In the highly competitive e-commerce market, any advantage you can secure for your products makes a big difference. Online product reviews influence the purchasing decisions of 93% of consumers, and a product with few or no reviews is a red flag for many potential buyers.
The Amazon Vine program is a great way to quickly acquire some of those all-important reviews, even if your product is brand new. While it is not a panacea for all e-commerce struggles, you can use it to help a particular product gain some momentum in the marketplace early on. Done correctly, this can have a rippling effect on your other offerings as well, making Vine a high-value prospect for many Amazon sellers.
How It Works
Amazom Vine's function is to connect retailers to special users called Voices. When the company notices that a particular user seems to have a strong knowledge base in a particular product category and tends to review many items within that category, they may invite that person to become a Voice. These people are not paid for the reviews they leave for the program, so shoppers know that they can rely on them to be impartial.
Once you've signed a product up for the Vine program, you are responsible for sending Amazon a set of samples of that product (up to 30 depending on how many reviews you need) for them to send out to Voices. Those people then try the item out and see what they think of it, then detail their thoughts in a review that is publicly posted to the site. Voices get to try out a large range of interesting products for free and retailers get in-depth, credible reviews on their products from someone that the Amazon community trusts: everybody wins.
This program was previously open only to Amazon vendors and not sellers, but as of late 2019, it can now be accessed through Seller Central as well. This gives smaller businesses the opportunity to use Vine as well, provided that they can pay the fee the platform charges for coordinating this process (see below for more details). You can typically see results in about a month's time.
To be eligible for enrollment in the program, a product must:
- Have fewer than 30 reviews at the time of enrollment.
- Be listed in 'new' condition.
- Be registered in the Amazon Brand Registry (if applicable).
- Not be considered an 'adult' item.
- Have an image, description and available inventory.
The product must also be usable on its own or with another commonly owned product - in other words, something like a part for a specific model of motorcycle would likely not be eligible for the Vine program, but something like a controller for the Playstation 4 would be. If a product meets all of these requirements, you will be able to submit its ASIN (Amazon Serial Identification Number) to get the process started.
Amazon Vine charges sellers a fee for each ASIN enrolled in the program, but the charge varies from user to user and product to product. As a general rule, you should expect to pay up to several thousand dollars for each product you submit, not counting the cost of any sample wares you send out. However, your first 5 ASINs are currently free to enroll, so you can get a better idea of whether this program will be valuable to you without having to commit to such a large marketing expense right away.
As great as the Amazon Vine program can be, it may not be right for all sellers. It's important to note that while using it significantly increases your chances of amassing those critical early reviews on your products, there is no guarantee that this will happen. Voices choose the products they review and are not required to meet any quotas, so it's possible that a product you enlist will remain unreviewed if it fails to interest anyone.
Further, if any Voices do leave a review for your wares, they have no obligation to keep their statements positive. If they were truly not impressed with your product, they are free to say so, and most have no qualms about being honest; they know that people are counting on them to provide accurate information. Unfortunately, a negative review is even worse than having no reviews at all, and Amazon does not allow Vine participants to contact Voices and attempt to have their review changed.
Because of this, it's best to only submit products to this program if you have full confidence in their quality. One smart use of the program is to promote your star products - the ones you expect to become your bestsellers once they become established in the market. If you are right about their potential, you're likely to get excellent reviews on them, and you will be able to use the revenue they bring in and the attention they receive to launch the rest of your product line. People will be interested in what other great items you might have for sale, and you may also be able to collect some positive seller feedback from those customers to work on your overall reputation on the site.
The Bottom Line
Amazon Vine presents a golden opportunity for sellers who know the kind of power a good review can hold. If you think your products could benefit from some of those, this is one of the most reliable ways to get trusted quality submissions, but know that it may backfire on you if you are not careful. Use it as part of a calculated, multi-pronged marketing strategy and you should have no trouble securing a healthy increase in your sales revenue.