Whether star ratings or product reviews, everyone wants them. But in order to provide clarity in this confusing environment packed with terminology, the first definition is provided by Seller Central here: "Product reviews are about the product and seller ratings are about the seller and the shopping experience." Star ratings refer to the stars that can be given with each review and are therefore part of the product-related review.
As always in life, you just have to know the right dealer to buy reviews. Resourceful businesspeople have already earned a great deal of money using this method in the past. For example, "reviewers" are paid for positive reviews. But if you don't want to spend money on positive star ratings, you can also use other tricks. One method is a form of ASIN hijacking. In this process, articles with good reviews without a brand name or with a different brand are overwritten on a new article. Due to the numerous positive reviews which have been carried over, the new article (under the old ASIN) thus appears with high visibility in the organic search.
But why are reviews so important that many sellers pay a lot of money for them or use their repertoire of tricks to get them? On the one hand, opinions from other customers help to increase the visibility of the product, thus boosting sales of recent additions or slow-moving ASINs, and, on the other hand, reviews provide additional information for the potential buyer. Positive reviews significantly accelerate the purchase decision. The problem is that Amazon has officially established a zero-tolerance policy in its own TOS (Terms of Service) to prevent customers from being manipulated or misled.
By the way: The ROQQIO Commerce Cloud offers easy connectivity to Amazon and other marketplaces.
The Amazon empire strikes back
Many a clever Amazon seller may now think that they can somehow cheat their way through with their fake reviews. But Amazon does supervise this huge playground and those who don't play by the rules have to expect harsh consequences. Amazon's ironclad crackdown on violations of the guidelines became clear in 2018. According to the Federal Cartel Office, in the year before last alone, 250,000 accounts were blocked permanently and 30,000 temporarily in Germany. The reasons for blocking can be many and varied, such as late deliveries, missed deadlines, missing documents or even fake customer opinions. Do you want to know who you are dealing with in the event you are blocked? Your opponents are Amazon employees who have been specially trained in this area and who look out for possible infringements and investigate individual cases on a daily basis. And these employees now have a name, Team RED, which you better hope you never encounter.
Amazon Vine - new hope
Vendors have been able to buy reviews legally through the Amazon Vine programme for some time now. What is new is that the Vineclub has now also been available for sellers in a beta phase since 11.12.2019. This beta phase is free of charge for sellers for the time being but vendors have to pay a fee for each ASIN to be added to the programme. So Amazon itself is in the review business. Participating sales partners (sellers) may give free copies of their products to a selected group of Vine product testers to review the products. Currently, a seller can offer a maximum of five ASINs, each with 30 product units, to the Vineclub. According to Amazon, the testers are not required to write positive customer opinions but to provide honest and unbiased feedback for other potential buyers. Therefore, participating providers are not allowed to contact the testers and cannot change or edit reviews.
In order to be able to offer its own goods for testing, Amazon, as the provider, sets four conditions. Firstly, the products must belong to a brand for which you are registered as an authorised representative in the Amazon trademark registration and, secondly, the products must have the product property "new". Thirdly, the product detail page must contain fewer than 30 reviews and, fourthly, the products must be in stock for shipping via Amazon.
Account blocking - the dark threat
Account blocking of this kind, on a marketplace for which the net trading volume in Germany in 2018 was more than 20 billion euros (see BKartA press release dated 17.7.19), is a real threat to every provider. This is because, for every second for which you can't sell anything, sales decrease and your existence on Amazon can therefore be completely destroyed. Even if the entire account is not always blocked in one go but only individual articles are affected by a block, this in itself can lead to significant sales decreases. Every block, both at account and item level, is, of course, individually investigated and the possibility of reactivation depends on the violations. In order to reactivate the account, however, you should not act in haste under any circumstances. Key factors in saving an account include, for example, a tailor-made action plan, complete documentation in the form of invoices or other documents, for example, and some understanding of the investigators, who after all are just doing their job - even if you work at Amazon.
But as always in life, you shouldn't fall for the first service provider that comes along. Questionable action plans to reactivate the account - from more or less trustworthy "experts" - are circulating in great numbers on the internet or on YouTube. Likewise, shady businesspeople or agencies want to sell their plans at a high price. So be on your guard as there are a lot of black sheep around wherever you can earn money. We want to leave the success of such action plans, which were drawn up without any expertise, open at this point.
If all this is too much work for you at this point, you might think about simply opening a new seller account. But Amazon is also putting a stop to this. Seller Central’s guidelines state quite clearly: "It is prohibited to create and use multiple accounts in Seller Central. If you have a legitimate business interest in setting up a second seller account, you can apply for an exemption." We also strongly advise against communicating with Amazon's service department without a specific plan because Amazon employees only have a limited amount of time to work on individual cases and, in addition, departments cannot make unlimited contact attempts. So the only serious solution is an individual action plan with professional and rapid implementation.
Here at MiToU, we have been able to unlock more than 2000 accounts since 2015 with the help of the solutions we have developed. In our experience, a block of this kind lasts around 14-21 days on average. But just to make sure it doesn't get that far, here are a few general tips on how to avoid account problems: Check the account metrics on a daily basis in order to be able to react quickly to current changes. To maintain an overview at all times, the seller app, which you can install on your mobile phone, will also be helpful. You should also make sure you meet the deadlines set by Amazon and remember who your contact person is so that you can consult them in case of doubt. The last tip we want to give you is that you should make sure that your documents are complete.