Did the recent news of Amazon’s ban on incentivized reviews get you down?
If so, you’re not alone.
Amazon decided to crack down on the ubiquitous seller practice of giving away their products to consumers for free in exchange for their (often positive) reviews, in hopes of eliminating biased feedback and keeping customers complaint-free. At the time of writing, the only legitimate way to give products in exchange for reviews is through Amazon Vine, a program that’s currently only available for Amazon vendors. If Amazon decides to open its Vine program to sellers, it could be the answer to all your review problems.
How Amazon Vine Works
Amazon Vine has existed since 2007, and since then has offered top reviewers products in exchanged for their honest review. Only reviewers consistently voted as among the most helpful are approached to be part of the program. Unlike with traditional incentivized reviews, there is no pressure on the Vine Voices to write glowing product recommendations — the emphasis is on quality and depth of review.
For sellers who are confident about their listings but simply need more exposure (we’re looking at you, private label and new businesses), this might sound like an enticing alternative. But right now, getting on board doesn’t happen easily — or cheaply.
What it Takes to Get In
For the time being at least, you need to become an Amazon Vendor if you want to join the Vine program. Third-party sellers, even those who use FBA, cannot get Vine reviews without this status. To become a Vendor, you must either be invited by Amazon, or sign up for Vendor Express. Then, to get access to Vine reviews, you’ll be asked to pay a one-time fee ranging from $2,500 to $7,500 for each ASIN.
The Question Is: Do You Even Want In?
For many sellers, paying a fee, even a costly one, in exchange for Vine reviews is worthwhile to jump start a business. After all, you can’t sell your products without reviews, and you can’t obtain reviews without selling your products. Joining Vine allows you to bypass this frustrating catch-22.
But there is another, non-monetary consideration that might dissuade you from signing up. When you become a vendor, you effectively relinquish control over your business, including pricing, SEO, marketing, and more. And that’s not a price many sellers, especially the established ones, are willing to pay.
The Future of Vine
As of now, Amazon Vine is not an option for sellers. But there is some reason to believe that Amazon may eventually change its policies.
According to the terms of Amazon’s ban on incentivized reviews, as outlined in an October 3, 2016 announcement, “We also have ideas for how to continue to make Vine an even more useful program going forward. Details on that as we have them.”
Amazon is aware of the important role incentivized reviews played for new businesses in particular, so this statement could potentially indicate plans to open Vine to third-party sellers. That would definitely be a win-win situation, enabling both sellers and buyers to benefit from a greater quantity of reviews written by Amazon’s select group of trusted reviewers. Stay tuned for more updates as they come in!