That’s pretty unequivocal. Amazon didn’t mince words. You’re no longer allowed to run promotions in exchange for reviews.
This is a good thing.
I predicted this in an article back in April: Review Groups and Clubs Will Destroy Amazon.
This change helps Amazon protect their selling platform, and we all eat at their table. We need Amazon’s review system to have integrity.
For sellers, this will make things harder. There are a lot of strategies you’ll be able to use to get reviews without relying on review groups. No one said business was easy. Growth could be slower. The gold rush will slow down. That’s good for all of us who treat this like a real business, and not like a get rich quick scheme.
The best part about this is people can’t buy their way to the top as easily as they have done in the past. Now your competitors have to rely on hard work and elbow grease. It levels the playing field for all of us. Sure, those with bigger budgets will always have an advantage, but not nearly what it was.
Review Groups, Clubs, and Services
They’re all saying “Don’t worry, you can still do giveaways, and *wink wink* we just won’t ask for reviews, and you don’t have to have a disclaimer anymore. That’ll be in compliance.”
THEY ARE WRONG.
The problem Amazon is trying to solve is that customers are losing trust in their review system. Any reasonable person without a vested interest in continuing this practice can see that giving large discounts in the “hopes of” getting reviews from the newly christened “deal sites” is an attempt to subvert the stated policy. Review sites have NEVER been able to force customers to review. It’s against been against TOS for a long time.
Amazon wants to change an action, not the words associated with the action.
Remember, review groups will likely be going out of business because of this, and the free flow of freebies will stop. It’s not their seller privileges that are at risk.
Don’t risk your selling privileges based on their analysis. They’re biased.
But Amazon Says We Can Still Run Promotions
You’re right. This is the justification the review groups are using to say they can still operate by changing the wording around.
The question is what Amazon will consider a legitimate promotion, and what will they decide is an exchange for a review.
If you’re running legitimate “real business” promotions, you’ll be fine.
Here are just a few great examples of promotions real businesses run:
- % off of products for selected customers
- % or $ off for more than 1 product purchase
- Buy One Get One promotions
Here are things that real businesses don’t do:
- Give 100 of the 500 units they have in stock away for free
- Sell a product that normally and routinely sells for $30 for $1.99
If you’re doing those things, it’s going to get on Amazon’s radar. You don’t want to be on Amazon’s radar.
How I Would Detect Violators
It would take Amazon’s Business Intelligence department about a half of a day to develop an algorithm that detects people who are gaming the system. Here are a couple of indicators they could look for:
- A high % of reviews coming from reviewers who consistently get products free/at steep discounts
- A higher % of purchases result in reviews for customers purchasing at substantial discount
That’s just a couple of things I could use to identify violators, I’m sure the geniuses at Amazon are more effective than me.
But How Could They Prove It
This is the part most people don’t really get:
They don’t need to prove it to anyone but themselves.
Sure, they will have evidence stored away to show they applied the algorithm consistently, and I guarantee they can use statistics to prove with certainty that there was manipulation happening.
DNA Tests use Statistics to prove identity, and even paternity. That’s why on daytime TV they say “With 95% accuracy, you ARE the father!” Sure, it’s not 100%, but it’s good enough to send someone to prison or assign a lifetime of responsibility.
Do NOT Risk Your Amazon Account
Remember, Amazon clearly stated the consequences: “your Amazon privileges may be suspended or revoked.” Amazon doesn’t care about collateral damage. Don’t risk it.