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Amazon Reviews in 2021: Updates for Brands and Sellers

Amazon has changed its approach to product reviews over time. Learn about the review options that are currently available. By Catherine Ibarra March 30, 2021

Amazon is changing its approach to product reviews. The company is no longer providing brands and sellers as many options for reviews as it once did. As a result, Amazon’s selling partners will need to adjust their reviews’ strategy.

Reviews are typically considered an important factor in achieving e-commerce success since it impacts conversions. A remarkable 79% of consumers revealed that they visit Amazon to check product reviews prior to making a purchase. Furthermore, 44% of consumers said positive reviews influence their purchase decision, per Feedvisor data.

Learn about the changes Amazon has implemented in regards to reviews to understand how you should pivot your management of feedback and communications.

End of Early Reviewer Program

Amazon stopped accepting new enrollments to its Early Reviewer Program (ERP) on March 10, 2021, and the program will officially close on April 25, 2021.

The ERP enables new brands and those that are launching new products to gain five reviews instantly. Brands pay Amazon $60 per SKU and the retailer offers consumers who have purchased a product from the corresponding brand a $1–$3 voucher to write a review, regardless of whether the review is positive or negative.

Since ERP will no longer be offered, brands and sellers will need to search for another way to increase their reviews, especially for product launches. Alternatively, brands and sellers should explore the Amazon Vine Program, which  also helps businesses accumulate  reviews on new products.

The Vine program has a network of trusted reviewers, called Vine Voices, invited by Amazon to write product reviews. Brands are required to supply Amazon with free products, which the retailer will ship to Vine Voices to try out and create detailed reviews. The program is free, other than brands covering the cost of the units provided.

Amazon Sellers Can No Longer Respond to Reviews

Amazon is no longer allowing brands and sellers to respond to reviews left on their product listings. The retailer eliminated the option on Dec. 16, 2020.

Amazon sent an email notifying merchants that it will be removing the feature to comment on product reviews due to lack of adoption. 

Many brands and sellers have expressed their frustrations with the change on Amazon’s seller forums. The comment option on reviews was frequently used to resolve customer concerns, provide additional product information, clarify instructions, and answer shopper questions. Sellers have said they are disappointed by Amazon’s decision, since it limits their ability to provide excellent customer service.

However, as of now, Amazon still allows its merchants to respond to feedback. The ability to continue to communicate with customers on this medium is valuable to merchants as they can gain insights on how their products are performing and provide assistance.

Amazon Introduced the Star Rating System

Amazon began testing its star rating system in Sept. 2019. The star rating system is still active today and frequently used by buyers.

Amazon’s star rating system offers buyers a simplified rating experience. Buyers can rate a product between 1­–5 stars (5 is the best rating) with one-tap and are not required to write a review. The move was intended to encourage more buyers to share their opinions regarding products they purchased who did not have time or were not interested in writing reviews.

While the star rating system is well-received by customers, some brands and sellers believe the system is more prone to abuse. Since the only information shared can be a star rating, sellers expressed it is more difficult to differentiate an authentic customer rating from a fake rating. Additionally, the limited information provided does not help Amazon sellers determine opportunities for improvement.

Star ratings are only available to verified buyers who have purchased products from Amazon’s marketplace. However, the barrier that Amazon created is not impenetrable, as hackers may find a way around the verified purchase requirement. As fake reviews become a larger trend, it will be interesting to see the steps Amazon takes to protect its selling partners.

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About the Author

Catherine Ibarra is a marketing consultant at Feedvisor, where she contributes to the company's content marketing initiatives. She has a technology background.

Final Thoughts

Amazon’s review changes create a greater distance between sellers and their customers. Starting on April 25, 2021, brands and sellers will not be able to use ERP and, without the ability to respond to reviews or decipher star ratings, many are finding reviews to be a pain point.

The end of ERP is announced on the heels of Amazon disabling the comment feature on reviews. The company may be implementing a more consumer-focused approach to reviews, thus limiting seller involvement. By the same token, it is not clear if the move will improve the customer experience. Sellers should leverage other methods of communication with buyers to resolve any issues and improve their business.

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