One of the crucial factors in ensuring your product’s success is getting good reviews on Amazon. However, you’re not allowed to give products away in order to get reviews (as you could before 2016), so it can be difficult to get your product on the radar.
Amazon’s Vine program is a shortcut to getting reviews. ‘Vine Voices’ are selected by Amazon as reviewers whose advice on products is frequent and useful. They are allowed to choose free products, and asked to use them; they can then submit a review. It’s not compulsory, but most Voices are keen to leave reviews.
These reviewers are also Amazon’s most trusted reviewers – the one that other users rate as the most helpful. So their opinion counts.
The Vine program is pay-to-play for sellers, with a fee of $200 per parent ASIN. You’ll need to be a brand owner registered in the Amazon Brand Registry, and a professional seller, not an individual seller. Your product needs to be an FBA product, with available inventory and fewer than 30 reviews, to qualify, and you can only use the program once for each ASIN. You’re also limited to five ASINs at a time, and you’ll be unenrolled from the program as soon as you have 30 reviews.
Does it work? Most sellers seem to get a dozen or more reviews fairly quickly. You’re not guaranteed to get a review from each Voice, you’re not guaranteed to get a good review, and you can’t contact the Voices or challenge the review. On the other hand, Vine Voices usually provide a long-form, thoroughly researched and informative review. It’s authoritative, reasoned, and if it’s a four or five-star review, will provide really convincing social proof of why users should buy your product.
You can apply for the Vine program on Seller Central, under the ‘advertising’ tab. You’ll be billed for it once your first review is posted. You’ll also pay referral fees on the products just as if they were sold, so remember to put that in your budget.
Before you start, you’ll want to make sure your listing and product are in good shape.
• Make sure your listing is accurate and consistent,
• Make sure your product is top-notch, and
• Make sure your product is already launched and available (that is, don’t apply for Vine pre-launch – it won’t work).
Of course, Vine isn’t the only way of getting reviews. You should also use other ways to get as many reviews as possible. Use Amazon’s Request a Review button on the Order Details page a couple of weeks after the order was made. Or put a slip asking for reviews in the product packaging – maybe add the request to the instruction leaflet.
Remember, though, you must not ask only for good reviews – you have to take the rough with the smooth, you’re not allowed to cherry-pick. And you mustn’t offer any incentives. If you do, you’re transgressing Amazon’s rules and could see your account suspended.
And of course, any action that you take to drive your product sales, such as discounting, PPC advertising, or social media promotion, should also help to boost reviews. Quite simply, the more you sell, the more likely you are to be reviewed – and that starts a virtuous circle of increasing sales, and increasing reviews. The Vine program is good for getting your product off to a good start, but after that, you’ll need to keep promoting your product and asking for those reviews yourself.