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Managing Amazon Reviews & Feedback

Amazon reviews are important whether you sell on Amazon Seller Central or Vendor Central.  Below we’ll clarify the difference between the types of reviews and then guide you on best practices toward managing both positive and negative reviews.

Amazon Product Reviews vs. Seller Feedback Reviews

The first step toward gaining better reviews is to understand that there are two types of reviews:  Product Reviews & Seller Feedback Reviews.  It’s vital to understand the difference.

Product Reviews are the reviews you see while shopping:

amazon_reviews

 

These reviews can make or break your success on Amazon.  For obvious reasons, every seller should aspire to attain between a 4.0 – 5.0 average.  Ironically, buyers trust a 4.5 stars average more than a 5.0 stars average, so 4.5 is optimal.

Seller Feedback Reviews are the second type of reviews and are also very important.  They’re not as likely to sway customers’ buying decisions as your product reviews, but they play their own important role in your Amazon success.  

In order to find those reviews you’ll first need to drill down on your seller profile:

 

Here’s where you’ll see those reviews:

amazon_reviews

How a Buyer Creates Reviews

Now let’s step into the shoes of our buyers for a little bit.  Once we buy an item, Amazon will usually send us an email soliciting our participation in reviewing both the Seller and the Product.  

I recently made a purchase on Amazon.ca.  Amazon.ca subsequently sent me an email, which I’ll illustrate below.  Please note that Amazon asks for both Seller Feedback Review and Product Review in the same email, though the former occupies the top of the email, which means people are more likely to respond to it:

amazon_reviews

After clicking on ‘5 (Excellent)’ in the email a new tab in my browser opens up that looks like this:

amazon_reviews

As we can see it’s very straightforward.  At this point, most buyers feel as though they’re done helping buyer’s out (or berating their products).

However, only by clicking the link that says ‘Rate and Review Purchases’ below can a buyer leave a Product Review.  By clicking the link the following tab should open in the buyer’s browser:

amazon_reviews

Fortunately for sellers, Amazon allows buyers to change their Product Reviews.  Below let’s look at a review I’ve left for the product I recently purchased (referenced above):

amazon_reviews

Despite the fact that I’ve left a Product Review, as a buyer I can still navigate to my recent orders and access and / or change that very same Product Review:

amazon_reviews

I just changed that review by merely adding the words ‘Thank you!’.  Please see those changes here:

amazon_reviews

This demonstrates how easy it is for a buyer to change his / her review.  

Hopefully this clarifies the difference between the two types of reviews and how buyers see and interact with them.  With this understanding we’re now equipped with the ability to manage each type of review to the best of our abilities.

Addressing Negative Product Reviews: Hug Your Haters

You may be asking yourself, ‘So now what?’  

Working within Amazon’s rules, the best action a seller can take is to adopt an attitude of ‘Hug Your Haters’.  

I’ve seen many articles in Amazon Seller forums with recommendations from experienced buyers to ignore bad reviews, simply dismissing them because they’re insensitive complainers.  In addition, Sellers in these forums often scream foul play and that competition is attempting to sabotage them. Either may be true, and if you see an inordinate number of negative reviews that don’t seem to add up, doing nothing may make sense in some instances.  On the other hand, you may also risk alienating a genuine customer with a sincere gripe.

Additionally, I’ve seen sellers suggest firing back at bad reviews with statements such as, ‘You’re ruining my livelihood (or that of my family), how could you be so selfish?’.  To that I have one thing to say: Nobody on Amazon who purchases a product cares about you.  People purchase products on Amazon (and everywhere for that matter) for their own gratification, not because they’re interested in supporting you or your family.  After all, they too must support themselves and / or their families.

Amazon treats its customer as the crown jewels of its ecosystem.  As a Seller, you’re a second rate citizen in the eyes of Amazon. There’s no escaping this, nor will Amazon ever apologize for it.  It’s part of Amazon’s core philosophy that the entire company prioritizes the customer over all else. It’s in Sellers’ best interests to embrace this reality.  Conversely, Sellers can suffer dearly trying to fight it or bemoan it.

As an Amazon Seller, try to empathize with buyers who’ve left bad reviews and work with them to correct any problems.  By doing so you take the ‘high ground’ and can distinguish yourself from other sellers through your superior level of service.

Step 1: Act Quickly

Don’t wait.  Try to monitor and react to negative reviews within 72 hours.  The longer you wait the more difficult it is to address a problem, and the less likely it is for a customer to think you’ve taken the problem seriously.

Step 2. Keep Informed of the Rules

At the time of this writing, Amazon Terms of Service (TOS) clearly prevents us from soliciting buyers to leave positive reviews.  In fact here is a comprehensive ‘Code of Conduct’ regarding sellers and how they can (and cannot) handle reviews: https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/201972140

Here is a quick summary of 2 of the more important points in that policy:

The following are examples of prohibited activities. This is not an all-inclusive list…

  • A seller offers to provide a refund or reimbursement after the buyer writes a review (including reimbursement via a non-Amazon payment method)…
  • A seller offers a refund or other compensation to a reviewer in exchange for changing or removing their review.

Though Amazon prohibits a Seller from trying to offer a ‘refund’ or ‘reimbursement’ or ‘other compensation’ once the review is written, Amazon makes no mention of an ‘exchange’.  If there is any case in which the item is faulty or defective, offer to send a replacement immediately.

Step 3: Determine through Which Medium to Respond

You now have several options when attempting to contact the person who wrote the review:

  1. Respond to them via the commenting area where they left the review OR
  2. Respond to them via direct messaging within your ‘Manage Orders’ area.

The advantage of option #1 is that your prompt customer service is becomes visible to the general public, which can go a long way to gaining trust with both the upset buyer and future buyers.

The disadvantage of option #1 is that you can no longer respond in the comment areas with your ‘Seller’ badge, as Amazon has removed this capability.  You can only respond through your personal account and would need to say something like, ‘Hi Susan, this is Richard, the owner of XYZ brand. I’m very sorry to hear about your experience….’

If you don’t like this option, option #2 allows you to avoid going public and to directly interact with your buyer as your brand / company.  The negative side of this is that you will need to scour your ‘Manage Orders’ and look through each order to match the first name with the first name on the order to pinpoint the correct buyer.  If their profile name (i.e. ‘badbuyer’) does not match their real name (i.e. Bill King) this can be challenging.

Step 4. Craft Your Message

Hopefully you’ve hopped on this matter quickly, which will convey to your customer that you care.

The next thing is to craft your message to further convey your level of concern and empathy with their discontent.  Here is a boilerplate form letter:

‘Dear [CUSTOMER]:

I’m deeply concerned with [MISTAKE] and want to get this solved. We pride ourselves in the quality of our merchandise, but we admittedly make mistakes.   As [BRAND] we value every one of our customers’ satisfaction. Please contact us immediately with your shipment number and we’ll gladly exchange your item.

If there is something else we can do to rectify the matter please specify and we’ll attempt our best to accommodate your request.  I personally look forward to helping you and earning back your trust.

Sincerely,

[OWNER, BRAND]’

Please notice in this letter we immediately offer an exchange, of which there is no language in Amazon’s TOS.  Nevertheless, we do offer an alternative when we say, ‘If there is something else we can do to rectify the matter please specify and we’ll attempt our best to accommodate your request.’

It’s debatable whether or not we’re entering into a grey area here, especially if a customer then requests reimbursement.  However, we are not explicitly offering one and by leaving the option open for a solution we’re truly offering the to give the customer final say.

Step 5. Follow through

Action speaks louder than words.  Do precisely what you’ve promised your customer and do so promptly.

 

Addressing Negative Seller Feedback Reviews: Pay Attention and Improve Your Ratings

When addressing negative seller feedback reviews, fortunately Sellers can exert a greater amount of control.  Amazon Seller Central has an automated dispute mechanism that we can often employ to our benefit.

There are 2 typical occurrences that merit its use:

  1. Because Seller Feedback Reviews are at the top of Amazon’s automated emails to customers, we often see the following phenomenon: Customers mistakenly leave their Product Review in the Seller Feedback Review form.  We can ask Amazon to remove such reviews.
  2. In addition, if you store your products in FBA, and receive a shipping based complaint, you have the right to ask Amazon to remove the complaint because shipping is Amazon’s responsibility and not yours.  Here are examples of such complaints:
    1. Late Shipment
    2. Product arrived broken (in some cases)
    3. Wrong product arrived

In order to remove a Seller Feedback Review for either of the two instances explained above you must do the following:

Step 1:  Go to Performance > Feedback on the top navigation menu:

 

amazon_reviews

Step 2: Find the review you want to dispute and click Actions:

amazon_reviews

Step 3: Click Yes:

amazon_reviews

****Please note:  DO NOT ABUSE THIS FUNCTION.  Amazon’s system automatically removes the review. However, if you perform this too many times the process will then undergo manual review by a person.

In sum, staying on top of reviews is about speed and empathy.  Employ both and you’ll take positive steps toward protecting your customer’s experience and brand name.

Manufacturer Direct via Amazon (55% of Shoppers Search Amazon 1st)

Are you a manufacturer?  Have you recently watched some of your wholesale or retail clients make millions through Ecommerce? Rather than become green with envy, it may be time for you to consider a manufacturer direct business model. Retailers traditionally served a key role at the end of the distribution channel, and that was to operate brick and mortar storefronts to sell to a geographically dispersed population.

Selling online, however, curtails the need for a brick and mortar storefront. Therein manufacturers gain a distinct advantage. By eliminating middlemen, manufacturers can sell directly to consumers and reap greater margins than their wholesale or retail counterparts.

Amazon vs. Ecommerce Site

The internet has revolutionized the way we shop. As of Q3 2016 8.4% of retail purchases occurred online in the USA and there were nearly $400 Billion in Ecommerce in sales.  So when manufacturers turn to the manufacturer direct business model it makes a lot of sense to consider Amazon.  55% of online shoppers in the USA now go to amazon first to search for products they wish to buy.

So when considering manufacturer direct what are the advantages and disadvantages of your own Ecommerce site vs. Amazon?  Developing an Ecommerce site and driving sales can be both difficult and expensive. These are some of the costs an Ecommerce portal entails: developer costs if you custom build the site (or subscription costs if you use an existing platform such as Shopify or Magento); Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) expenditures to drive traffic to the site; Social Media and other marketing; and building customer lists and formulating email campaigns.

Even after all those expenses, sales are not guaranteed.  SEM (such as Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, media buys) is likely the only avenue through which you can immediately acquire traffic to drive sales.  Most other strategies are long-term.  And for those unfamiliar with Google Adwords and similar SEM tools, this type of marketing can get expensive quickly.

Amazon requires none of the aforementioned resources associated with your own Ecommerce site.  Amazon’s biggest disadvantage is that it collects a fee for every transaction.  That fee ranges anywhere from 6% – 25% depending on the particular item.  This is no small amount and can eat into margins quickly.  However, even with no optimization efforts, we’ve seen products sell simply after being listed.  Amazon attracts so many eyeballs that you’re likely to see a small trickle of sales over time with minimal effort.

Shipping & Logistics

Ecommerce creates shipping and logistical concerns for both manufacturers and retailers alike.  Though manufacturers have long been accustomed to shipping in bulk, handling individual orders and shipping to consumers’ homes is a different beast.  Using a typical Ecommerce platform, you have no choice but to develop an internal shipping process.  This process requires labor and material resources at a cost.  Most importantly, companies must train their staff to handle orders quickly, as today’s Ecommerce shopper is impatient.  One study showed that shipping was so important that 66% of shoppers determined from whom they would buy based on shipping options.  The expense and speed of delivery were both large factors.

Fullfillment by Amazon (FBA) provides an excellent alternative.  FBA is the infrastructural behemoth Amazon created to alleviate logistical headaches that plague the Ecommerce retailer.  Instead of managing and shipping individual orders on your own, you simply ship products in bulk to Amazon Fullfillment centers.  The staff at the fulfillment centers then pick and pack orders on your behalf.  This is all done at a low cost.  More importantly, using FBA increases your chances of selling to Amazon’s 50 million Prime members.  Amazon Prime members pay $99 per year to exploit a phenomenal benefit: Free 2-day shipping.  FBA products are listed as Prime, making them more likely to sell.  The all-around benefits of using FBA cannot be emphasized enough.

Manufacturer Direct Solution

Quality control is still a concern, but to a manufacturer that’s nothing new.  The only difference now is that customer service will now fall upon you, whether you use Amazon or not.  Amazon’s powerful rating system can be both a boon and a bane.  If your product is excellent and you deliver excellent customer service your ratings will be high.  High ratings lead to greater exposure in Amazon search by virtue of Amazon’s search algorithms.  Conversely, if you deliver a poor product or poor customer service, your reviews will suffer.  Amazon’s search algorithms can be unforgiving and your listings will risk dropping out of visibility.

Lastly, by choosing Amazon it’s vital to have an optimization strategy in place.  Amazon’s search technology (A9) uses a complicated set of algorithms to determine ranking.  Where you rank can make or break your sales, and it’s important to have a powerful Amazon optimization strategy in place to stay ahead of the competition.  Once tapped into the tremendous power of the Amazon Marketplace, your fortunes can ascend rapidly.

If you’re a manufacturer and seek assistance with your Amazon optimization strategy or need to outsource your Amazon customer service needs contact us today for a free consultation.

3 Steps to Making your Amazon Title a Cash Earner

Of all the sales copy in your Amazon listing, the title is likely to be the most impactful. In the fleeting moments you have to capture the attention of Amazon shoppers, your title must skillfully corral them into your listing before they wander to greener pastures.

In this blog we’ll outline a step-by-step method for creating highly impactful Titles. Whether you sell in Amazon Seller Central or Vendor Central, writing strong titles can heavily improve sales.

Before we get started, we operate on the assumption that you’ve already conducted thorough keyword research. If you haven’t then there are many tools out there to assist you in your keyword research:

Once you’ve performed adequate Keyword Research and have determined the top 8 – 10 keywords for your product, you can now dive into the process.

For our purposes, we’ll use the following listing which we optimized:

Step 1: State Brand Name
Stating our brand name at the beginning of our title is both a best practice and in accordance with Amazon’s style guide. So we’ll incorporate our brand name into the beginning of our title.

Step 2: Define Product in Clear, Detailed Terms
After stating our brand name we’ll want to define our product in detail. This is where titles often fail. When shoppers scan Amazon listings we have only milliseconds to grab their attention. We need to answer the following question immediately: what is the product we’re selling? We can’t afford to be fancy with our writing style here. Nor can we obsess over keywords alone.

Word choice is crucial. This is a pivotal moment in our sales success. If we don’t state our product in obvious terms we may confuse our shopper. If they’re confused they’ll likely become frustrated or impatient and move onto the next listings. Our opportunity to generate immediate profits and win repeat business will be gone.

We lose.

We want to profit and win.
To do so we recommend the following two-prong approach at the beginning of titles (after stating the brand):

  1. Clearly define the product
  2. In so doing cleverly splice into this area as many primary ‘search keywords’ as possible to help search visibility

Balancing both logic and your top search keywords, you’ll want to establish a core phrase that defines your product. We’ve devised the following core phrase:

‘Can of Italian Tuna Fish in Olive Oil’

This is helpful, but we have another trick up our sleeve. In our case, ‘Rio Mare’ is a large, successful brand. As we might expect, such a brand has done a pretty good job on its own of defining its product. We can help ourselves to define our product by merely looking at the label:

Using our two-prong methodology, we’ve devised the following to be the beginning of our Title:

  • Rio Mare | Solid Light Tuna in Olive Oil | 80 g (2.82 oz) Can | 3 Pack

Let’s now dissect this.

As you can see, there is a balance between defining our product and incorporating highly searched keywords. There is no exact science to this. If anything, we’ve weighed defining our product as more important in our decision. We can’t under-emphasize the following: if people can’t get a lightning quick idea of what your product is there’s a strong possibility they’ll never click on it to begin with.

Nonetheless, we’re able to slip in some important ‘search keywords’ such as ‘solid’, ‘light’, ‘tuna’, ‘in’, ‘olive’, ‘oil’. All of our previous research indicated these as highly searched terms, though some more than others. Still, we conclude this is the best way to define our product.

You’ll see that the next elements are Size and Quantity. Of course these don’t do much to satisfy our need to incorporate search terms. Nonetheless, shoppers need to understand the size and quantity of what they’re purchasing in order to make decisions.

In our case, we’ve also decided to use both Metric and Imperial measuring systems. Depending on your region you may only need to use one. We’ve created this listing for the USA market. Though most Americans are most familiar with ounces, our product is European and appeals to many Europeans living in the USA. They prefer grams. The packaging of our product also uses grams. So we use both in our title to be safe.

Also, we use the ‘|’ symbol (pipe) to separate the different elements:

We like the pipes as separators because they create abrupt, visual stops in our communication. They help us distinguish between the different elements of our description:

  • Brand | Product | Size | Quantity

As mentioned, you can use other punctuation (hyphens, colons, etc.) or none whatsoever. This is merely our preference. It helps our listing scream to shoppers precisely who and what we are. Hopefully it’ll induce clicks.

Not all products will fit neatly into this format. For instance, you may not need to define size and quantity, but may instead need to distinguish a color. In addition, transforming your ‘core phrase’ into an adequate product description may not be as easy for your product as it was for ours. This is especially true if you sell private label products.

It’s very important you take time to understand your product and its key features so you can create a clear and concise description. This is especially so if you are a private label operator.

Step 3: Incorporate Additional ‘Search Keywords’ into Title
So far we’ve used 70 of our allotted 200 characters in our title. We have 130 characters remaining with which to work. We’ll now want to go back to our ‘search keyword’ data and scour our list for highly searched keywords we’ve have not yet used.

Ultimately we decide upon the following for our title:

  • Rio Mare | Solid Light Tuna in Olive Oil | 80 g (2.82 oz) Can | 3 Pack – Canned Italian Tuna Fish, Tonno, Wild Caught Yellowfin & Skipjack, Sustainable

This title consumes 151 characters in total. We’re left with 49 additional characters at our disposal. Expert opinions vary widely whether to use all our title’s ‘real estate.’ Amazon’s style guide admonishes us against ‘keyword stuffing’ in the title. However, some experts believe in using every character anyway.

We’ve taken a cautious middling approach. We’d like to think that we haven’t ‘gone overboard’. We’ve limited the back half of our title to only our most important ‘search keywords’. By refraining from distastefully cramming our title with keywords, we hope to neither offend our customers’ sensibilities nor violate Amazon’s style recommendations.

We welcome you to test bolder or more conservative approaches for your product. This is all depends on your personal risk aversion.

Protip: Many experts agree it’s risky to change your title too often. This can hurt your list’s rankings. Unlike other elements of your listing, you should view your title as more permanent. Therefore you should carefully think through your title and stick with it once formulated. If you must change your title, do so infrequently.

Let’s see how our title appears on a desktop screen:

Compared to the neighboring listings, our title is far more thorough.  We’ve attempted to balance conveying necessary product information with communicating highly searched keywords.

Now let’s also look at our listing on Amazon’s mobile app:

Optimizing your listing for mobile screens is critical.  As you can see, Amazon’s mobile app truncates our title.  This magnifies the importance of the beginning of the title.  Approximately the first 75 characters of our title show here.

Fortunately, we’ve managed to answer the question of ‘what is our product’ in this space.  Shoppers can now make a quick, informed decision about who and what we are.  This will increase the likelihood that they click on our ad as opposed to our competitors’ ads.

If amazon optimization techniques aren’t for you we can help!  Get in touch for a FREE consultation so we can help you maximize your Amazon sales.