Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

The Importance of
Ratings & Reviews

Erin Fasano is the Managing Editor of Startup CPG’s Spotlight and the Founder of Starryside Company, a brand on a mission to save creativity through drinks and snacks that ensure kids creativity lasts. For this story, she sat down with members of the community to talk all things Ratings & Reviews: Leon Lewis, Founder of Daybreak Growth Partners, Fernando Campos – Cofounder of MarketplaceOps.com, and Corey Scholibo, a serial social entrepreneur, currently launching Wile.

I was interested in writing this piece because of a story that started circulating in the LinkedIn community in April 2021, about a new beauty brand launch on Sephora.com and the scandalous fake reviews they sourced before the product was even available to buy. I thought – why on earth would a founder ever buy reviews? Why are reviews such a big deal that someone would take this risk?

Reviews Have a Major Influence on Your Brand’s Success

The one thing all three of the pros I talked to agreed on is that ratings and reviews matter – a lot. Whether they actually influence the Amazon algorithm itself or not seemed to be up for debate, but one thing is clear: the more high quality ratings & reviews you have on Amazon (and any other online marketplace), the more likely you are to drive a click to your listing and get an opportunity to convert a sale. That conversion is a critical measure for your brand, both for your bottom line and the future ranking of your listing in the search results on the marketplace.

Plus, as Scholibo notes, strong Ratings & Reviews on your listings help you build your “moat” and protect your brand from look-a-like, fast followers who might try to capitalize on your great idea with copycat products.

So How Do You Get Reviews?

And how do you avoid doing things that will get you in trouble – either with consumers who find out you’ve faked reviews or with the online marketplaces themselves who sometimes have strict rules in place.

  • Leverage your existing consumers. Reach out to your own email list, SMS list, and social following and ask them to find you on Amazon. You can simply ask them to leave you a review after they make their purchase.
  • Try a coupon. In order to get users to try you on Amazon, Lewis recommends trying a coupon to drive trial. You will naturally get more ratings and reviews as you move more product – plus, the coupon will help you drive that coveted conversion, which will improve your overall sales velocity and ranking in search results.
  • Make Amazon a part of your Influencer Program. Have influencers talk about how they found your product on Amazon, how the ratings and reviews helped them make a decision, and encourage their followers to find your product there.
  • Ask friends and family for help – but be careful how you do it. More on that in a minute.

Lewis told me a fun story of a brand in Brooklyn that (pre-COVID) would go down to a local bar for happy hour, and just start talking about the brand with other patrons and asking them to buy their product on Amazon – in exchange for a round of drinks.

There wasn’t a lot of consensus among the group on how many reviews is “enough” but once you get to about 30-50, you will likely see better conversion to your page in paid media. You’re never really done fostering reviews – even if you get thousands. Remember, its part of your digital moat that can protect you from fraudulent copycats!

Risks and Watchouts for Sourcing Reviews

Why do you need to be careful about asking your family or friends to buy your product and review it? Amazon really wants reviews to be authentic, and goes to great lengths to ensure that they are, flagging any suspicious reviews.

  • Be careful of friends and family reviews. If you share an IP address, a shipping address, a last name, or where you connect the internet with a potential reviewer – find someone else. This could flag Amazon’s system. So be judicious with those you ask for support, ensuring they’re geographically diverse, don’t share your name, and are an existing Amazon shopper.
  • Don’t buy reviews. While tempting as a fast way to get a lot of reviews quickly, these are often low value buyers. As Campos explains, Amazon actually rates buyers, too. If buyers are only buying on deep discounts or coming from rebate websites, this could also be a red flag to Amazon.
  • One tactic that many brands utilize is creating a free product funnel against their lowest price point offer to not only drive sales velocity for ranking and visibility, but to also drive ratings. Doing this carefully is crucial, as it is a very fine line between enhancing the customer experience and violating Amazon’s terms of service. When done correctly however, this strategy is incredibly effective for driving reviews from the get go.

Violations of Amazon’s policies in this area can be detrimental to your Amazon business, including removing you from the platform. To come back, you’d need a new LLC, new trademarks, new everything! In fairness though, the experts agreed that a more likely outcome is a slap on the wrist – notices from Amazon to halt behaviors deemed a violation of their Ts&Cs.

What About All the Other Digital Marketplaces?

All the other digital marketplaces are catching up to Amazon, and Ratings & Reviews on sites like Walmart.com, Target.com, Sephora.com and the like are important to conversion and finding success in the algorithm, too. In fact, Lewis notes that you could potentially make a more material impact on your business by focusing the same level of effort to drive ratings and reviews on these other platforms, simply because the volume of ratings and reviews is so much lower. Of course note, you still need to consider product-market fit on other digital properties.

Join the #e-commerce channel in our Slack community to continue this conversation.

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