers caught attempting to manipulate product reviews are faced with severe penalties and consequences, including
• Removal of product reviews
• Delisting product ASIN’s
• Withholding of payments
• Termination of selling privileges
• Legal action, including lawsuits
• Civil and criminal penalties
Amazon has stated that it will legally pursue sellers who manipulate product reviews and individuals and organizations who provide reviews through fraudulent means.
Amazon Product Review Violations
Amazon has a lengthy list of prohibited seller actions listed in their “Customer product reviews policies” and the “Customer Reviews” section of the Community Guidelines that specifically apply to product reviews. Most of these policies are designed to prevent review manipulation in order to maintain a trustworthy shopping platform. According to Amazon’s current Customer Product Reviews Policies, here is a list of product review violations:
• You cannot review your own product or a competitor’s product.
• You cannot offer an incentive in exchange for a review on your own product or a competitor’s product, including purchasing reviews from websites or social media groups.
• You cannot offer to issue a refund or reimbursement once a customer leaves a review.
• You cannot use a service that offers free or discounted products in exchange for a review.
• You cannot leave a review for a product that you have a direct or indirect financial interest in.
• Your family members, employees, business associates, and friends (defined as anyone having a close personal relationship with the product owner) cannot leave reviews for your product or a competitor’s products.
• You cannot ask a customer to change a negative review nor offer an incentive to do so.
• You cannot divert negative reviews to a customer service option while directing positive reviews to Amazon.
• You cannot use product inserts requesting positive product reviews or offer incentives for a product review.
Amazon warns sellers that understanding and sharing these policies is important because Amazon will penalize sellers for violations even if they happen without the brand owners’ knowledge or consent.
Free Products for Amazon Reviews
Once upon a time, Amazon allowed sellers to give away a handful of products in exchange for a review. The only caveat was that the customer had to add the disclaimer to their review, “I received this product in exchange for an honest review.” This worked great for a while and allowed sellers to give away a few products at launch to build social proof, generate initial sales, and begin running ads. Until… Sellers began giving away not just a few products but hundreds, even thousands, to game the algorithm.
Products went from being a newly launched ASIN to having thousands of product reviews overnight, skyrocketing the product’s Best Seller Ranking (BSR) and surpassing products that had been on the market for over a decade. So, Amazon decided to make some changes…
In October 2016, Amazon updated its policy: no more products in exchange for product reviews. But they also updated their algorithm to detect potential review manipulation and removed historical product reviews they believed had been incentivized or manipulated, including those left in exchange for a free product.