What a year, right? 2020 was so weird in so many ways, but Q4 showed us a lot of how ecommerce is shifting, changing and growing. Product reviews, of course, are still really important to Amazon sellers and brands, so we asked Becky Trowbridge, Content Strategist at eComEngine, to share some insights on Amazon product review trends in Q4. We also asked her to update you about some changes in the review space. Namely, you can’t respond to reviews anymore and we think that stinks. Here are the high points of the webinar, but make sure to watch the replay for the details!
The Biggest Q4 Yet
Becky shared some stats from Amazon – this holiday season broke records. More than 1.5 billion home products, beauty and personal care items, and electronics were sold, and worldwide sales for SMBs increased 50% year over year. In fact, of that 1.5 billion products sold, nearly 1 billion were sold by American SMBs. Amazon stepped up and invested more than $18 billion to help independent businesses grow in 2020. They also developed dedicated small storefront support to encourage shoppers to buy from small businesses by area or product category.
Many sellers and brand owners had to switch to other fulfillment options at the start of COVID-19. However, for holiday orders, FBA still got deliveries to consumers more successfully than many other carriers. Now, in 2021, many of you are choosing to diversify your fulfillment for the foreseeable future. Things are still uncertain and we don’t know when the pandemic will end. We’ll be talking to First Choice Shipping in April about overcoming supply chain disruptions, so keep an eye out for that special webinar!
Top Days for Amazon Orders in Q4 2020
Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were, unsurprisingly, the biggest days for Amazon orders in Q4, with Cyber Monday taking the lead at 81% more orders than the Average Daily Order Volume in Q4. Becky said, “Digital Commerce 360 estimates Amazon’s sales on Prime Day hit $10.40 globally in 2020, up from $7.6 billion during the 48-hour event in July 2019.” So the later Prime Day didn’t seem to hurt, and the Digital Commerce 360 article says that marketplace sellers sold $3.5 billion worth of goods on Prime Day.
Amazon Product Reviews
The peak week for Amazon product reviews was the first week of 2021, lending credence to the idea that many items purchased over Black Friday and Cyber Monday were reviewed. Becky reminded us that the equation for review success is the quality + quantity + recency of reviews. So those Q4 reviews are super important because they are the most recent. In fact, the best way to keep getting fresh Amazon reviews is to ask for them. You can do this either via Buyer-Seller Messaging or with the Request a Review button.
FeedbackFive automates both ways. Some sellers choose to use Buyer-Seller Messaging because of the customization options, but they must be sure to follow Amazon’s Communication Guidelines, and keep a close eye on the Customer product reviews policies page, the Customer product reviews page, and the Answers to Questions about Product Reviews page in Seller Central. All have relevant information and rules about asking for product reviews.
If that’s all too complicated, the Request a Review button is a good option. It sends a request for a customer review and seller feedback, in the recipient’s chosen language, and includes a picture of the item ordered. Becky says they have seen a 41% increase in new Amazon reviews with customers who activate the Request a Review functionality in FeedbackFive.
Monitoring reviews is still very important, even though Amazon has taken away the ability to comment on reviews. By monitoring reviews, you can see if you have product quality issues, if there are issues with your listing, and more.
More Q4 Data
We had so many questions during this session that I didn’t get a chance to tease out the data our Director of Insights, Andrew Waber, has uncovered in our 2020 Holiday Season Analysis. That’s OK, because he’ll be presenting these key findings in a webinar on February 4th. You can sign up for it here.
We thank Becky and eComEngine for being our guest, and we’ll see her again very soon!
Watch the replay:
Read The Full Transcript
Liz Fickenscher (00:01):
Hi, everybody. Welcome to today’s webinar. I’m Liz. I work at Teikametrics. I’ve got Becky Trowbridge with me from eComEngine. Say hi, Becky.
Becky Trowbridge (00:10):
Liz Fickenscher (00:12):
I see that some of you are rolling in rather rapidly right now. We’re going to wait just a minute before we get started. For those of you who are here, we can go over some housekeeping items. This session is being recorded. It will be emailed to you if you registered for this webinar. Any resources that we share will be included in that email that goes out to you. And other than that, please feel free to ask questions as frequently as you would like. There’s a Q&A question section part of GoToWebinar. We can just cue those up. We like a conversational style. Becky and I have been doing this together for a long time. We would love for you to join in the conversation.
Liz Fickenscher (00:53):
I still see the numbers ticking up pretty quickly. Welcome those of you who have just joined us. We’re going to get started at about 1:02 PM Eastern. We’ve got about another minute. If anybody wants to say hi, hit the chat. If anybody wants to ask a question ahead of time, feel free to do that so that we can cue that up for the appropriate part of the presentation. Again, this session is being recorded. It will be emailed to you if you registered for this webinar, along with any significant resources that we share.
Liz Fickenscher (01:38):
All right, it’s about 1:02. We’re going to get started. Today, we’re going to talk about how… We like a little play of words. Hindsight is 2020, but this year we actually have hindsight on 2020. I asked Becky way before Q4 ever started, “Do you think you’re going to have some data on product reviews because I think that would be really, really interesting to see if there are any trends in product reviews over Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, those special Amazon days?” We’re going to take a look at that. I’m going to tell you a little bit about our findings from our studies and tell you about another special event that’s happening next week.
Liz Fickenscher (02:25):
Without further ado, we’re going to get started. Again, a little bit of housekeeping. If you’ve got questions, put them in the questions section of GoToWebinar and we’ll answer them as soon as we can. The session is being recorded. We will email it to you. Don’t worry. But we would love for you to participate and ask as many questions as you’d like. I’m Liz. I am the ecommerce marketing manager at Teikametrics. I do webinars, help with partnerships, write blog posts, recording video series, doing all kinds of stuff. Becky, my friend from eComEngine, why don’t you tell them a little bit about yourself?
Becky Trowbridge (03:02):
Hi, I’m Becky. I work with eComEngine. I’m the content strategist and I’ve been there for about four and a half years. Product reviews are definitely front of mind for me all the time.
Liz Fickenscher (03:15):
Yes, they are. She knows a lot about them. A little bit about Teikametrics. If you don’t know us, we optimize six billions worth of transactions for the largest brands on Amazon. We also optimize ads on Walmart. We’re working on lots and lots of cool new things for our upcoming Flywheel 2.0. I will give you information on how to register for early access to that after the seminar. And then Becky tell us about eComEngine.
Becky Trowbridge (03:51):
Sure. So, eComEngine, a lot of people know us because of FeedbackFive, which is our flagship tool. We also have other software including RestockPro. FeedbackFive is feedback and review management software. It works with both Buyer-Seller Messaging and the request review messaging system, which we’ll get into a little bit later, available in those 16 marketplaces that you see in flags there on your screen. RestockPro, we recently expanded to six new marketplaces. To handle Brexit inquiries, all of Europe is now covered with RestockPro as well as Australia.
Becky Trowbridge (04:27):
And that’s a really awesome tool for profit management, inventory forecasting, purchase orders, your shipments, creating stickers and labels. A lot of people really like our functionality for printing FBA labels. You can also create kits or bundles with RestockPro. It’s a really cool tool. If you’d like to learn more about it, feel free to email me. I think Liz gives out my contact info at the end. Yeah, we make automation software designed to make your life easier and you streamline your daily operations. So that’s eComEngine.
Liz Fickenscher (05:01):
Just to go over our agenda and to say, “Hi, Leah.” Leah said hi to us. Say hi to Leah. We’re going to talk a little bit about Q4 2020 because whoa, was it weird? Some fulfillment trends that both Becky and I have seen in the reseller space and in the brand space. eComEngine has some data on orders and product reviews. Becky’s going to talk a little bit about product reviews and that’s going to cue up nicely the guest posts that she’s going to be posting for us pretty soon because people still need guidance on how to properly get Amazon product reviews without getting in trouble with Amazon because it’s still very possible to do that.
Liz Fickenscher (05:38):
Amazon’s got a ton of new guidelines, new rules, some of them are bummers. And then I’m going to tell you a little bit about what we found in our analysis of Q4 and the special holidays of Q4, and then tease out a webinar that Andrew Waber is going to do next week. It’s going to deep dive into that data. So I’m going to encourage you all to sign up for that. I know I’ll be there. Becky, was it really the biggest Q4 yet?
Becky Trowbridge (06:08):
It was. We’re still waiting on Amazon’s official earnings report, of course, but they did share a really great link on their blog, which I will post in the chat before I forget. But they went ahead and just released some really interesting data about… Oh goodness. Okay. We’ll send that out. They released some interesting data about Q4. There were more than 1.5 billion toys, home products, beauty and personal care products and electronics sold. Those are the hot commodities every Q4.
Becky Trowbridge (06:44):
This year some things were different. They had a dedicated support small business storefront on Amazon. I don’t know if some of you participated in that. I’d love to hear out when. Basically, Amazon was encouraging buyers to purchase from small businesses on Amazon. I think they’re just really trying to build up independent businesses and brands that are selling on Amazon, in addition to obviously we know with Prime Day, some of the most popular products are always Amazons themselves.
Becky Trowbridge (07:12):
This year we had October Prime Day. That was definitely strange. It was really big. I was uncertain when Amazon said that they were pushing it and then it was like in the industry, we were like, “Well, when is it going to happen? Is it going to be September? Is it going to be…” When they said October, I was like, “Oh, man, Q4 Prime Day seems like it’s going to be really stressful.” But this year’s 48-hour event. Actually increased sales projected by Digital Commerce 360, it was projected to be $3 billion higher than last year’s July Prime Day, or 2019 July Prime Day.
Becky Trowbridge (07:51):
Prime Day was… Definitely, it kicked off the holiday season and then it just never stopped. I’m sure a lot of you felt that because you probably feel like you’re just now catching your breath. Amazon said that worldwide sales increased over 50% for small and medium-sized businesses compared to 2019. Again, we still don’t have any definitive data on that, but I’m sure that Amazon knows what they’re talking about behind the scenes there. And then American small businesses sold nearly a billion products during the 2020 holiday season on Amazon storefronts. And then those images down there are just some of the hottest products from this holiday season. Obviously, the air fryer, the new voice control fire stick was a big one. But I thought it was cool that some retro toys came back. In addition to the Lite-Brite, we also had Jenga. A lot of those classic games were really popular.
Liz Fickenscher (08:44):
Becky Trowbridge (08:44):
So toys and games still huge category.
Liz Fickenscher (08:47):
We saw some amazing trends in toys and games too. Colleen’s here. Hi, Colleen!
Becky Trowbridge (08:52):
Liz Fickenscher (08:53):
She posted a link in the question for the article that Becky was talking about. I posted it in the chat. We’ll also include that in the recap that goes out to you guys. Don’t worry about that right now. Let’s talk a little bit about fulfillment because we saw some pretty wonky things going on. What did you guys see was like the biggest pain point with fulfillment other than the fact that Amazon put a throttle on COVID, started saying, “Look, we need essential items”? But as the holiday rolled out, what were you seeing?
Becky Trowbridge (09:27):
It was really interesting. As Liz mentioned early in 2020, we saw sellers having to shift to merchant fulfilled really rapidly. RestockPro support FBA inventory management and that’s it. We saw a lot of our sellers move into more of a hybrid and shifting more of their focus to merchant fulfilled, just to make sure they’re still getting those orders out the door. And then it was interesting because by the end of the year, it really shifted around to FBA was the winning. If you could get your inventory into the fulfillment center, which was definitely an issue for a lot of sellers, I know there were changes to storage limits, Amazon had some restrictions, especially early on with COVID. They were only wanting a set of items and hot sellers coming into the fulfillment centers.
Becky Trowbridge (10:14):
I know staying in stock was the challenge for a lot of you this holiday season. But for the people that could stay in stock at the fulfillment centers, that was really the game changer because UPS and the USPS had a lot of trouble. They were really overwhelmed. I’m sure on social media I kept seeing these pictures of the warehouses just stacked to the ceiling with boxes that were waiting to be delivered. Amazon, you know that last mile delivery, the fulfillment processes that they’ve set up is really working well. It was really a good test of their system. I think we’re going to see even more expansion. I’ve noticed they’ve recently purchased some planes, and I think that’s going to become even more of a game changer for Amazon compared to a lot of these other marketplaces.
Liz Fickenscher (11:00):
We saw a lot of our brands [crosstalk 00:11:02] move to a hybrid model to… A lot of our brands, just as a matter, of course, do a merchant fulfilled version. But we saw people that were freaking out about their inventory performance index score because Amazon just bumped that requirement up just a little bit, zero hour. That was super fun for a lot of people. Like you, I did see toward the end into the holidays, FBA working out a lot better than it had been before.
Liz Fickenscher (11:42):
But I know that people have been really looking at their supply chain and thinking, “Okay, well, if it happens again, if the virus rears up again, if there are restrictions again, what’s going to be our game plan and how do we get our brands out front so that people still have demand for our items while they’re staying at home, while they’re quarantined? Because buyer behavior changed a whole lot. That is in favor of a lot of people that are selling in the ecommerce space. But it’s still a challenge to figure out your fulfillment and how to win at it because it’s a constantly moving target.
Becky Trowbridge (12:22):
Liz Fickenscher (12:22):
I’d be curious from you guys definitely like what did you see? What pain points did you have? Let’s cue that up for the Q&A at the end and see if we can solve some problems for you. All right, this is [crosstalk 00:12:35]… Oh, you did? Go ahead.
Becky Trowbridge (12:38):
Yeah. I was just going to say that Amazon actually had a filter by Christmas option so that people could make sure that the item they were picking was going to arrive before Christmas and they were the only place that was able to guarantee that. That really made a difference for buyers, I think, during the holiday season.
Liz Fickenscher (12:55):
I had two things that didn’t make it, but that was out of like 25 things. I think that’s a pretty good statistic.
Becky Trowbridge (13:06):
Yeah, especially through last year.
Liz Fickenscher (13:07):
Speaking of statistics, tell me about this graph?
Becky Trowbridge (13:12):
Yeah. This probably isn’t surprising to you all, the top three days for Amazon orders in Q4. But we did think it was interesting to see the percentage increase above the average daily order volume. Prime Day was 78% higher than an average day in Q4. Black Friday was only 67%, which surprised me. But then again, I feel like Amazon and a lot of other retailers released Black Friday sales so early this year that it was kind of a steady, trickle leading up in that week before Thanksgiving. And then Cyber Monday was huge with 81% higher than average order volumes.
Becky Trowbridge (13:48):
I know there was a lot of encouragement to get those orders in early on the consumer side to make sure because we all knew that fulfillment was going to be an issue, and I think UPS and USPS and others were really promoting that like, “Order early. Get ready. Don’t wait until December 24th and expect your order to arrive on your door before Christmas morning.”
Liz Fickenscher (14:12):
Becky Trowbridge (14:12):
Yeah. We were surprised to see that Prime Day was so high, especially because it was so early in the season, but definitely interesting data there.
Liz Fickenscher (14:24):
And so much later than usual. I thought it was really surprising to put Prime Day that close to the holiday dates. But I’m hearing from a lot of different sellers that it worked out fine for them. I think that Prime Day also yielded a lot of results in Amazon specific products because there were a lot of really great deals on Amazon products.
Becky Trowbridge (14:54):
I think everyone I know bought a Ring doorbell. [crosstalk 00:14:59] big one.
Liz Fickenscher (15:01):
Yeah, that’s the thing. Raise your hand if you’ve got a Ring doorbell at your house. I’m just curious. Yeah, a lot of you do. It’s handy, especially I don’t know if you’ve got Nextdoor in your area, but that’s the place to show your Ring videos because everybody’s trying to keep everybody safe and all that kind of stuff. All right. Are we ready for the next slide?
Becky Trowbridge (15:27):
Liz Fickenscher (15:28):
All right. I can’t ever host Becky without having her talk a little bit about reviews. You guys know that reviews impact everything. They impact your visibility, a lot of times they impact your conversion rate, they impact your success. That’s the bottom line, and they’re still super important. Somebody did ask if there’s any insight on why we can’t respond to reviews anymore. Becky is going to cover that in this section. Just hold tight on that. Ryan, I see your comment and I do want to talk about that because I think that that’s something that everybody needs to hear about. We’ll do that in the Q&A section. But first, I want, Becky, for you to give a little bit of advice on now… Q4 is over, but you still have to start going after those reviews, you still have to be monitoring reviews. Why don’t you take us through that?
Becky Trowbridge (16:32):
Sure. You’re probably wondering-
Liz Fickenscher (16:35):
Becky Trowbridge (16:39):
Sorry, talk about what?
Liz Fickenscher (16:41):
This is cool. You guys took a look at the peak weeks for Amazon reviews. Before we get into strategy, let’s go over this because I forgot this was here. Sorry.
Becky Trowbridge (16:53):
Sure. I think one of the big takeaways when it comes to reviews is that you need to be asking for them all the time and we’ll get into that a little more in the presentation. But here in our peak weeks for Amazon reviews, we’ve got the order volume is that green line and the number of reviews is on the bar graph. As you can see, the top week for reviews was actually the first week of Q1, which is not surprising if you look at people got gifts for Christmas and they probably left reviews, and I suspect based on my own experience because a lot more of us were not traveling and sending more gifts online this year than we normally would. A lot of times I buy things from Amazon and wrap them for my nieces, but this year I mailed them from Amazon to my nieces.
Becky Trowbridge (17:41):
I think there was a lot more interaction from gift giving at least in my experience. It seemed like people savored it more and they called me and said, “Hey, we really love this,” or sent pictures of the gift in use. I think that that translated to a really good trend with reviews because I think that buyers were finding that their gift recipients were really happy. And that obviously, that combined with getting an email from you saying, “Hey, please leave me a review on Amazon.” I’m like, “Oh, yeah, uncle Mike really loved those slippers. Yeah, I’ll give it five stars.”
Becky Trowbridge (18:14):
Amazon has really made it a lot easier to give reviews and ratings. Now, the buyer can actually just click on the star rating and that gives you a rating on Amazon. And then they can also choose to do a written review where they actually go into the details of their experience with the product. But I’ve definitely noticed a lot more ratings. It seems like that really simplified system is working a lot better for a lot of buyers.
Liz Fickenscher (18:42):
Well, and Becky, this is a question that I have. I know that when I was paying a lot of attention to this particular space, Amazon hadn’t quite figured it out if there was a weight difference between a rating and a written review. Like when you go to an ASIN on Amazon and you click on the ratings and reviews, you’ll see that there are X amount of star ratings, but there might only be like a considerably… There are 1,000 star ratings, but there’s 700 reviews. It seems like the stars are what matter. Obviously, the content of the review matters in terms of like if there are those big red flag words or something like that. But in terms of just the stars associated with a written review and the stars associate with just a star rating, they’re weighed the same by Amazon.
Becky Trowbridge (19:35):
Right. Yeah, we haven’t seen anything to make us believe otherwise, which is interesting. I think that verified purchase reviews and buying reviews and some of those other special reviews still have different weighting in the algorithm, but a rating versus a written review doesn’t seem to make a difference.
Liz Fickenscher (19:52):
Yeah. It’s Amazon, so it could change.
Becky Trowbridge (19:56):
It could change.
Liz Fickenscher (20:00):
Well, this is really interesting. I think it’s encouraging too. I think consumers, as a whole, are more aware that they need to leave reviews. I know that when I worked with you guys, we used to say that happy customers don’t leave reviews because they don’t have anything to say, but the unhappy people will certainly speak up. But I think that nowadays people understand that even if they don’t understand how it impacts the seller, they understand how it impacts buyers.
Liz Fickenscher (20:29):
If they’ve had a great experience with something, they want to say, “Hey, I had a great experience with this.” And if they had a terrible experience, they want to say, “Hey, be aware because I had a terrible experience with this, or I think I got a fake one, which is a red flag to the seller that they need to look into that too.” I think that consumers have gotten more savvy about how Amazon works. At least I hope so. We’ve been out here beating that drum for years now. Hopefully, they get it. Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about this because I love this graphic by the way.
Becky Trowbridge (21:07):
Yeah. Basically, the quality and the quantity and the recency of your review all contribute to its success and the way that Amazon views your reviews. I’m sure Liz can get into it a little bit later, but you don’t want to be advertising a product that has two star reviews on Amazon, for example, and your reviews do impact the success of your products in Amazon search algorithm in the way that your ads convert. Everything that you do comes back to your reviews. They’re really the bread and butter for a lot of businesses, particularly if you’re a brand.
Becky Trowbridge (21:41):
I probably shouldn’t be saying this because I don’t think Amazon loves it. But I was going to purchase a product earlier from a local business and then went to Amazon to look at the reviews because I trust Amazon reviews more than I trust just searching Google for this can opener to see if other people liked that. Like, “Wait, what do Amazon sellers have to say?” I know a lot of people that rely on Amazon is like their go-to source when they’re looking for a product. Yeah, we found a study by BrightLocal that was done back in 2019 and they actually found that 84% of consumers believe that online reviews that are older than three months are not relevant. I think especially if you have a newer product or something that changes a lot, it’s really important to have those fresh reviews from people that are saying what their experience was and how they perceive your product.
Liz Fickenscher (22:43):
That’s a bummer about perception of older reviews because I’ve written some really comprehensive reviews in my past. And I know-
Becky Trowbridge (22:52):
But if you get helpful votes, you might be top of the page.
Liz Fickenscher (22:58):
I have mixed feeling about-
Becky Trowbridge (22:58):
Also, I think every review counts.
Liz Fickenscher (23:00):
I have mixed feelings about the helpful votes. I was working with a brand the other day and they had a ridiculous amount of helpful votes on a negative review that was obviously not real. I was like, “Have you talked to Amazon about this?” And they said, “Yeah, and Amazon says there’s nothing they can do about it.” And I’m like, “Yeah, yet, yet. Hopefully soon.” All right. How can you get more reviews? I know that that’s a big question. I think we’ve got some questions in here. Let’s hit them after this slide because they relate to up and up ways to get reviews, how people are getting reviews, et cetera. But I do want you to talk about the Request a Review button.
Becky Trowbridge (23:54):
Yeah. Amazon updated the communication guidelines back in November. You may have attended the conversation that Liz and I had about that. They said in those communication guidelines that you can request feedback or reviews from Amazon buyers, but there are three main ways to do that. You can either send a message through Buyer-Seller Messaging from Seller Central. You can go to Seller Central, go to your order details page and click on the Request a Review button. Both of those tend to be really time-consuming. They don’t have much payoff. Honestly, I think the review rate is something like 1% to 10% per request. The payoff for requesting reviews is not very good.
Becky Trowbridge (24:35):
A lot of sellers automate their review requests. You can find apps like FeedbackFive and the Amazon Appstore that have been vetted by Amazon. We work with Amazon to make sure that everything that we do is on the up and up with what they want us to do. You can automate those requests. FeedbackFive actually allows you to either automate Buyer-Seller Messaging, which does allow you some customization. If you have like a really specific ASIN that you want, like an awesome message about… I know Liz and I both worked with Shannon Roddy and he has some clients that just have killer review requests because they really bring some story into it and they make it interesting for the buyer when they receive it.
Becky Trowbridge (25:16):
You can have those brand specific requests with Buyer-Seller Messaging, but you do need to be aware that you need to be following the Amazon communication guidelines, you need to follow all of Amazon’s product review policies. I will make sure that Liz gets those out to you because there are like four different pages in Seller Central that you’ll want to check out. If you ever have any questions about reviews, like I said, Liz’s giving out my email, you can always contact the eComEngine. That’s really what we do. We really try to help sellers be as compliant as possible. We really try to make sure that we know everything that Amazon wants you to do when it comes to requesting reviews and feedback inside and out. So we’re here. We don’t care if you’re a customer or not. We’re more than happy to talk to you.
Becky Trowbridge (25:57):
You can schedule automation for the request to review message with FeedbackFive, which saves you a lot of time because obviously going to every single order in Seller Central is just a mess and Liz is helpfully pointing out my message over there. This message is automatically translated into the buyer’s language of preference, which is something else that changed with the communication guidelines. With FeedbackFive for the Buyer-Seller Messages, we actually have a way to send this message if your message is not in that language. But the request for review messages are always instantly translated. It includes the product image and then it’s got a really nice review rating up there and then a really nice feedback rating right underneath it.
Becky Trowbridge (26:44):
We’ve actually seen positive reviews going up with this message, which I think is interesting. I think that sellers really identify with seeing that it comes from Amazon directly. I think when they see that in their inboxes, they take it a little more seriously and they open it and leave a review. It’s working.
Liz Fickenscher (27:04):
Also, didn’t Amazon say no more photos of the product in the Buyer-Seller Messaging?
Becky Trowbridge (27:11):
Liz Fickenscher (27:12):
That’s huge because way back when you couldn’t put a product image in Buyer-Seller Messaging, it was a big deal when you could, because somebody gets the email, they see the image that they bought. It’s easy. “Oh, yeah, that thing. I really liked that thing, five stars.” But then when Amazon said, “Yes, you can use Buyer-Seller Messaging to request reviews, however, no emojis in subject lines, no image of the product,” a whole lot of don’t mix fonts.
Becky Trowbridge (27:46):
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:27:48].
Liz Fickenscher (27:48):
There’s a whole list. I’ll send out a link to the last webinar that Becky and I did together that will give you an overview of what those rules are. But the cool thing about the request review is it has that picture of the item in it. What I’ve noticed, and I don’t know if this is intentional or not, because I know that with FeedbackFive, it goes out once. You say, “Okay, automate Request a Review for my orders,” it goes out and you guys actually have some flexibility as to when it goes out. If it’s an item that takes a little longer to experience, it doesn’t have to go like a couple of days after the order date. It can go like… What is it? Up to 30 days after the order date?
Becky Trowbridge (28:33):
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:28:34]. You can actually schedule it at the ASIN level. Amazon recently changed it so that the review request has to be sent out within 30 days of order completion. You can actually say like, “Oh, this is a supplement. It’s going to take two or three weeks for someone to actually want to leave a review. So I’m going to send it at the later end of that.” But instead of trying to keep track of that and going into Seller Central and saying, “Oh, this person ordered three weeks ago, time to request a review,” you can just automate all of that. So you don’t have to hire someone, you don’t have to do it yourself.
Becky Trowbridge (29:02):
And then FeedbackFive does also give you the ability to exclude orders and you have a lot of options when it comes to if there’s something that you don’t want to send, or if you want to drill down into your reviews and your ratings. That’s something new that we’re pulling in actually. I didn’t put a slide in here, but we’ve updated our analytics and we’ve started pulling in ratings as well as reviews.
Liz Fickenscher (29:24):
That’s so cool.
Becky Trowbridge (29:24):
You can see the number of ratings for each product, which is awesome. Yeah.
Liz Fickenscher (29:29):
Just more reasons why FeedbackFive is the best. Sorry, I’m a little biased, but I’ve also been around for a while, you guys, and it is absolutely the best tool to help monitor and get product reviews, and seller feedback, which is still important. One thing I’ve noticed, and I don’t know if this is just because of the holidays or what, but I’ve been getting the Request a Review email from Amazon more than once on the same product, on the same order.
Becky Trowbridge (30:01):
Liz Fickenscher (30:04):
Obviously, that’s not the result of a tool like yours because yours is set up to send it only once. But I don’t know if Amazon is going, “Hey, hit the button, hit the stars.” I don’t know quite what’s going on. But I know for one order I placed in November, I’ve gotten five on the same order. I know that it’s the Request a Review because I know what it looks like obviously. I was around when they rolled it out.
Becky Trowbridge (30:30):
It’s so strange.
Liz Fickenscher (30:30):
Yeah, it’s really weird. And then another one I’ve gotten it three times. I don’t know what’s going on with that. But I am obviously not leaving a review every time because I left the review the first time I got it. I don’t know. But I think Amazon is favoring.
Becky Trowbridge (30:45):
That’s a good point. You can also filter out those repeat buyers. If you don’t want to send Liz a request every single time she buys shampoo from you that she buys every three months, you don’t have to.
Liz Fickenscher (30:58):
Yeah, I only bought [crosstalk 00:30:58].
Becky Trowbridge (30:58):
You can say, “That was the repeat buyer.”
Liz Fickenscher (31:01):
I don’t know if it’s a glitch in the system or what, but I think Amazon’s favoring the Request a Review, I think definitely. Plus translated into your recipient chosen language. That’s awesome. Also includes a place we call feedback-
Becky Trowbridge (31:19):
Oh, it creates a cohesive… Yeah, and it creates a cohesive experience that is Amazon branded because I think you were saying they have a lot of guidelines about the font and all this weird stuff. But I think it comes back to, “It’s Amazon sandbox. We’re all just playing.” They want to control the look and feel of communication with buyers and the request review message allows them to do that. It also benefits sellers because I don’t think many of you have time to just go through and make sure that your message is as compliant as possible. If you have something that’s even slightly gray, I would recommend just using the Request a Review button if you’ve ever gotten restricted. If you don’t follow Amazon’s review rules, they take that very, very seriously and it can actually result in your account getting restricted. This Request a Review message is the easiest way to make sure that you’re always following the rules.
Liz Fickenscher (32:17):
Or suspended. We talked to Chris McCabe a lot, both of us. I don’t think that there’s been a whole lot of reviews abuse stuff going on because people like you have been doing such a good job about educating the seller community about like, “Don’t do it, you’ll get suspended.” I know I always say, “Don’t be a cowboy. It’s not worth it.” But there’s still little things that can slip you up, and it’s your job as a seller to know all the rules. This is easy. This is a set it and forget it kind of thing. We have some questions. Does it make sense to advance one more time and then do the questions, or should we do the questions now because they’re specifically related to requesting reviews?
Becky Trowbridge (33:02):
Should I talk about commenting first, or are a lot of questions about commenting?
Liz Fickenscher (33:08):
There are questions about commenting. Let’s do that first.
Becky Trowbridge (33:10):
Okay. [crosstalk 00:33:14].
Liz Fickenscher (33:14):
We’ll just leave this up because this is beautiful, beautiful FeedbackFive and how it rolls up all your product review so you don’t have to go ASIN by ASIN looking at your product reviews. That’s an awesome feature of FeedbackFive. We’ll just leave that up for people to see. But you guys have asked, “Do you have any insight on why Amazon cutoff sellers from replying to reviews? What are we supposed to do now that you can’t respond to negative reviews?” And somebody said that they’ve actually seen the old comments on reviews have disappeared. So those conversations that used to take place are gone too. Can you comment on that?
Becky Trowbridge (33:59):
Sure. Back in December about a week and a half before Christmas, Amazon sent an email to sellers that were commenting on reviews saying that they were phasing out that review commenting system. They cited that sellers or buyers weren’t really engaging with it. I think, again, back to Shannon Roddy and some of our friends in the industry, we all had a lot of conversations when this happened. Shannon pointed out that there was never a way for the buyer to receive a notification from the seller. You would comment on your review back to the buyer and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry that you had a terrible experience. Can I help you or provide information?” And then the seller or the… tangling myself, but the buyer would never receive a notification of that. It was like one in a million chance that they would come back to their negative review to see that you had commented and then reach out to you.
Becky Trowbridge (34:53):
I think that if Amazon had added some kind of back and forth functionality between buyers and sellers, that would have been really helpful. I was surprised that they phased this out because I think that it’s so important for brand management. I’m talking with our CEO, Jay Lagarde. He was mentioning some cases that he had seen in the past where people were leaving comments on reviews saying, or leaving reviews saying to do things that were completely outside of what you would want people to do in terms of safety, especially with child products. He was saying, “In that case, the brand has a responsibility to come in and say, ‘Hey, don’t use our product like this. This isn’t how it’s intended to work.'” But you can’t do that anymore.
Becky Trowbridge (35:37):
Yeah, unfortunately, I don’t think that there’s really a good solution. You can certainly monitor your reviews, get alerts for your negative reviews, go in and see what people are saying. Is there an issue with your packaging? Is there something that you can improve? I think it’s really important to monitor your reviews, both for positive and negative to see what are people talking about. You have undiluted information from your buyers. Every marketer in the world wants exactly what you have and your product reviews. You can use a tool like FeedbackFive to just export those and look at them regularly. You can filter them, you can look at them on Seller Central. There are tons of ways to do it, but it’s really important to have that process in place.
Becky Trowbridge (36:21):
If you do get a review that is violating Amazon’s community guidelines, which are different than the communication guidelines, the community guidelines do state that it can’t include personally identifiable information, it can’t include profane language, anything obscene, things like that. If you get a review that’s nasty, you can always report it to Amazon as review abuse and cross your fingers that they’ll take it down and you can keep opening cases. I don’t know what the success rate is there. I’ve seen varied reports from sellers. Some people have had good luck, some people have not. That is an option. But in most cases, I think you just have to say, “Okay, there’s a negative review. I’m going to learn from it and I’m going to try to do whatever I can to not get more negative reviews.”
Liz Fickenscher (37:05):
I’m seeing when there’s a clear violation of community guidelines, when there’s profanity, when it’s a piece of language especially, that Amazon’s pretty good about getting rid of that, almost even before the seller has to report it. I’m also seeing a little bit of success when a seller has a review on an item that clearly isn’t that item and they’ve gone to seller support and have said, “This is clearly not my item,” and seller support said, “Sorry, that doesn’t violate community guidelines.” If you push it in a respectful way with plenty of documentation, screenshots, et cetera, that prove your point, then odds are Amazon is going to take it down because that creates a bad shopping experience. And that’s Amazon’s customer… sorry, first customer obsessed.
Liz Fickenscher (37:56):
If it’s something that’s going to impede someone from buying the item because it’s incorrect, like I bought this quilt and it’s a review for headphones, then you have a good chance of getting that removed too. Speaking of removal, if someone said, “I sell FBA and I have a few reviews related to damage during shipping, which is done by Amazon,” is there a way to remove those reviews? And correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s opening a case.
Becky Trowbridge (38:36):
Yeah, I would open a case. When it’s an issue with Amazon’s fulfillment experience, a lot of times they’ll just strike through it and they add a sentence that says, “This was due to the experience with fulfillment that was provided by Amazon,” or something like that. I don’t remember the exact language, but they won’t take it away. But it no longer impacts your average rating at that point, if they strike through it.
Liz Fickenscher (39:02):
And the same with seller feedback, they’ll do the same with seller feedback. But because of the increase in orders and increase in search volume, increase in everything, because of Q4, if you don’t see it get struck through, then I would open a case. If you need help on knowing how to open a case with Amazon, get in touch with me, I’ll put you in touch with Chris McCabe because he knows all of the answers on that.
Liz Fickenscher (39:31):
Now, in terms of getting reviews… This is a great question from Paul. He says, “How can some manufacturers generate 1,000 reviews on a new product within two months? If they’re on the up and up, there’s no way this can be done.” You are correct. If they’re on the up and up, unless their order volume is through the roof. If it’s a brand new item, I don’t know how it could be, unless it was just the thing and how often is something just the thing. There are still people using black hat, bad actor tactics to get reviews. Becky, do you want to expand on that?
Becky Trowbridge (40:15):
Yeah, and it’s a terrible idea. It’s a really good way to get your listing suspended or your account suspended. I think there are a lot of ways to get reviews legitimately. In addition to those that Amazon outlined in the communication guidelines, Amazon does have its own programs like the Early Reviewer Program and Amazon Vine. Early reviewer is super cheap. I think it’s still $60 for up to five ASINs. If you’ve recently launched a product, that’s a good way to get momentum right away. Amazon just requests reviews on your behalf.
Becky Trowbridge (40:48):
And then if someone leaves a review, they actually get like a $2 or $3 Amazon credit. I’ve seen a lot of sellers have success with that. I think if you have a lot of brand presence and maybe it’s like a hot like, “Hey, we’ve been working on this for six months and we’ve been teasing it on social and we’ve been talking about it,” maybe that’s the case where they would get that many reviews. But other than that, yeah, I think Liz is right. There’s probably something shady going on.
Liz Fickenscher (41:16):
I have the deepest hope. Amazon really cares about reviews. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be so hard on you guys about breaking any rules. But they’re reluctant to be hard on the people who are actually leaving reviews because those people are customers. There’s a balance that needs to be struck and it hasn’t been struck yet. There’s still people getting away with bad actor behavior. It’s benefiting them in the short-term, but in the long-term I really believe that Amazon’s going to crack down just like they did in 2016 with the incentivized review thing.
Liz Fickenscher (41:53):
They took away a lot of those reviews that were okay. They were okay to happen before, but then they weren’t okay and Amazon actually analyzed reviews and took away the ones that they thought gave an unfair balance to that ASIN. That’s scary, but it’s also encouraging at the same time because Amazon wants it to be a fair marketplace. They want it to be a place where people can look at reviews and actually learn about the product before they buy it. I have every hope.
Liz Fickenscher (42:24):
I just did a webinar with Cynthia Stine and she has a book coming out called Dirty Seller Tricks. And part of the thing is review manipulation. The helpful votes thing is something that I’m seeing a lot. It’s not so much people leaving a whole bunch of fake negative reviews, it’s not so much people piling on the user review bot to pile on 1,000 positive reviews on an ASIN within two months. But they’re sneaky and they’re doing those helpful votes.
Liz Fickenscher (42:59):
We did have somebody ask related to that… Where is it? This was a really good question. Howe asked this question, “Is there anything you can do to alter the order of the most helpful reviews, like the way they show up? Is it against Amazon policy to encourage people you know to vote for, to upvote, or review? Is that against Amazon policy to ask people you know to do that?”
Becky Trowbridge (43:27):
Liz Fickenscher (43:28):
Of course, it is.
Becky Trowbridge (43:30):
Yeah. Anything related to your products, your friends, your family members, your employees, they shouldn’t be leaving reviews. I saw someone in a forum earlier was saying that they’d gotten a review manipulation, or some kind of case from Amazon saying that they were doing something shady and it turned out that their in-laws had bought something from their Amazon store and left a review and then Amazon saw that and was like, “Hey, no, no, no.” They take that really seriously. It is creepy, the amount of data that they have about you and the people in your circle. Don’t think that they don’t know who your employees are. I’m sure they’re looking at IP addresses and all of that. Yeah, don’t ask anyone you know to upvote your helpful product or your best product reviews. That’s not a good idea.
Liz Fickenscher (44:22):
Just like you wouldn’t have to leave a review for you.
Becky Trowbridge (44:25):
Right. In terms of changing ranking, I don’t think that there’s a whole lot that you can. Liz might have some ideas there.
Liz Fickenscher (44:35):
The thing is that what I’ve seen and what I still recommend to people when I talk to them about reviews, which obviously isn’t the space where I live anymore, but I send people the comment and say, “Help them get reviews,” because you have a better chance of getting more reviews on your ASIN if you ask for reviews in a compliant way. So it’s not a silver bullet, it’s not like a magic wand. But if you’ve got negative reviews that have helpful votes, then you get positive reviews and people are actively coming to your listing because you’ve optimized your advertising, you’ve got your own Flywheel in place as it were, and you’re getting more positive reviews than… The hope is that those positive reviews will get helpful votes and that will change the balance for you.
Liz Fickenscher (45:38):
It takes time. It takes effort. It’s super frustrating. It’s not satisfying at all. Hopefully, that will change someday. But for now, your best bet is to get more positive reviews. If you see things in your reviews that indicate that there’s something wrong with your listing, optimize your listing so that your listing properly reflects your product. If you see things that are talking about your product compliance, product safety, something’s the wrong color or something smells funny, heed that. Talk to your supplier, talk to your manufacturer, figure out where that bad review came from. If you think it’s a whole slew of fake reviews, then talk to somebody about opening a case for you.
Liz Fickenscher (46:21):
The thing is, if you open any kind of case with Amazon, if you want Amazon to do anything for you, you have to have evidence. It’s on you to do the research. I was working with a brand the other day that said, “Okay, well, I have 15 negative reviews.” They’re worded the same. I looked at the order data and it just so happens one of the orders was merchant fulfilled. I checked the address. The address is the address of my competitor. I was like, “Well, in that case, send them a screenshot of all the reviews you got, point out how the wording is similar, show them the address, show them that that’s your competitor’s address, gather all your evidence and then submit a case to Amazon saying, ‘Look, I suspect these 15 reviews are fake. I think they were done by my competitor. This is why I think that. Please consider this.'”
Liz Fickenscher (47:18):
It worked and those reviews went away. That’s great. But sometimes you have to escalate in order to get things done. It’s still not a perfect system. The person who had the fulfillment-related review asked where you would open your case. Would you open it on the review itself, where you can go into Seller Central, you pick that you have a review that you need to report? Is that where you would do it, Becky?
Becky Trowbridge (47:54):
I think so. If anyone has a more effective solution, definitely pop it in the chat. But that’s what I would recommend.
Liz Fickenscher (48:04):
Yeah. If you think it’s for real and it’s real buyers that have left this and it’s a problem that’s going on at FBA with the fulfillment of your item, then there needs to be a conversation about your packaging and making sure that the Amazon’s handling your inventory properly. I’m going to provide my email address at the end of this for you who’ve been facing this problem. Ping me and let me help you with this problem. We had a question about Vine. In your opinion, does Vine work?
Becky Trowbridge (48:40):
I think so. I think it depends on the ASIN. If you have a product that isn’t really… If it doesn’t have a good margin, I don’t know that it’s worth enrolling in Vine. I know I’ve gotten varied reports on the pricing. I think right now it’s free to enroll in Vine and then it’s just the cost of your product, but it is under advertising in Seller Central. That should tell you all that you need to know about monetizing it in the future. I know for vendors that could be like… I think it was like $2,500 or something to enroll in ASIN at one point. I think it’s one of those your mileage may vary things. Some products have had great success with Vine and some have not. It might depend on your category or the type of product.
Liz Fickenscher (49:30):
I recommend usually that people take a look at Vine specific reviews because they’re marked.
Becky Trowbridge (49:38):
Yeah, they’re. And they’re usually put in caps.
Liz Fickenscher (49:41):
I don’t know how many Vine Voices are actually active right now. But if you’ve got a category that you see a lot of Vine Voice reviews for, then I think it’s worth trying out. If you’ve got a really like niche category and you don’t feel like there have been a lot of Vine-related reviews, that’s probably a pretty good indication that there might not be a good match for you in the Vine Voices. There’s nowhere that says that. That’s just based on personal experience. I feel like that’s a thing you need to think about. But since the cost is nothing to you and if you’ve got a good margin on your products, I think it’s worth a try. I know that eComEngine would love to know how it worked out for you, because I think it can get… What is it? Up to 25 reviews you can get when you enroll your product, isn’t it, or is it 12? I don’t remember. It’s more than six.
Becky Trowbridge (50:34):
It’s changed. Yeah.
Liz Fickenscher (50:37):
Yeah, and there’s no guarantee.
Becky Trowbridge (50:37):
Yeah, but it’s very [crosstalk 00:50:38] Vine Voices because if they don’t select your product, just because you enrolled, doesn’t mean that your product will get selected to be reviewed. It is a little bit based on the Vine Voices and whether they’re interested in reviewing.
Liz Fickenscher (50:53):
We have a couple of tactical questions. You guys are asking such good questions that I feel like they should have just been in Ask Me Anything, but we needed to show you. I’m going to tell you about some cool data, but I’ll save that for Andrew. But Michael asks, “Putting aside the example of supplements, is there a sweet spot for the number of days after shipment or order for sending out review requests? Does your data point to a best time of day to send these requests?”
Becky Trowbridge (51:19):
This is the million dollar question. We have sellers who are all different sizes, who sell in all different categories and it really depends on your product. I hate to say that. I know that everyone hates that answer. I think that probably between two to five days after the order is delivered is probably a sweet spot in terms of products that are used right away, so something that is going to arrive and somebody is going to open it and maybe it’s consumable, or maybe it’s something that solves a problem that they’re going to… like my wireless mouse like, “Okay, two days after I received it, I might’ve been ready to review it because it changed my life, honestly.”
Becky Trowbridge (52:05):
But I think, yeah, things like… Anything that’s got a quality review to it I think you need to wait as long as possible towards that 30 days. I hate the Amazon limits to 30 days. I understand why they do because they’re really trying to make it relevant for the buyers so they’re not getting review requests six months after they… You sell duvet and they received it six months ago. They don’t want a review request from you. They’ve probably forgotten that they even bought it on Amazon. But as a buyer, that’s when I might be willing to review duvet because I’ve spent six months with it and, “Hey, I love it,” or “No, I don’t.” I think it is tricky that 30-day timeline, especially for products that require a little bit of time before they start to work. I hope that helps. But yeah, I think consumables, that first week is probably the best time to send it.
Liz Fickenscher (53:04):
This is a great question. I’m just going to read it because I love it so much. “If you improve a product, what’s the best way to communicate that it’s been improved?” If now you can go in and there are negative reviews that you can respond to and say, “Hey, this has been improved and thank you for your feedback,” how do you communicate that you have improved your product?
Becky Trowbridge (53:24):
I think the most important thing to do is optimize your listing. In your bullets, get it up there front and center, take photos, get really good images that show off the improvements. I don’t know the exact product photo guidelines, but you may even be able to have like arrows that point out new features and things like that. Definitely, call it out in your listing though. Rethink your keywords, just look at it as though you’re starting from scratch and really make sure that you’re covering it way up at the top of your page.
Becky Trowbridge (53:58):
If people are asking questions about your product, make sure when you answer that you’re saying, “By the way, it’s new and improved, and we’ve done X, Y, and Z, and this is our process and [crosstalk 00:54:08].”
Liz Fickenscher (54:08):
A lot of people [crosstalk 00:54:09] questions. Ideally, I get questions all the time. I shop on Amazon a lot. I get, “Is this product made out of such-and-such, or whatever.” I shouldn’t be able to answer that question before the seller does. But Amazon lets me. You got to keep a really close eye on those questions that come in because you can really address a lot of concerns and a lot of worries and solve a lot of decisions if you answer those questions, and you can as a seller. That is something you can do to communicate, not with a particular buyer, but with all potential buyers because a lot of people read those questions.
Liz Fickenscher (54:56):
I know that we’re running on time. We do have a two o’clock hard stop. If you didn’t get your question answered today, I have kept a list of the questions. I’m going to share the questions with Becky, and we’re going to answer your questions. So don’t worry about that. But we do have a webinar coming up this Thursday on product images, optimize listings, all that kind of stuff. If you have questions about optimizing your Amazon or Walmart listing for conversion, I’ll send a link in the email to you guys to help you register for that.
Liz Fickenscher (55:33):
Also, there’s another question about my biggest issue is negative brand reviews that occur due to unauthorized resellers that I’ve not been able to shut down yet. Jeff, I’m doing a webinar later with Joe Kovacs from Brand Guarde. That’s his whole deal is that he finds the unauthorized sellers and he helps remove those. There are services that you can get. I recommend Joe. Please you can contact him ahead of time. You can contact me to get in touch with him, I’ll introduce you. But get those authorized resellers off of there. There might be some sort of recourse you can take with Amazon in that they were unauthorized resellers, they might not have packaged your item properly. You can dig into that and do the research on that. I think we’ve kind of like through example explained why you should monitor your reviews. Do you have anything else you want to say about that?
Becky Trowbridge (56:34):
Liz Fickenscher (56:35):
All right, cool. Oh, I’m going to say I was going to get into some data that we did, but Andrew’s going to do it next week. It was an unprecedented year and that yields unprecedented data. So across categories, daily search volumes on Amazon increased during Cyber Week, a lot of cases by more than two times, but these figures were down significantly when compared to the volume increases we saw during the same period of 2019. It’s because more people are shopping online.
Liz Fickenscher (57:06):
In fact, the toys and games category that you mentioned before, Becky, and baby products were the only categories that were right on track increase-wise year-over-year. But there was a really good reason for this. The increases that a lot of sellers and brand owners expected during Cyber Week were skewed because of the unprecedented circumstances that 2020 presented, Q4 presented, COVID presented. For goodness sakes, it was such a weird year.
Liz Fickenscher (57:32):
Andrew Waber, our director of insights, is going to be doing a webinar and a deep dive into that data that we discovered from 2020 next week. I’m going to pop a link to that in the… I’m actually going to stop sharing my screen so I can find that link. I’m going to pop a link to that in the chat so that you guys can go and register for that now if you want to. Here we go. In the chat, keep an eye there. Boom. Hope to see you there.
Liz Fickenscher (58:08):
But some of you are left with questions on answered. I’m going to put Becky’s email address in the chat right now. She will either answer your question personally, or she will send you to the right person in her organization, so email@example.com. We both have complicated emails because mine’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also putting that in the chat. If you didn’t get your question answered and you’ve got questions, pain points, reach out to us. We’ll get you to the right people, get you the right resources. We thank you so much for coming today. Becky, it’s always a pleasure. I’m going to have you back as soon as humanly possible. Thank you so much. And everybody just have a super day.
Becky Trowbridge (59:01):
Have a great day.